Another Feather in the Mirka Abranet Cap

The most beneficial discoveries come when you least expect them. Last week as I wrapped up finish on the desk for the November issue and from our upcoming book “Furniture in the Southern Style”, I was about to sand my first couple coats of shellac. I dug through my sandpaper drawer and soon found out that I was out of #400-grit and #320-grit sandpaper, which I use when knocking down shellac or sealer.

There is a hardware store right across the road from my shop, but I was not looking to waste any time running over for sandpaper. On the shelf behind my bench, I have boxes of Mirka abranet – If you’ve read these blogs for any length of time, you know that Popular Woodworking Magazine is a huge fan of abranet. We have sung its praises since we first had the product dropped in our shop.

In my arsenal of abranet, I have a box of #400-grit discs. Why not give it a try.

It took about an entire two minutes before I slapped my forehead in a Homer Simpson manner and utter the words, “D’oh!” I sanded the shellac and, of course, the disc loaded fully. With regular sandpaper, that would be the end unless I grabbed my air hose and blew the crap out of the things to unclog the paper. With the abranet, I simply rapped the disc on my hand and it was almost totally clean.

Later, as I blocked the piece to get a level surface, the differences between abranet and paper became more obvious. The additional heat build-up when sanding with a block tends to clog paper quickly. With abranet, because it does not have a solid backing, the heat build-up is not as severe, so discs don’t clog they load.

Take a look at the opening photo. In it you see a quickie experiment I ran to make a comparison of sandpaper versus abranet. I sanded finish with each of the products for a dozen strokes. You can see that the paper is loaded and the abranet does have a substantial amount of shellac dust.

The photo to the right shows the results after the two are cleaned by simply smacking them against my hand. It’s pretty clear as to which product is going to last longer and provide a better sanded surface. The same results show up when sanding with a foam-core block, so on my next project I’ll grab a pad protector, attach a disc and get busy.

What’s even better is how the abranet compares to sandpaper if you get on the finish before it’s fully dry – you know that I did and I’ll bet you too have gummed up paper attempting to level your finish early. If you do get going a bit early while using abranet, you can clear the gummed mess off by blowing air through the backside of the disc. Sandpaper goes to the trash.

Unless you change block locations frequently, there is some wasted real estate when block sanding with a disc. I guess on my next abranet order, I’ll add a couple boxes of sheets to the list.

— Glen D. Huey

Looking for additional information on sanding and prepping surfaces for finish? Here’s a couple down loadable $2 articles that could answer many of your questions:

16 thoughts on “Another Feather in the Mirka Abranet Cap

  1. Roland Harris

    I have experienced adverse results using Abranet. I use the recomended Abranet felt pad between the Abranet and the hook pad on the sander. The Abranet simply destroys the sander’s hook pad. This is a Porter Cable random orbit sander. Has anyone else had this problem?

    1. Steve_OH

      I have a PC 333VS and have not experienced this problem. I do use an interface pad between the Abranet and the sander’s pad (the Mirka 9955RP), but it’s not felt. It’s a firm plastic with a gazillion holes in it, and has the necessary male/female Velcro stuff on the two sides.

      -Steve

    1. tbier

      I’ve bought sheets (2.75″ x 8″) from Amazon. They also have a nice hook faced vacuum block to hold the sheets & vacuum up the dust as you are sanding. It does take some macgyvering to hook up a vacuum, though.

  2. kugiman

    Another note: Abranet has a grain… folds easier in one direction and cuts differently than the other. So, by turning the sanding block 90 degrees, you get more aggresive sanding.

  3. kugiman

    I have been doing this for years… never throw away old Abranet… worn out 240 or 320 is perfect for smoothing out sanding sealer or prep for that last coat of lacquer. Even add a layer of thin padding under the Abranet to keep the square block edges under control. Just blow of with compressed air when it looks like it is starting to clog. Cheers and happy sanding!

  4. Sgt42RHR

    I was interested in the articles supporting this piece; Flexner on Finishing: Rules for Sanding Wood
    Sanding Finishes by Robert W. Lang

    It would be most helpful to your Gentle Readers if the issue number/date was included. I subscribe to the magazine and have since it began. It would be helpful to know which issue to look in rather than having to sort through the full stack to find the article.

    Just a thought about how you can make your subscribers happy.

    Cheers,
    John

    1. MysticValleyWoodworking

      I second John’s suggestion. And would like to up the ante. I’d love to see an Online Index of articles, topics, etc. that references your magazines. I too have been a long time subscriber of all your periodicals, and have spent many an hour trying to shuffle through old editions trying to find that one article I half remembered from 2 (or was it three?) years ago. An index — accessible through the website — would be uber helpful. Thanks!

      1. Rocky LandsverkRocky Landsverk

        I will work on a method that makes the Article Index browse-able instead of only searchable. The latter assumes somebody already knows exactly what they’re searching for.

        In the meantime, there are a couple shortcuts to finding all of the articles in a given issue: They are categorized, with a specific URL structure like: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/jun08, or http://www.popularwoodworking.com/nov10, etc., always three letters and two numbers. Also you can type the issue name in quotes in the Article Index search box. for instance, go here http://www.popularwoodworking.com/articleindex and type “June 2008″.

        But again, to the point, a list of articles in each issue, and ability to browse though, would be helpful, we’ll work on that.

  5. J. Pierce

    When my wife and I first joined households, we merged two tool collections. (I have the best wife) I ended up with a surplus of sanding discs (alas, no Abranet, but I do love the stuff.) But I find I hand sand a lot more than I use a disc sander. The obvious answer was to make a couple a sanding “puck” with half of some heavy duty hook and loop fastener stuff on one side and a nice handle. I still prefer sheets, but it’s quite handy to have around.

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