As I joined the staff at Popular Woodworking magazine, I was handed a stack of information gathered at the 2006 International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair (IWF). In the mix was a packet from Mirka Abrasives about a new sanding product called Abranet.
I was encouraged to bring Abranet into our shop to review, and an initial call to Mirka in Twinsburg, Ohio, hooked me up with Pete Kern who is very excited about this new product. Pete, a cabinet specialist and territory manager, and Rich Ionta, business development manager, came to our shop to make a presentation. They also left samples of Abranet.
Abranet looks like a sanding screen but is a better sanding solution (see our “Tool Test” review in the upcoming June 2007 issue, on newstands the first week of May.) For the most part, I’ve used a 5″-Abranet disc on a random orbital sander (ROS) and the results have been great. Senior Editor Robert W. Lang has used Abranet on an ROS, as well as on various pad sanders. We’ve had a chance to use Abranet for a while and I can tell you we’re all impressed with its abilities.
In addition, I found Abranet most impressive when used at the lathe. I had to turn 24 legs for a class I’m teaching in which we’re building a Shaker-style end table using a classic Shaker leg design. There is 18-1/2″ of turned leg that needed to be sanded.
After using a Minimax T124 copy lathe , Dad has one in his shop , it was on to the sanding. I started sanding at #150 grit, moved to #180 grit, then to a woven abrasive to finish the task. I sanded 19 of the legs before remembering that I’d brought a few Abranet discs home in hopes of trying them in different applications. I thought this would be a good test to compare traditional sanding methods with Mirka’s new product.
When I began sanding with the Abranet discs I noticed the dust was coming through the product. The idea behind Abranet is the efficient extraction of sanding dust. Using the product on the ROS didn’t allow the dust to be seen as it was pulled away from the surface, but here, sanding at the lathe, it’s easy to see just how Abranet works. I was amazed.
The dust filtered through the Abranet and dropped from the turning. Therefore, no sanding dust was being sanded over and over. No pilling of the dust was evident. This results in better, quicker sanding and possibly less airborne dust for woodworkers to breathe.
I finished sanding the remaining legs in a short time. Why? Because I was able to cut out the last step in the sanding process and greatly reduce the time spent on the second step. I began with #150-grit Abranet which when complete was very close to the smoothness achieved with standard #180-grit paper. Sanding with #180-grit Abranet resulted in an even smoother surface than the abrasive pad I’d used before switching.
Not only was the surface smooth, it’s almost impossible to burn the turning when sanding with Abranet. That’s a big deal and a vast improvement from standard sandpaper.
I don’t use the lathe that much, but I can tell you I’ve found my new favorite way to sand turnings. From now on, if I’m at the lathe, I’m sanding with Abranet. Watching how this product works at the lathe makes me think that using it in other scenarios must be better, too.
You can find Abranet online at a few suppliers as well as in the Woodcraft stores. Woodcraft has 10 packs designed especially for the retail trade. The cost per disc is $.66 to $1.60 depending on how you buy them , and I think it’s a great value.