Sanders for Scrollers

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Sanders for Scrollers

Basic tools to create smooth wood

by Bob Duncan

This article was first published in issue 54 of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts.

When you work with wood, chances are good that you’re going to need to do some sanding. In general, any sander you use on a woodworking project will work for a scroll saw project. But these more specialized tools make the somewhat tedious job of sanding fragile fretwork or shaping intarsia pieces faster and easier. In all cases, you can buy replacement belts, discs, and sanders in assorted grits to adjust the shaping and smoothing power of the tool.

Belt Sanders and Disc Sanders

Belt sanders and disc sanders are often combined in a freestanding unit. These combination units are flexible, allowing you to remove wood quickly and accurately. The belt sander portion may be horizontal or vertical—and some convert between the two. Either way, a belt sander is good for sanding larger items. You can use the disc sander to sand up to a line to create a square edge. The table often tilts so you can sand an exact angle onto the edge of a piece. Be careful using a disc sander, though; it removes wood quickly, and it’s easy to scorch the wood.

Drum Sanders

Scrollers use three types of drum sanders: pneumatic, flexible, and portable. In each case, sandpaper is wrapped around a spinning central drum, and you pass the wood over the drum. Portable drum sanders, such as the Sand Flee, let you control the amount of wood that comes in contact with the sanding drum and thus adjust the amount that will be sanded off in each pass. They are useful for sanding stock perfectly smooth and flat. Because you can make light passes, you can even sand fragile fretwork.

Pneumatic drum and flexible drum sanders are similar, but the sandpaper is wrapped around a flexible foam drum or an air-filled bladder. These sanders conform somewhat to the shape of the piece you are sanding, but they still remove wood quickly. These tools are often used by intarsia artists when sanding and shaping pieces.

Flap Sanders, Mop Sanders, and Buffing Discs

While hand-sanding with the grain gives you the ultimate surface, these tools get you close with much less effort. Flap sanders are basically strips of sandpaper gathered around a center hub. They are used in a rotary tool or drill. Flap sanders made of large strips are more aggressive and can actually change the shape of a piece. I prefer flap sanders made of smaller strips, which are less aggressive and round and soften pieces without changing the overall shape.

Mop sanders are soft balls of sandpaper used in a rotary tool or drill to further smooth the wood surface. A buffing disc, usually made of synthetic steel-wool strips attached to a mandrel, sands even more finely. Some scrollers use buffing discs to remove any remaining visible scratches from sandpaper and provide a smooth, polished surface.

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