Building Blocks

Good backup. The composition of a block affects the paper's performance. After 30 strokes, sandpaper backed with ceiling tile (left) shows less wear and finish buildup than sandpaper backed with a maple block (right).

tion of sanding blocks. IVc found chat blocks make a big diffcrcncc in how-well you're able to sand. In this article, ril show you how to make sanding blocks from a variety of low-cost and no-cost materials.

Good Block Basics

While I do use a few store-bought sanding blocks, mostly I prefer to make my own. I find that my favorite blocks are made from scrap materials. I've experimented with rubber, cork, ceiling tile, erasers—even street-hockey pucks—all with surprisingly good results.

A good sanding block provides firm but resilient support for the sandpaper. This helps the abrasives cut effectively without loading up. If you can keep sawdust and finish from becoming trapped in the spaces between abrasive particles, your sandpaper will last longer and work better. (See photo, above.) Leave the hunks of rock maple in your scrap pile. Hard, unyielding blocks will wear out your paper in record time and leave your work looking scratched instead of sanded.

Sixc is important. I don't like hefty sanding blocks—a big, heavy block encourages you to apply too much pressure when you sand. This can keep you from gaining a feel for how the abrasives are working. Without that sensitivity, you're just muscling grit and grinding wood—and your finished surfaces will show it. To maintain feel and control when hand-sanding, I prefer to use small-sized blocks. With much of my work I can get away with

blocks sized to handle one-sixth of a sheet of sandpaper (4 in. by 4 Vl in.) or even less.

Making Your Own Blocks

Sanding blocks don't need to be elaborate. I'm not interested in blocks equipped with clips or clamps for holding sandpaper in place. The key to mak-ing a good block is to find the right material and then simply cut it to size. 1 try to make my blocks about an inch narrower than the sandpaper, so I can wrap the paper up the sides and still get a grip on it. My material choice usually depends on the sanding task.

To sand flat areas of bare wood, I prefer relatively soft blocks. Ceiling tiles, sheet foam and felt will all make good sanding blocks. (See photo, right.) I cut these materials on the bandsaw or tablcsaw. Other soft materials, such as cork, sponge and sheet rubber, are easier to cut with a utility knife and a straightedge.

After cutting a block to size, I ^T.j) like to bevel the ends. A beveled

A wealth of low-cost materials.

You can make great sanding blocks from common materials. A: packing foam. B: felt block. C: cork. D: ceiling tile. E: wallboard. F: household sponge. G: sheet rubber. H: drafting eraser. I: foam hockey puck.

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