Monday, June 21, 2010

Sandpaper Can Be Your Friend

How do I know the Pennsylvania Germans were smarter than me?

Because they didn't build their furniture with curly cherry!

I go out of my way to not use sandpaper. In fact, sandpaper is the main reason I became interested in handplaning. Sawdust makes me cough (even with a dust mask) and it coats everything in the shop (even with a dust collector).

But trying to handplane this curly cherry was too much for my planes and me. (The next handplane I build will have a 55º pitch.) Ah well, sometimes sandpaper can be your friend.

All the pieces to this PA German sawbuck table are ready for finishing. The table top is already finished with about eight coats of blonde shellac and two coats of Circa 1850 Antique Paste Varnish. I just need to rub out the topcoat to knock back some of the shine.

And because I always want to make it worth your while to read my blog, here is bonus photo quiz:

Is the image at right A) a pile of sawdust in a patch of posies? B) my dog, Rosie, lying languidly on the bedspread directly in front of a fan? Or, C) a clever ploy to disguise what might otherwise have been a rather lame blog post?

You be the judge.


TheWoodWhisperer said...

I tried planing some curly maple recently and quickly realized I just wasn't ready for that level of challenge. Back to the drum sander for me. :) Glad to see that even those who know what the heck they are doing, still fall back on sandpaper once in a while.

As for the quiz, it looks like a wig my grandmother used to wear. A very elegant, blonde curly wig. :)

Extremely Average said...

I vote for B. The addition of the 'Dogie in Repose' picture, was a nice addition to the blog.

I have a Jet 1000 which does a wonderful job of cleaning the air.

Ian W said...

You plane for the same reasons as I. I turn to sand paper and down draft table as a last resort more often because I am dealing with fussy curves or small projects, not cool wood. Sometimes I just can't clamp what I am trying to plane.
How would you plane a band saw box??


Anonymous said...

Try hand planing Australian hardwoods. Ha! :) You might as well just curse at it and get the sandpaper. It will save the trouble of fixing tear out and cursing anyway :)

Jonathan said...

D) The dust mop for all post-sanding operation.

mwh said...

I'm such a novice at handplaning that I'm afraid to try planing any wood of value.

Did you try using a card scraper?

adp said...

Hmm...if my personal filter was operational, I'd vote for D) Dust mop. If it were temporarily disabled, the answer would be what the drag queen had on when the night began!


Will said...

It's not talked about much but back in the day, when 3M was 1M, there wasn't a shop in New England that didn't use sandpaper ... and they also used small dogs as tack cloths.

Anonymous said...

I'm the only wood worker I know who actually finds hand sanding kind of relaxing, provided my dust collector is feeling it's oats at the time.
Kind of like a "sand-zen" thing.....
(Kind of like the way Rosie looks in the photo.)

Rob Porcaro said...


Yeah, I hear ya.

I use mostly figured wood of all sorts and I find curly cherry one of the most difficult to deal with. With a fresh, meticulously sharpened blade with a secondary bevel at 45-48 degrees in a LV bevel up smoother, it can go pretty well.

I think of curly cherry as "very blotchy cherry in a nice pattern." Those fibers that angle up to the surface (and absorb more finish) are very delicate and prone to fine tear out.

The big issue for me is that curly cherry when hand-planed has a more distinct, better-looking figure pattern than when sanded. The sanded figure looks muddy. This difference persists even with a wiping varnish finish. I find this issue is almost non-existent with curly soft or big-leaf maple.

That's way wood is . . .


The Village Carpenter said...

Marc, that made me laugh out loud about your grandmother. :D

Brian, "Doggie in Repose" hee hee That takes me back to my art history classes in school.

Ian, a down draft table would be a wonderful addition to a shop. I get away with not using sandpaper on curves by using rasps, files, and spokeshaves.

Mark, nice to hear that woodworkers across the globe can relate to this.

Jonathan, you win!!

mwh, a scraper would have been a little difficult to use on the curvy parts, but definitely would work well on the flat parts. I have a cabinet scraper (veritas) that is awesome.

Abi, never hesitate to toss the unfiltered version my way. ; )


Anon, I second that. You are the only woodworker I know who likes to sand. :o) Funny you should say that about Rosie. She is, indeed, the most laid back dog I've ever met. She totally accepts whatever life throws her.

Rob, I think I'll steer clear of curly cherry from now on. The table top is regular cherry (I ran out of curly) and was a joy to handplane.

Wilbur Pan said...

At first glance, I thought your picture of Rosie was some nice thin curly cherry plane shavings, meant to demonstrate your triumph over the board.

Ardie said...

Could it be that the last picture is 2 million spills shaped to form a dog?

Jason Kreger said...

I couldn't agree more about the curly cherry. I'm just finishing up a bench with a curly cherry seat and not matter how much I sharpened, I couldn't get any satisfaction with my planes. It broke my heart to go back to the old sander but it did the job. Ultimately, the beauty of the wood is worth a little saw dust!

Tico said...

What about a scraper plane?

Dyami said...

I'll take B as C was unnecessary.

Regarding to sanding, welcome to the dark side. I hope you enjoy your stay as much as I do.

The Village Carpenter said...

Wilbur, I wish it were!

Mom, only the mother of a woodworker would know what a spill is. Well done.

Jason, the wood will still look beautiful, even without handplaning.

Tico, I thought about that, but knew I had to use either sandpaper and/or files on the cury parts of the legs, and I wanted all the surfaces to look uniform.

Dyami, at the club meeting tonight, they were talking about the attributes of the Festool sander/dust collector. If I do any more work with figured woods, I might seriously consider it. They said that there is absolutely no dust. Sounds good to me!

Anonymous said...

Before you go to the dark side.... I just took delivery of a small infilled smooth plane from Matt Hodson of Gabardi & Son in Utah. I had him duplicate the bed angle of some 18th C. Gabriel planes I have - 62 degrees. I thought there had to be a good reason for that extreme angle, and they wouldn't have done it if they didn't work. I really like working with infilled planes and thought the combination would work well and I took a chance. Well, let me tell you it works! I have planed curly maple, curly walnut, burl walnut, straight grain cherry and walnut and even knotty pine. The plane left a polished finish on each of them. So, for probably less than the price of the Festool sander/dust collector you can sucessfully plane anything that comes into your shop. Doesn't take up nearly the space and of course doesn't make any noise!
John Walkowiak

JERM said...

I have had success planing figure lumber with a freshly sharpened iron and wiping the wood with either denatured alcohol or mineral spirits.

charles said...

Kari.. I work with curly cherry and found a low angle L-N freshly sharpened followed by scraper plane then a card scraper works well.

The Village Carpenter said...

John, thanks for emailing me with all the info about the high angle plane. I'll make a 62º bed on my next plane and will use a 1.5" iron. Figured wood won't stand a chance!

Jerm, ahh, another good tip. Thanks!

Charles, I'm surprised to hear that a low angle plane will work on figured woods. I thought they were better on endgrain and straight grained woods. Of course, your plane is a LN. ; )

Anonymous said...

In regard to Charles comment on a low angle plane, you might find some answers here:

Looks like it relates to a hardwood versus softwood issue. Most of the information seems to be in the comments.


Dyami said...

I have the Festool 5" random orbit and their CT22 dust extractor (at that price, you can't call it a vacuum). I'd say it works great, though the price point is certainly high. I've had just as much success with dust free sanding when using my Ridgid 6" RO sander connected to my ClearVue Ridgid Blower/Vac Cyclone Conversion. Since ClearVue has closed it's doors, I suspect that you can now match (or at least closely approach) the Festool dust collection capabilities by using the Ridgid 5" RO (winner of a recent Pop Woodworking test) with an Onieda Dust Deputy and a standard shop vac. Either way, sanding with a connected vacuum is a revelation. I'm actually now starting to replace my hand power tools simply because my old ones didn't have dust collection ports.

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - as ever, it's 'horses for courses' and whatever will do the job. I was recently using 60g on a ROS to 'refine' (shall we say) a poorly laid veneered surface (they were 2mm thick though)

The other option is to go for the low angle BU plane, but you won't be able to make one of those.

Nice to see this project coming along...will it be finished by the time Obahma starts his second term? (if he ever gets there) - Rob...beating a hasty retreat!

Gregg said...

Sanding is the only part of woodworking I don't like.

Recently I had some difficult curly maple that refused my efforts to plane until I put a 50 degree secondary bevel on my LN low angle jack giving me an effective angle of 60 deg. It worked great! Thanks to Chris Schwarz for that suggestion.

Hope you post photos of the finished sawbuck table.

Mitchell said...

Ok, a long while ago you wrote about and praised your card scrappers. Based on your assessments, I went out and bought a bunch.

Now you don't even mention them. Did you loose them.

Damn. Now I have to go off and find a couple of high-angle planes.

Keeping up with the Kari's is sure expensive.

The Village Carpenter said...

Dean, thanks for the link. That makes sense with the hard/soft wood perspective.

Dyami, I was using an old Makita palm sander, but I do have a P-C ROS that might work with a shop vac. As little as I sand, I'd hate to drop a bunch of $$ into a new system.

Rob, my goal is to finish the project before my 100th birthday. Wish me luck!

Gregg, sanding and gluing are my least favorite ww tasks. It will be fun to make a high angle plane. I've never even used one before. I'll definitely post final images of the finished piece so you can see how it goes together. It's pretty neat the way it knocks down. Clever Germans. ; )

Mitchell, I let you down!!! I love scrapers and scraper planes. I just wasn't sure how it would look to scrape some parts and sand/file others, so I caved. : ( Rather than buy a high angle plane, why not make your own?