There’s a certain irony in the fact that people who blog about woodworking don’t spend much time writing about sanding, since sanding takes up a large part of most woodworker’s time. So this is a blog post about sanding.
Once I discovered card scrapers, I spent a lot less time with sandpaper. Even so, some projects just require a lot of sanding. These saw handles are examples of projects on which I am spending some quality sanding time.
Shaping the handles is not terribly difficult, and it didn’t take me long to do it. I followed up the rasps and files with small card scrapers, and that probably saved me a lot of sanding time. (The picture above shows the handles after scraping, but before sanding.) While the scrapers can’t get into all the little nooks and crannies, they do an excellent job following contours and keeping flat surfaces flat, depending on how I hold them. I use the credit-card scrapers from TGIAG, which are perfect for one-handed use on small projects like this.
I began sanding at 220-grit. I seldom hold the sandpaper in my hand alone. On the few flat surfaces, I used a sanding block. On the curved surfaces, I used a couple of emery boards. It’s a trick I picked up from pipe makers, who spend a LOT of time sanding contoured surfaces. The regular emery boards are good for getting into crevices, while the foam-backed emery boards are excellent for contoured surfaces. They come in different grits, though I usually just get the lowest grit available and wrap sandpaper around them.
Using a backer for the sandpaper allows for much better control than simply holding the sandpaper in my hand, though there’s a time and place for that, too. Control is crucial on a project like this, when the shape and feel of the handle is every bit as important as how it looks.
And speaking of shaping handles, I was reading an article by Willard Anderson on hand plane repair in the October 2014 issue of Popular Woodworking. The author points out that a good tote should not have the same cross-section throughout the grip. Rather, the middle should be close to half-round inside and out, but at the top it should be an ellipse so as to fit the web between the thumb and forefinger. I followed this bit of advice, and the result is a very comfortable handle.
But back to sanding. Some woods are well-behaved when being finished, but the grain of pecan tends to rise significantly when moistened, so I had to rinse the handles in water and let them dry in between grits. Placing them in front of a high-velocity fan dried them quickly. Then I sanded the raised grain back with the next grit. Actually, I only used two grits: 220 and 320. I could go to higher grits, but I don’t need these handles any smoother than that.
Also, when applying an oil finish to open-pored wood like pecan and black walnut, I have found it advantageous to leave the sanding dust on the wood when applying the finish. The dust clogs the pores and makes for a much smoother finish, making a top coat unnecessary.
The next step will be cutting the saw plates to fit the handles, and then drilling out the holes for the saw nuts.