Making A Sanding Block Homemade Woodworking Tools

Every once in a while I’ll ignore my gut instincts and buy something that turns out to be crap. It doesn’t happen often, since I’m not one for getting every new gadget on the market “designed” to either save time, or make the work easier. So, while I do feel a bit burned on my recent purchase of a box of sanding disks, I can’t be too hard on myself for it.

The sanding disks are actually a mesh screen with Velcro on one side and grit on the other:

As you can see, this one is a torn up on one edge. This is the first one that I used and I used it for just 2 or 3 minutes before it snagged on the edge of a panel and ripped like that, rendering it useless.

On paper, a mesh disk would seem to be the ultimate for a random orbit sander, as far as dust collection goes. However, these disks are too fragile and easy to tear, so not at all suitable for use on the machine they were designed to go on. When I first saw these (I ordered them online, along with some other supplies), I assumed the the mesh was thicker and stiffer, so that it would resist curling over and hooking on the edges of the thing it’s sanding.
Also, while I’m sure the dust collection action is slightly improved when using this kind of disk, that same dust gets into the Velcro backer on the sander. The dust clogs it up and reduces the grip it has on the disk, making the tearing problem even worse. Paper backed disks don’t have this problem – they have dust collection holes that line up with the holes in the sander and the Velcro stays clean. I believe that using this type of disk will substantially shorten the lifespan of the Velcro, making a replacement necessary.

Anyway, I could have sent the box back for a refund:

But I find that to be generally more hassle than it’s worth. Also, in a similar order from this same supplier a few years ago, they sent out a box of 100 – 5″ disks when I ordered 6″ disks. When I contacted their customer support, they just sent out the new box of 6″ disks without taking the 5″ ones back. So maybe it’s karma.

To cut my losses, I thought I could make a new sanding block for these. And as an added bonus, it would also work with the paper backed sanding disks I have – the good ones.
Starting with a scrap of 1/2″ plywood and cut that to 3-1/4″ wide, I used the sanding disk itself as a template to draw the curves on the ends and cut those on my band saw. I drilled a 1/4″ hole in the middle and countersunk that for the head of a 2″ flat head machine screw:

I then cut a piece of 1/4″ plywood 5″ long and 3-1/4″ wide to clamp down on the edges of the sanding disk as it wraps over the base:

A 1/4″ hole was also drilled in the middle for the clamping screw to go through.

For the handle, I had a piece of spruce 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ that I cut to 5″ long and drilled in partway with a 1-3/8″ forstner bit:

I used the miter saw set to 45 degrees to make cross cuts to remove the wood beside the hole for finger access:

Note the backer to support the short piece for this cut. TheseĀ  cuts could have been done just as easily with a hand saw.

Getting fancy with it, I rigged up a quick cove cutting guide on my table saw to cut finger grooves in the sides of the handle:

With these parts cut out, I could get them glued together. I used epoxy to glue the bolt into the base (shown in detail in the video at the bottom of this page) and used what was left to glue the handle onto the 1/4″ backer:

I also added blocks to the ends that will be rounded over later. These keep the backer from twisting:

I left the epoxy to cure overnight and finished the sanding and shaping the next morning:

I also made a simple knob with a 1/4″ t-nut pressed in:

I don’t normally paint project like this, but figured I’d make an exception for this one. I set up outdoors and sprayed the handle part blue, and the rest silver. I topped it with a couple coats of clear after the paint dried:

Assembled, loaded with a disk and ready to try:

And… it was underwhelming. Not the sander itself – that was awesome, but the sanding disk. After just a very brief amount of use, it was starting to wrinkle up and stretch:

Not pleased! BUT, while taking it off to orient it the other way, I noticed that the Velcro stuff on the back of it stuck to the grit on another disk pretty good, so I decide to try something.

I cut out double sided tape and stuck that onto the base:

And cut out that very first disk and stuck that onto the tape with the grit side out:

Trying it this time, and there was a huge improvement:

Even better would be a layer of real Velcro, but this seems to work just fine.
Since 5″ disks are a lot more common, to make one for that size all you’d have to do is reduce the size of the parts by 1″.

I made this video showing the build up close and intimate: