Pre-judging a Tool

It is a rare thing for a tool to perform significantly different to what you imagined, and often that is not a positive thing.

So it is even rarer to find oneself completely surprised by how a tool just purchased operates, and in a good way!

The tool in question is the Arbortech Contour Sander.  It is fitted to an angle grinder and is for smoothing odd shaped items (such as one might create with some of the other Arbortech tools!)

Now the angle grinder is not exactly a tool that you would regard as being subtle.  It is loud, it vibrates, and it runs at around 10,000 RPM.  You would imagine that attaching a shaft to that, and sticking a piece of sandpaper on the end, that you are about to have some very rapid stock removal, in a cloud of dust.

Nothing could have been further removed from my expectation.

Instead, I had a tool running at very high speed (as angle grinders are want to do), but the sandpaper end was barely moving on the workpiece.  It is a random orbital sander style, so the rapid angular speed of the angle grinder translates into a more linear, but random amount of microstrokes.

It was subtle, it sanded quickly, but at a very controllable rate, and the soft end allowed the contours be sanded, without them being removed or abraded away.  Contour Sander indeed!

I think my only negative point was that the sandpaper is stuck on, rather than using velcro/hook & loop, so it isn’t easy to change from one pad to the next, working through the grades.

I’ve already used the sander on a few small jobs, smoothing and softening the natural edge of some timber, but I well expect it will prove a very useful tool for a range of projects in future.

Ooh Rah! Now that is some tape!

Pity about the name – FiberFix.  Sounds like something for the digestive system!

Sanding Curves

Sanding something that is flat has been well worked out over the years.

Shop-based sanders came out in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1927 that Porter Cable released a portable belt sander, called the Take About Sander.

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Dremel was next to come up with something new, and released an oscillating sander in 1948, called the Moto-sander

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Next was Festo (now Festool), releasing an orbital sander in 1951, the Festo RTK


Then in 1976, Festo came up with the concept of a random orbital sander.  These were aimed at the automotive finishing industry, but were very suitable for woodworkers as well.

There is one common concept with all these sanders however.  They are all about sanding a surface flat, or at most on a convex curve.  I know that is a bit simplistic, but you get the point.

What happens if you want to sand inside a concave region?

If you are using a lathe, then you can use a rotary sander that is spun by contact with the workpiece, such as this rotary sander from U Beaut


But if your object is not mounted on a lathe, what other options are there?

I’ve got a couple (and I know there are others).  One is the Festool Interface pad, as I have previously mentioned back in 2012


It is a foam disk that attaches by hook&loop (which we commonly call Velcro!) to the sander, and then attaches the sanding paper to the other side.  It provides a cushioned surface that can get into concave curves (and is good for convex ones as well).  The one I was using finally gave up the ghost (it is a consumable after all), so I picked up a replacement.

The other solution that I got from Carbatec, is a product from Arbortech called the Contour Random Sander


It fits to your angle grinder, and I am particularly interested in trying this out.  It can get into deeper areas and tighter curves, yet still has a random orbital effect, as the sanding disk is free spinning and (just) offcentre.

After all, not all woodworking is about items that are flat!

The Block 2016

Our good friend, Brendan Stemp recently had a brush with fame, appearing on an episode of “The Block”

Read the full story here

Needless to say, I enjoyed watching that part of the episode, seeing some first-timers experience just what wood turning is about.

Well done Brendan, and the crew at Handsome & Co!


Hit another magic milestone today. 3 million visits to Stu’s Shed.

Not counting visitors via social media, RSS, email, YouTube etc, but ignoring that for a sec, still a great milestone.  Onward to 5 million🙂



The Age

Made it into The Age newspaper over the weekend. One of those quick articles in the weekend magazine, featuring my Game of Thrones doorstop.

Alaskan ULU Knife

I’ve been having a go making a handle and curved chopping board for the ULU knife blank from Professional Woodwork Supplies.

While I have made knife handles before by hand, this was the first time I have integrated some CNC steps into the process, and in particular for cutting the mortises for the blade tang (or in this case, tangs).

I also used the CNC to carve out the hollow chopping board.  Takes about 10 minutes, so a very quick set and forget to create the shallow hollow.

Next time I will try to make a much thicker board, with a deep hollow.

Timber is Camphor Laurel, and the same piece was used for both the board and the handles.  The next one will be made from some of the Gidgee I picked up at the wood show.

Finished with Foodsafe Plus oil from Ubeaut.

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