It is Sunday, (or after trading hours), or simply live too far from your normal woodworking supplies shop, and your drum sander has run out of abrasive.
What do you do?
I decided to find out if there was an alternative, if only temporary to get you out of trouble so you can finish the job you are doing.
Headed down to Masters to see what was on offer. Seriously….very little. Certainly no cloth backed sandpaper in a roll or of any length. About the only stuff I could find was a very weak paper backed painter’s sandpaper. No idea how it’d survive – you just touch it and the abrasive is flaking off the backing.
Went to take a length anyway, and discovered that even worse, it is perforated every metre (for easy tear-off – the last thing you want for a machine sander!) But there was nothing else, so it was either this to get out of jail, or nothing. It wasn’t the right width either, so it was going to be an interesting attempt.
First, I took some packing tape, and ran a length down the entire back of the 2m long strip I bought. Oh, and the strip cost $4 ($2/m), compared to something like $18 for the real deal. (Remembering this is a temporary fix, not a long term viable alternative).
With a bit of guesswork, I trimmed the end to an angle, then with a bit of adjustment got it so each loop butted up against the previous, and got to the opposite end of the drum. That was a lot easier, as the end was simply trimmed to be parallel to the edge of the drum, and secured with the second clip.
Kind of looks the part doesn’t it! Also proves that you can use other widths of sandpaper – you are not restricted to just using a 75mm wide roll (think that is what the standard width is).
A quick test – turn on and off (while standing clear) – seems to work – it didn’t fly to shreds instantly.
Next test – sand something!
Took a scrap of timber, and ran that through. It survived as well, even multiple passes. You can see a gap at the right hand side- I hadn’t gotten sufficient tension in the roll, so after this pass I readjusted the paper to get it tight on the drum again.
After a few passes, the wear is a lot more evident on this sandpaper than is on the garnet cloth-backed sandpaper. However, it was working.
So let’s do it for real. Got the piece of walnut that I needed to sand, and ran it through again, and again to flatten it off. I did go with a slower feed speed and less height change between passes to give the paper the best chance for survival. Even so, near the end of the job the drum was bogging down a bit as the paper was loosing its ability to cut. But I got the piece flattened (over a dozen passes)
Turned it over to dress the rear side a bit, and managed to get about three passes in before the paper exploded off the roll.
It wasn’t dangerous – the paper was flapping a lot on the drum, but there was no issue in turning the machine off. There were bits of sandpaper everywhere (about 1″ square) – when this let go, it really let go! Surprisingly, the perforated area halfway along had survived (although had started to tear when the length failed).
The proof of concept was achieved however – I have a nicely sanded piece of walnut – so this indeed “get me out of jail” It isn’t the most economic – an $18 length will last and last (until you burn it or do something silly, or wear it out), but for a one-off when the shops are shut, this worked.
Be your own judge whether you choose to ever do this for yourself or not. I am satisfied that there was no real risk (and I stood aside even so). If I have to do it again, I may try gorilla tape next time – something a bit stronger than a cellotape-type packing tape which may increase the time the temporary fix can survive.