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Teaching sanding

Mark B Member

How do you guys teach someone to sand? That is to sand correctly, efficiently, fast(redundant)?

Sanding has always been one of my pet peeves because the bulk of the planet thinks a dip-wad can be tossed on sanding. We all know its not the case. What is your process to help someone get their head around it in a manner that doesnt take a hundred years and doesnt result in endless parts hitting stain and having to go back and be re-cut? (can you tell where I am?).

Ive always been patient, explaining the process, do's and don'ts, behave like a machine, use your eyes but dont only use your eyes, mentally map the surface while your sanding, peripheral vision, mow the lawn, dont focus/dig in on an area, dont burnish, on down the line. A slow process over a period of time trying to get their head around it patiently.

Its by far one of THE MOST frustrating things in my world to get a new guys head around sanding. And its a crippling bottleneck when it isnt going smoothly.

It'd be great if you could pay every great sander you come across $40 bucks an hour to keep them forever but thats an option and other people have to be able to jump in when things get crazy.

You all have any success with any webinars or videos I havent found that really dive into the nuances of sanding? Im not sure them sitting there watching one would be any help but its worth a try.

7/15/22       #2: Teaching sanding ...

Like many of these skills, people don't have a baseline or frame of reference to understand the range of outcomes.

Put together a few samples, label them, and have the new hire perform the various extremes as well as the correct technique as you supervise them on the different methods and what to look for. Immediately take the samples to get stained or clear coated so they can understand which techniques produce which results in real time.

The goal isn't to make them understand the entire process at once, it's to help give them muscle memory so they begin to have a frame of reference. Rinse and repeat if necessary with a more targeted approach as they become more familiar with what's working and what techniques are creating issues down the line. It's important to catch the issues and correct them ASAP before bad techniques become bad habits.

7/16/22       #3: Teaching sanding ...
Mark B  Member

Funny for there to be two Mark B.'s here. I don't let anyone sand in the shop without training. There is no way I am going to work hard on something just for it to go out with swirl marks. F. That

This is how I teach about sanding, which is really about scratch patterns. Get some Plexiglas and hit it 15 seconds with an orbital and 100G paper. Now walk back up through the grits until you are back to glossy factory finish plexiglas. This will teach the two main offenders that I see 1. how to make sure every grit erases the previous scratch and 2. how you can ruin flatness by tipping the sander on edge vs. a bit of patiences and keeping the sander flat.

Of course there is more to know than this, but if you can start here you will have a good foundation to teach from and hopefully time and material will not get wasted.

7/16/22       #4: Teaching sanding ...

Good lighting is critical to teach sanding, since the operator must see a distinct sheen across the whole piece of stock. You can buy an automotive finishing sanding aide to help teach them to see imperfections. It's called dry guide coat, black. The fine black powder sits in the scratches when padded over the piece of wood. This of course is a teaching tool used on scrap parts, not for using on finished work. Pencil swirls all over a piece of scrap can also be used. When the pencil lines are gone, it's time to change grit. Most critical that I see, is getting them to not put pressure on the sander, and moving it way too fast. What is hard to teach is attitude and patience.

7/17/22       #5: Teaching sanding ...

Low angle lights have not been mentioned. All our sanders in training or not have lights they use at low angles to help see swirl marks and imperfections in the wood.

7/19/22       #6: Teaching sanding ...
Mark B Member

Thanks for all the input.
We use the low angle/raking light on sanding stations and when teaching someone to sand I do use the guide coat technique from the auto body world though we just use a lightly dampened stain rag. Its fine for showing someone but not a reasonable day to day option.

Its a bit of a frustrating process. Dont deal with swirls much which I attribute to good sanders (dc brushless) and really good dust pickup but over/under sanding and them being able get to the point where its somewhat intuitive and less with your eyes especially on things like hard/soft Maple sorted for white. Its very difficult to see scratch so to me at least it has to become more than just your eyes. Time and experience of course.

8/5/22       #7: Teaching sanding ...
Kevin Dunphy


I'm speechless I no it getting rough for skilled labor. I think these automated shops are killing cabinetmaking ,having head sander, head spray painter ,head installer, head assembler with 8 employees
Maybe a heavier sander so you have even weight like one of the BOSH 6 INCH sanders
Can be sand paper getting dull fast grit can't remove previous sanding marks
I have seen middle age carpenters learning to be cabinetmakers but didn't know cabinetmaking was a trade .Sanding Mahogany with 200 grit before clear coat ,the Carpenter thought that's how you get a smooth finish

10/17/22       #8: Teaching sanding ...
Sean Kovacs  Member


im not sure about the size of your business but have you considered automating that process with a CNC Sander? over time the money lost from bottlenecks, re work, wasted stain and salaries paid over time could amount to a smart sanding machine that could eliminate that bottleneck

1/17/23       #9: Teaching sanding ...
Adam West  Member


I travel the US teaching sanding, from the widebelt through finishing. The right qualiry low angle light is one of the biggest keys to knowing when to stop sanding.

I start with the widebelt and get the product right going to the sanding table and work through the process. Less sanding is almost always better than too much.

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