Sanding Face Frame Joints Flush

Advice on finish sanding methods and joinery for face frames. February 21, 2011

What's the best, fastest way to sand face frames? This is one of the steps that takes us the longest, and I'd like to know if there's a way to save time without buying more machinery.

We drum sand down to #180 grit, use a somewhat aggressive sander with #120 grit to remove cross sanding, and then finish sand with a palm sander using #120 grit. These steps took me about 6 hours to do 7 base frames, 7 wall frames, and 1 pantry frame. Is there a faster way?

Also, the stiles on our frames usually protrude past the top and bottom rail about 1/32nd inch and we like those to be perfectly flush. How do you sand them flush?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
A quick bump on an edge sander will make easy work of flushing up the top and bottom of your frames.

From contributor A:
Buzz the defects with 100 grit on a RO. Finish sand 150 grit on a RO. Hit the end grain of the stiles with the above. I've been at it for 15 years and beyond grinding down the back of a frame with a widebelt (which I never have to do), it makes no sense to introduce cross grain scratches... ever. I was trained in a shop that had a similar method as your current one. I am so glad I went out on my own without a wide belt for a few years.

From contributor S:

I agree with contributor A. You're doing a lot of work for nothing. Skip the wide belt altogether. Shave glue off back of face frame with chisel, glue and clamp to cab flush with bottom, sand with 150, finish with 220, a block and 220 for edges and you're done.

Why would you make your face frame 1/16 larger than needed if your end product is perfection?

From contributor C:
Whenever I come across this sort of thing I reach for a good sharp plane. It only takes a second or two to take it down flush. Take a light shaving on end grain. It's at this point I would reach for my ROS.

From contributor M:
I use 80 grit and then 120. Doesn't take that long.

From the original questioner:
Thanks! We use a Kreg pocket hole machine, glue and screw our frames together. Often where the rails meet the stiles, one or the other is slightly raised. Do you just RO that down flush?

From contributor A:
Yeah! The other option is to switch to a Castle pocket screw machine.

From contributor M:
We use welding vice grip pliers to clamp the two pieces even while screwing. If your material is uniform thickness, then they will come out even.

From the original questioner:
I use the clamps from Kreg that are similar to welding clamps. The discrepancy on the frames is only perhaps 1/32nd - 1/64th.