Sanding Methods for Face Frames

Is it worth using the wide-belt sander, or will a random-orbital sander get the job done? Pros share opinions and experiences. July 22, 2005

I'm building a mahogany FF kitchen and I intend to sand FF with my wide belt sander. Is it more trouble than it's worth to do this and try to hand sand with an the cross grain scratches, or just go with the orbital and forget the wide belt? I'm pocket screwing frames together and will need very little sanding to get it smooth for finish. Any help is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor P:
We run our frame stock through the wide belt before assembly and pocket-screw it together on a face-frame table. When its done correctly, there is so little sanding to be done that it'd be pointless to introduce a lot of cross grain scratching by wide belt sanding the completed frame.

From contributor R:
I would suggest wide belt sanding when you can. At the very least, sand the stock with a wide belt before you assemble to minimize the sanding after assembly. To wide belt after assembly, sand down to 220 or 240 grit as your final wide belt grit, then backup to a 180 with the random orbital to finish sand.

From contributor J:
Have you thought about sanding the completed frame? The cross grain should sand out.

From contributor S:
Sand your pieces with a wide belt first, and then assemble and then sand with an orbital sander. Its unnecessary to wide belt sand it after assembly, and it creates a lot more work.

From contributor A:
I used to work in a shop with a 37" Timesaver. I now have a small drum sander. I haven't sanded face frame stock in five years. I plane the stock; assemble with pocket screws, random orbit sand the joints lightly with 100 grit, and then the whole frame with 150 grit. I look back at the previous 5 years sanding out cross grain scratches which I introduced to the process as a fool's errand. These are mostly beaded face frames often with 1 1/2" parts yielding a 7/8" wide sanding area.

From contributor M:
We do it basically how Contributor A does it. It goes from the planer to the assembly table with a pocket screw, then we attach it to the carcass, sand the joints and finish sand the entire frame for stain or paint. We don't own any sort of large sanding device like a wide belt or big drum, just a Makita random-orbit and big P/C belt sander (hand-held) that's done us quite well the past year.

From contributor R:
Mahogany is a fairly soft wood and wont require much sanding to level the joints. If you use a good Dynabrade air sander with 150 grit then youre good to go.