TRIZACT AND SCOTCH-BRIGHT GRAY
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you begin sanding. If you don’t get out the deepest scratches first with the coarser grit papers, they are always going to be there. It’s just a waste of time trying to sand out the scratches with the finer grits. Also, it’s very important you use a sander that is in good working condition. Sanders are made to help you get the most out of your sandpaper. Poorly working tools will cause you to use more paper, which in turn will cost you more money.
What is the best sander? I like a good random orbital sander. You want to make sure that if a sander says it’s a random orbital sander, it truly is. Many cheap sanders just turn in a circle. A true random orbit will, as it says, rotate in a random way. This really helps to make a great sanding job. The random pattern of the sander provides a complete surface sand.
Another area where you can save money is to clean off your top before you begin with the next grit. Wipe it down with a wet rag, and then check for marks and scratches you may have missed. There are two reasons to do this. You want to remove the old grit from the surface before you go on to the next step, and it also helps to keep the new piece of sandpaper from clogging up too soon. Another thing that really helps is using dust collection on your sanders. This helps to remove the dust and grit that falls from the paper.
I would also highly recommend you don’t belt sand your joints. If you do, you may be causing two problems for yourself. A belt sander generates a tremendous amount of heat. Too much heat on the joint can cause the seam to fail. Belt sanding marks also take a long time to remove. Why make extra work for yourself?
If you want to better manage your time, here’s a good place to start. While you are gluing up a seam, make sure all the seams are level. There are many different types of tools on the market today to assist you in this regard. In our shop we use a sander that has a random orbit mode and a rotary grind mode. While smoothing out seams we switch the sander to rotary grind mode. It’s very efficient.
Another area of sanding that can make you look good or bad is your edge. Leaving router chatter on your edge can be caused by a dull bit or trying to take too much off in one pass. I like to make two passes with the router bit taking the majority of the material off. The last pass is just to clean up the edge with the router bit taking the majority off on the first pass. The amount of chatter you have on your edge after routing will determine how much time you’ll need to sand the edge. When you take these extra steps in the fabrication end of a project, it will translate into quicker sand times and a much better finish.
One last area of sanding that we need to consider is solid surface bowls. I have had consumers call me and tell me their bowl is dirty and stains (not my jobs of course!). More often than not it’s because the bowl wasn’t sanded out, so all those scratches left behind have trapped the dirt. What a shame! Not only will this cost you money down stream in callbacks, but it leaves a bad mark on the industry. So, please sand out those bowls!
How many steps do you really need to use? In our shop we try to minimize the amount of steps. Instead, we focus on the process and the tooling we use. Sanding countertops is a major part of your business. Don’t underestimate how much money you can save and how much you can improve the quality of your tops by developing and maintaining a good sanding program.
About the author: Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.