Tag: Sanding

Over the summer, I was contacted by the Christiansburg Community Center (formerly the Christiansburg Industrial Institute) to duplicate some existing 19th century trim around windows to aid their restoration efforts.  The Christiansburg Community Center is on the National Register of Historic Places partly for its role as the African-American school in Christiansburg where Booker T. Washington was once the adviser.  It’s always an honor to work with historic buildings, especially ones that are so important to the local community’s history.

The building had six windows where the trim had been removed previously to accommodate a drop ceiling.  During the renovations, the drop ceiling had been removed exposing the missing trim around the top third of each window.  Given that the new trim would be butted up against existing trim, the match had to be perfect which was the ultimate challenge for this project.

I sourced lumber for this project from Hill City Hardwoods in Lynchburg, Virginia.  I bought 24 board feet of the two widest boards of southern yellow pine they had in stock so I could make the trim from the sides of the board and use the middle-third of the board for scrap.  This gave me the tightest, straightest grain possible which is necessary to prevent the board from warping and twisting as the seasons change.  It also more closely matched the grain pattern on the existing trim.

To begin, I made a rendering in SketchUp of the profile of the board to use as a guide throughout the project.  I then cut the left and right sides from the original boards to the width of the trim then jointed an edge and face before running it through the thickness planer to get a perfectly square board.  To add the grooves on the trim, I used my router table and a 90-degree V-bit and cut four V’s into each segment of the trim.  Using a 19th century 1/4” hollow hand plane, I rounded over the V’s to make the space between each pair of V’s arched.  I went back to the table saw to cut the 45-degree bevels on each side of the trim.  To finish up, I fine-tuned some rougher spots with medium grit sandpaper before going over everything with a fine grit sandpaper to make it smooth to the touch.

Visit the Roanoke Times to read more about the recent restoration efforts.

Special thanks to the Christiansburg Industrial Institute for choosing me to help with this project.  They’re a wonderful group of people doing great work.  Donations to the Christiansburg Community Center can be made through Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church at 580 N. High St., Christiansburg, Virginia 24073, or by calling (540) 382-0562.

Before we get started a good tip to help keep your sandpaper organized.  If you have more sandpaper than you know what to do with, use a filing cabinet to store it all.  This has helped to keep my sandpaper perfectly sorted and easy to access.

Just the other day while I was finishing the bench that goes along with the farmhouse table I made I said to myself a few times, “Oh, right, don’t forget to do [finishing technique]” and figured a quick writeup could serve both you and I well!  Following is my process used for sanding bare wood.

  • Identify areas where yellow glue is still visible and focus on those when sanding.  Yellow glue does not take stain and will leave a hideous yellow mark with even the thinnest layer of glue.  A tip for finding these spots is to wet glue joints or use paint thinner on the glue joints to expose them.
  • Using a power sander, start sanding using 60 grit on harder woods (anything above 850 lbf on the Janka hardness scale) and 80 grit on softer woods.  Using a finer grit on softer woods will give you more control by not removing material as quickly and is less likely to leave hard to remove swirl marks.
  • Using a power sander, move to a finer grit like 120, then 220.  Don’t stop with the previous grit until the surface is consistent in look and feel and all swirl marks have become more subtle.
  • Between each phase of sanding, use compressed air to clean the surface.  If this isn’t an option, a lint free cloth will help.
  • Now for a little known trick.  Use a spray bottle to mist the surface of the wood with water.  This step is especially effective for softer woods because it causes the wood fibers to swell a little bit raising the grain in areas.  This step it critical if you’re trying to achieve an ultra smooth surface.
  • Immediately after doing this, sand using the 220 grit again.  Let the surface dry completely.
  • Clean the surface off again with compressed air.  Be sure to blow out any knots as they’re great traps for dust.
  • Sand by hand using an eight inch long piece of 2×4 wrapped with a really fine sandpaper that’s about 300 grit.  This should hopefully remove the last evidence of marks from a power sander and create an ultra smooth finish.
  • If an even smoother finish is still desired, I wouldn’t recommend using sandpaper at this point, but a set of card scrapers like my set pictured below.
  • Before applying any finishes I like to rub the surface down with rubbing alcohol to remove any last traces of dust that have accumulated on the surface due to sanding.