Published on August 13th, 2014 | by Julie Finn1
You Need a Palm Sander
Waaaaah, I hate sanding!
It’s boring, it’s messy, and it takes a long time. Even when I watch reruns of Sherlock and mentally compose Wholock fanction while sanding, I still hate sanding.
Woodworking in general, however, and furniture refinishing in particular, requires a lot of sanding. Sometimes you can get away without it, mind you, if you decide that you like a rough texture to your project, and often you can get away with using a no-sand primer instead of sanding, if it’s just a paint job that you’re doing, but when you’re working with bare wood, as I have been lately, in particular, with several sets of antique shelves that I’m refinishing for my house, you need to sand, because NOBODY wants to live with splinters.
Making sanding bearable, then, means making it, if not less boring, at least quicker. Less messy. Easier, with bonus points if you make it so easy that you can outsource it to a kid.
If you want something to be quicker and easier, you’ve got to power it up, and that’s why I’m all about my palm sander. I’ve got a Tool Shop brand that I bought from Menard’s, but all palm sanders are about the same, so follow the deals where you can find them. Really, your only choices are in the method that the palm sander uses to capture flying sawdust, and the shape of the sander.
You’ve got to only buy a palm sander if it has some sort of container attached that will suck up and collect the dust as it flies–there will be a LOT of dust, and you do not want that in your lungs. If I’m confident about the wood that I’ve been sanding (and frankly, I’m not usually), I’ll empty the dust onto my compost pile. Otherwise, I’ll trash it. The important thing is that I’m not inhaling it!
Also important is the shape of the sanding area. Palm sanders come in a few cute shapes, including circles that cover a lot of area, and arrows that are great at getting right up into corners, but the only kind that you want to buy is the 1/4 sheet square. Because although all the different palm sanders will also let you buy pre-cut sandpaper that fits them, the 1/4 sheet square sandpaper is… 1/4 of a sheet of standard-sized sandpaper. Instead of paying for someone else to cut and package your palm sander sandpaper, just buy yourself a bulk pack of sandpaper and cut it down yourself; my Tool Shop palm sander even came with a stencil to use to make the holes that it needs to have!
The only thing that super sucks about my palm sander, at least, is that it is so stupid loud. Forget watching Sherlock while you sand, or even listening to headphones, unless you want to come away as deaf as if you’ve been at a Phish concert instead of on your deck doing chores. That’s why you show your kid how to use ear plugs, hand her the sander, bribe her with her choice of one buck or an hour of screen time after she’s finished, and go watch Sherlock in the comfort of your living room while still getting the job done.
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