A Sand Storm Sweeps The AWA

A sand storm sweeps the AWA! Last nights meeting of the Atlantic Woodworkers Association was an informational and entertaining one. We were treated to the seemingly endless wisdom of Mel Larsen, the Canadian representative of SIA Abrasives.

SIA Abrasives, with their head office in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, is the oldest manufacturer of coated abrasives in the world and a popular choice among woodworkers. Their noticeable yellow sandpaper is commonplace in many home workshops as well as widely used in industry applications including wood, automotive and metal.

Mel took a different approach for this presentation than he has taken in the past. Instead of focusing on the SIA product line and its use he took a broader view and spoke on wood and the steps to take to create a quality finish as well as the pitfalls and concerns.

Here, in point form, are the notes we were able to make from this fast-paced, tip-laden presentation:

  • There are 5 different cuts of wood that comes off a log and each one has a different surface grain. When choosing wood, ensure that all the of wood for a particular project has the same surface grain. If not, the finish, coloring, etc. will be different on the completed project. Some types of wood, like cherry, may look fine during construction but will color dramatically different with age if wood with different surface grain is used.
  • Today’s wood is so new that it doesn’t require sanding beyond 150 grit. Sanding at a higher grit only burnishes the wood.
  • Sand in-between coats starting at 220 grit and go up a grit with each in-between sand. The combination of the more coats of finish and the incremental sanding will give depth to the finish.
  • Sand by hand in between sanding done with an orbital sander.
  • The recommended speed of movement for an orbital sander is 3″ per second – slow down!
  • Spend more time on your final sand.
  • Climatize your wood. Keep it warm and dry. The ideal shop conditions are between 18C to 24C (65F to 75F).
  • Never store sandpaper on concrete. It will draw the moisture from the concrete and will deteriorate.
  • Never store sandpaper near heat or open windows. It will dry out and become brittle.
  • Silicon-carbide is the hardest of the sandpapers. It has built-in anti-clogging. Only use it in between coats and never on raw wood.
  • Use the same brand finish thruout your project.
  • Do no put heavy pressure on the sander when sanding. Let the weight of the sander do the job.
  • Use the SIA product colors of yellow and light blue for woodworking.

    Mel also announced that there will be some new products in the SIA line coming soon and that there will also be a product and information brochure available. He finished the presentation with a draw for a beautiful Swiss-made SIA watch which one happy member went home with.

    The meeting finished with an auction for a chalk line system, a Stanley household hardware kit and a DeWalt jacket, which was elegantly modelled by one of the members.

    A hearty thanks to Mel for a great presentation and thanks to all the members that attended for making this another great meeting!

    You can find more AWA meeting related articles here if you are interested.

    Back to the shop…

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