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Shifting sands

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My favorite woodworking task is one that everyone else seems to hate, and I’m not sure why. I’m talking about sanding.

I’ve mentioned this before. Ask woodworkers what shop chore they hate most and you’ll get a hundred different answers, but sanding always seems to top the list. Maybe I’m weird, or maybe I look at sanding from a different perspective than others, but I thoroughly enjoy sanding for several reasons.

During the active building stage, I see sanding as just another process in making a project come together. Whether it’s sanding something just to tweak it where cutting would be too much, or sanding an internal component before installation that would be awkward to sand later, it’s every bit as important as joinery.

But it’s finish sanding that I like the most. As the term implies, it’s the sanding you do when you begin to “see” the completed piece. It tells me my work is nearly done, and I can enjoy this in-the-home-stretch phase of the project. I also find that using a random-orbit sander is relaxing in itself, and the perfect way to wind down before turning the shop lights out for the day. Then there’s the final-final sanding, the finish sanding done by hand with a sanding block or – better still – a folded sheet of sandpaper. The tactile sense imparted by sanding with one hand, and running my other over the smooth wood surface is as sensual as it is rewarding.

Dust? Sure, you get dirty when sanding a project; it’s just part of the process. But then, you get dirty doing a lot of other things that can truly be considered chores – mowing the lawn, cleaning gutters, organizing the attic, etc. – and I don’t think any of those are as enjoyable or as rewarding as concluding a well executed project.

Maybe other workers are just in a hurry to wrap things up and move on to the next project, and miss these positive aspects of sanding. That’s a shame.

Or maybe I’m just weird.



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