All About Abrasives
Everything You Need to Know About Sanding
When it comes to sanding for any project, there’s a lot of factors that can impact your desired final finish. What sander do you choose? Which abrasive is right for the job? What do I do about all of this dust? Well, good thing, with the help of a few of Uneeda’s products, we’ve got some answers, tips, and tricks for you to help take the stress out of sanding.
If you’ve got the right sander, then sanding should be a fast and easy process. The three most common sanders that you’ll see from Uneeda, one of my favorite abrasive companies, are the 3x4, the 5-inch, and the 6-inch. The sanders from Uneeda have a longer life due to their brushless motors, being DC-power driven, and having variable speeds. The 5-inch and 6-inch sanders are random orbital sanders, meaning that they follow a unique path and leave a swirl-free finish due to the random pattern of the abrasive on the substrate. They are also extremely powerful!
Without a doubt, Uneeda’s 3x4 is one of my favorite sanders currently on the market. The 3x4 is a direct-drive orbital sander, meaning it’s orbiting in a circle, with no random patterns like the other two sanders mentioned. The small profile makes it perfect for quickly sanding cabinet doors and it’s essential to my furniture restoration process. Having a sander as small as this means that contouring and sanding edges is easy, quick, and painless!
Uneeda’s sanders are also compatible with the Ekansand Vacuum Series 2 - a premium dust extraction system with a manual self-cleaning HEPA filter that removes up to 99.97% of particles. This takes the dust out of the equation, making your job even cleaner and easier. The hook-and-loop style abrasives allow for the quick and easy switching out of abrasives, so you can get back to working! They are designed to be compatible with the vacuum to remove as much dust as possible. Even if you are using a vacuum system, always remember to wear protective eyewear and a respirator mask - along with gloves when working with a powered sander.
Always use a vacuum or a duster brush before your paint application to ensure the cleanest and smooth surface!
Even more important than a sander is the abrasive you choose. There are so many different factors that make up a good abrasive that it can be hard to even know where to start.
Paper abrasives are the most widely used abrasive - a traditional sandpaper. This means that it is often the cheapest abrasive option, and will provide a good finish comparable to the cost. These are ideal for sanding flat surfaces, and while it is flexible, it is also prone to tears when sanding contours and edges. However, paper abrasives will typically create less friction and heat compared to other materials.
Film abrasives are both flexible and durable - they are able to mold to contours/edges, but are not likely to tear. As a result, film abrasives have a longer product life. They are also typically waterproof and can be used for wet sanding applications. Expect an amazing finish!
Foam-backed abrasives allow you to mold the abrasive to any odd surface shape - Uneeda’s are compatible with their sanding machines, making it easier than ever. These will often be very squishy to the touch - like a sponge!
Open vs. Closed Cell
A term that will commonly be thrown around in reference to abrasives is open cell and closed cell abrasives. This refers to the structure of the abrasive itself.
Open-cell abrasives will likely be something that is a foam/sponge material - great for contouring around edges. They are flexible and able to get in places that closed cell abrasives can’t - open-cell abrasives will mold around any surface! An example of this from Uneeda is their Ekasilk ½” Sanding Sponge.
Closed cell abrasives are better suited for flat surfaces - use these to get an amazing finish! While they are not usually completely flexible, the level of flex will depend on the product selected. FilmTek is a film-backed closed-cell abrasive that is flat and best for flat surfaces. The Ekasilk 5mm and 10mm sponges are closed-cell and great for flat surfaces near contours/edges, like shaker style doors.
Grit typically refers to the level of coarseness of the abrasive. Lower grit numbers are coarser, while higher numbers are finer. Levels go as low as 12 and up to even more than 1000! Coarse abrasives have larger particulates fixed on them, and are better at the faster removal of material, but they leave a rougher-surface finish. Finer grits of abrasive leave a smoother finish, but it takes more time and effort to remove the material and garner the desired finish. Ideally, you want to start with coarser grits and move towards finer grits, depending on the job.
This is slightly more of a technical term, but some abrasives have an additional coat applied called a stearate. Stearates help to cool down the abrasive, as when abrasives become too warm, loading will begin. Loading is what happens when the substrate, most of the time paints, coatings, and lacquers, will begin to stick in the abrasive and gum it up, rendering it useless. Then you’ll have to switch it out for another one. With the stearate layer, Uneeda’s abrasives take longer to wear out and become loaded. I’ve gone through multi-day projects without switching to a fresh abrasive!
When sanding, the pressure you apply will also affect how quickly an abrasive will load up. Apply a light pressure and let the machine do the work - there’s no need to press down too hard. Additionally, both too much and too little pressure can create unwanted swirls on your surface.
A knowledge and understanding of these terms and concepts will help you pick an abrasive that is best for your particular job, and will hopefully make things easier and will make your process faster and more efficient.
About the Company:
Right at the top of Uneeda’s website, you’ll be able to see that they’ve been “offering the highest quality abrasives since 1967.” And there’s no doubts about it - they have! For over 50 years, this company has been dedicated to providing high-quality abrasives at the lowest possible price. They are a leading supplier of coated abrasive products and sanding tools to companies in wood, automotive, metal and marine industries.
Uneeda is a family-owned and operated business headquartered in Springfield, New York. The company is committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility, with a number of initiatives in place to reduce their environmental impact, including the process of using recycled materials in their products, along with reducing energy consumption.