Abrasives

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Abrasives

Postby Robin Fawcett » Fri May 16, 2008 12:02 am

I see nothing wrong in the use of sandpaper, sharkskin, dutch rushes or sand and leather as a tool. Someone, probably Morris or Ruskin, said you shouldn't be proud of anything you accomplish with sandpaper. Why shouldn't you ? It's just another tool.

Used skillfully it can be very effective. The finish is subjective - there is no right or wrong about it and it is down to personal preference. There is a market for tool finish and sanded.

I personally don't like sanding but Vanessa is very good at it and enjoys refining my basic shapes into a monolithic finish . . .and they sell very well (particularly to ladies). Our sanded spoons actually achieve a higher price than those that are carved however finely they are finished.

Wille Sundqvist recommends sanding . . ."until your spoon is fit for hand and lip". :lol:
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Postby Nicola Wood » Fri May 16, 2008 8:57 am

It was Ruskin, "never imagine there is reason to be proud of anything that may be accomplished by patience and sandpaper." I had it for a while in my signature line on BCUK (a Bushcraft forum) and it caused some debate :lol:

I make spoons and I never, ever sand them. I love the crisp, sharp lines that come straight off the tool. If you sanded such a small item it would round and blunt all the corners and to my eye make them less appealing. Here's an example of my tooled finish:
Image
and here's a link to a youTube video of me hand finishing and talking about why for those who haven't seen it.

That said, I'm not totally against other people sanding their work! Rob makes outdoor benches, bridges etc and sands them. Firstly, it wouldn't be economically viable to hand finish items of this size, but also on items of this scale you can sand and retain the character:
Image

What I hate is when folk finish to such a high degree that you can no longer tell it's a piece of wood - it might as well be plastic. It is also then going to be a fragile surface and every knock and scratch will show.

Light blue touch paper ... retire to a safe distance :twisted:
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Postby HughSpencer » Fri May 16, 2008 9:58 am

While I agree with the sentiment about not using sandpaper, I still tend to use a technique taught to me by Eric Rogers for finishing spoon bowls that I'm going to put in my mouth.

Using a thin strip (half inch wide) of fine cloth backed abrasive.
    Feel for bumps and roughness in the bowl
    Trap the strip of abrasive between thumb and spoon
    Pull the strip with your other hand.


this only sands the area where you apply pressure with your thumb and avoids dubbing over the edges that you want to keep sharp.
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Re: Abrasives

Postby robin wood » Fri May 16, 2008 2:07 pm

Robin Fawcett wrote:
Wille Sundqvist recommends sanding . . ."until your spoon is fit for hand and lip". :lol:


Excellent subject for debate Robin,

Wille does recommend sanding eating spoons but all his serving spoons/cooking spoons/ ladles and kasas are left with a tooled finish, as is most of his other woodwork.

Personally if a highly skilled craftsperson chooses to sand finish a spoon I have no problem with it, so long as it is very well sanded, by that I mean, go down through all the grits using each to remove all the scratches of the previous coarser grit then wetting to raise the grain, sanding again, oiling and a final once over with the oil. This gives a silky finish that will last and with good technique it is possible to keep nice sharp edges.

Sandpaper is also used by beginners who have not yet got the skills to get a good finish from the tools, sometimes I see the results of beginning spooncarvers who have got a very rough hairy shape and then really shaped and finished it with sandpaper. These spoons do tend to be rather blobby, I still think its great that folk do them but it makes me want to help them with their technique because it is so much more satisfying when you get a good tool cutting well.

Personally I never use abrasives indoors, the fine dust is very dangerous to the lungs particularly when you get down past 240 grit and the dust becomes invisible, maybe not too much comes off a spoon but what does come off settles on any flat surface and puffs up into the atmosphere ready to be inhaled every time you walk across the room.
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Postby Mark Allery » Fri May 16, 2008 6:31 pm

Speaking as a beginner (well almost) this is a subject that I struggle with on an almost continual basis - so thanks for airing it.

I am particularly pleased to see Robin Wood's comments on beginners, even if aimed at spoons, I think it applies equally to turning or any other form of green woodworking. I'm not likely to forget when Jim Steele caught me using sandpaper during a show! The resulting masterclass in sharpening tools and finishing techniques was worth it all!

It can be hard for beginners to get good finishing techniques if not turning at least part-time, and let alone full-time. And tool marks on a rolling pin might be a different issue from on a spoon? Not necessarily rational - it just seems that people are led to expect anything other than a mirror smooth finish as being sub-standard, and I suppose I am falling into the same trap. I think I've just talked myself into trying a deliberately tool-marked pin on my next pork pie pastry!

Sometimes I get it right, the wood, the tools and I conspire to create a good finish. The mental satisfaction is really worth the struggle. Other days no matter how hard I try (today for example) everything conspires against me. If it was just a hobby I could bin it, or give it away, but I need to earn enough from it at least to justify being a part time turner - and so I can rescue it with a little sand paper. As Robin W says, quickly through the grades, then burnish with shavings and oil. The resulting rounders bat/rolling pin/rattle is very satisfactory, at least to my customers, because most of the concern is in my mind. Being able to generate a little income allows me to spend more time turning and in turn my quality and productivity also improve - at least this is how I justify the compromise in my mind!

I guess the danger is that many of us starting out may not get the attention of a Robin or a Jim and settle into the use of sandpaper rather than aspire to produce an excellent tool finish?


thanks also for pointing out the dust dangers, something thats easy to forget and not as obvious as the trail of shavings I leave across the hall when I come back into the house from the shed!

I'm just starting out on spoons so you give me much to think about,

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Re: Abrasives

Postby Bertie » Mon May 25, 2009 2:41 pm

The grain on wood can be obscured by tool marks. Just like a chunk of marble, do you want to see the grain inside or the tool marks.
Ive never been particurlatily worried about someone saying "that was made by bertie," ive got too many things on the go.
Ive never really felt comfortable leaving tool marks as i feel my work is not good enough -
Yes you can shape with hand manipulated abrasive and i do from time to time, but the idea that sanding removes detail and crisp edges is a remark ive so often heard from those that dont know because theyve never used the material, and for some it costs a great deal.
Talking to one struggling furniture maker - very contemporary work - he expressed the same sentiments stating that abrasives remove crisp edges, further - that planers leave tiny indentations, and so he never used any sanding machines or planers - I told him the name of his"school", and he confirmed this - some ideas start from a very small beginning and are never challenged by personal experience(allmost like a religion) - for my aquaintance it would have been a very large handicap as it would have cost him so much more effort and time than other makers for the same result. (allmost like starting with a physical handicap)
Might as well be mdf,mmm ever tried to do relief carving on the material - a very good way of learning how a tool works - dust sure thats what we have dust masks for - is it dangerous - yes - in fact hardwood dust was categorized as carcinogenic period - the figures for throat and nose cancer are astronomical. However that was amongst those who produce dust daily and in large amounts, and often take no precautions at all. Sanding spoons by hand is not going to produce dangerous amounts, even the product from 400 or 600 gritt wont harm you in those quantities. (I wonder what gritt house dust would be categorized by.)
Off the subject a little, some woods have very interesting affects, that is the dust - Rhodedendron if it gets in the eye can produce temporary blindness and is very painful, Sumac acts as a local anasthetic --- walnut - the european specis that is, contains a substance similar to some common narcotics - further ---
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Bertie » Tue May 26, 2009 8:30 pm

if you have the last word, does it mean that people agree with you?
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Andy Coates » Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:03 am

An interesting thread this one. Abrasive use in the greenwood area fascinates me.

In the power world sanding, or properly, abrading, is almost a given; expected even. And my thoughts on this are well known...it isn't always appropriate and shouldn't be done as a matter of course.

A quote I can't remember properly, and cannot attribute because I've forgotten who published it, always plays on my mind...something like "we should sand the shape we cut, not make the shape by sanding", and I suppose that's where the nub is.

I often see work by novice power turners which has been badly cut and shaped with tools, and then 40 grit used to actually form the shape. I often wonder why bother with a lathe at all? Why not scrape the wood out and then rasp and sand? Abrasive should be used with skill just as other tools. But only where appropriate.

I should also say that I have no problem with abraded spoons; it makes practical sense to me. But I also have no problem with spoons left from the tool, if the tooling is fine enough for this not to be a problem when the spoon is in use.

I often use, and I apologise for this, RW's bowls when discussing this issue...they wouldn't have half the appeal for me if they were sanded to 400 grit as vitually ALL power lathe produced bowls are...a large part of their appeal is in the fine tooling marks that remain. But my opinions have caused a few to suggest I am odd!
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Bertie » Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Leaving tool marks is one thing, but leaving tool marks because you do not have the skill to do the work without leaving them is something else.
Someone decides to take up turning as a hobby - the next thing is he is selling his work alongside someone who has dedicated a great deal of time and effort in producing what is undisputably perfect work - the criteria now being that tool marks and irregularities do not matter.
If we do not have criteria with which to measure good or bad work then there is little point in spending a great deal of time and effort in producing it.
Do we get as much pleasure out of listening to someone playing the piano badly as we do someone playing it well - surely the criteria we use are the same.
Would you go to a concert to hear someone missing notes and being out of tune because it has a homely feeling?
Bertie somme rpt.
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Re: Abrasives

Postby robin wood » Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:34 pm

Well the quality of the finish for me is just one of very many ways to judge a good bowl or spoon and rarely the most important. A perfectly sanded finish will not make a bad spoon good nor will a coarse but cleanly cut finish make a good spoon bad. Form balance, weight distribution, fitness for purpose and for me a difficult to quantify thing that I like to call "life" those are all viable ways to judge a piece so I don't think because someone chooses not to use the perfect sanded finish as their major criteria we have to fear that they can no longer tell a good bowl made by someone with years of experience from one made by an amateur in the first days.

I suspect the cabinet maker referred to above went to Parnham House, John Makepiece's school for woodworkers. Students on their first day apparantly spent all day truing the soles of their hand planes. I am not sure about this assumption "it would have been a very large handicap as it would have cost him so much more effort and time than other makers for the same result. (almost like starting with a physical handicap)"

First I am not sure the results of such work are "the same" second I would say that probably half of the top 100 furniture makers (judged subjectively by me :D ) working in the UK today passed through Parnham. The fact that such a high proportion succeed in business suggests to me that they are maybe not unduly handicapped.
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Ian S » Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:37 pm

Hi Bertie

Bertie wrote:Leaving tool marks is one thing, but leaving tool marks because you do not have the skill to do the work without leaving them is something else.


I make spoons (badly), and I have only started this year. How am I to learn how to make spoons better if I don't continue making spoons, hopefully each one better than the last?

Someone decides to take up turning as a hobby - the next thing is he is selling his work alongside someone who has dedicated a great deal of time and effort in producing what is undisputably perfect work - the criteria now being that tool marks and irregularities do not matter.


....and we're back to the quality debate, which is in another thread. I don't sell my spoons because to me they're nowhere near good enough, but at the green woodworking weekend at Wooplaw, one of the attendees asked if he could have one of my spoons - he was happy with it, tool marks and irregularities included. If I were to sell my spoons right now and someone were to choose to buy them, so what? A free market economy means that I, or anyone else, can try to sell at a price I, or they, think is justifiable, and the buyer buys if they are prepared to pay the price.

If we do not have criteria with which to measure good or bad work then there is little point in spending a great deal of time and effort in producing it.


Quality debate again surely? I measure my spooncarving quality primarily against my standards. I also have the standards of other peoples' work to compare against. At the moment I acknowledge cheerfully that my work is of poor quality, but how do I improve if I don't practice?

Do we get as much pleasure out of listening to someone playing the piano badly as we do someone playing it well - surely the criteria we use are the same.


NO, but does the player who plays badly get as much pleasure out of playing the instrument (as well as they can) as the player who plays well?

Would you go to a concert to hear someone missing notes and being out of tune because it has a homely feeling?
Bertie somme rpt.


Have you ever attended a school concert with the children playing musical instruments? I would far rather listen to a professional Symphony Orchestra, but if I had children I would be incredibly proud to go to a concert to hear and see my son/daughter perform.
How sharp is sharp enough?
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Follansbee » Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:53 am

robin wood wrote:

Personally I never use abrasives indoors, the fine dust is very dangerous to the lungs particularly when you get down past 240 grit and the dust becomes invisible, maybe not too much comes off a spoon but what does come off settles on any flat surface and puffs up into the atmosphere ready to be inhaled every time you walk across the room.


Yes, & it's noisy too...even hand-sanding produces a droning noise that I find annoying...not a terribly big deal on something as small as a spoon, but for me, not worth the trouble. I only make a few spoons each year, thus am able to avoid it altogether.
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Andy Coates » Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:53 am

Bertie wrote:Leaving tool marks is one thing, but leaving tool marks because you do not have the skill to do the work without leaving them is something else.


I couldn't agree more. What I mean is that very regular, non-tearing, conciously left tooling marks are, for me at least, appealing on the right piece of work; and that it takes skill in order to achieve this.

Bertie wrote:Would you go to a concert to hear someone missing notes and being out of tune because it has a homely feeling?.


Absolutely not.

But the analogy only works where the tooling is left through a lack of ability to remove it, or, in the manner which I intended to convey (poorly) through a inability to leave regular, consistently deep (by which I actually mean very shallow) and spaced, tooling marks. And, of course, this does not preclude the necessity for pleasing form, shape, design, and wood choice Etc. And even when all those conditions apply, only then when the character of the piece in question suggest such a tooled finish is appropriate.

A question: Would you consider it appropriate for a bowl produced on a pole lathe to be abraded to 400 grit?

(Apologies to Robin F for the use of the word "piece"!)
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Re: Abrasives

Postby gavin » Wed Jun 03, 2009 12:15 pm

Follansbee wrote:Would you consider it appropriate for a bowl produced on a pole lathe to be abraded to 400 grit?

Personally:No, and I don't say I am right.
I could be overly precious here with my preference for seeing and leaving the tooling marks, and maybe some folk do prefer the smooth surface. This experiment would tell:

Turn some bowls from the same log and same size and profile. Sand half to 400 grit, and do so inside and outside. Leave the other half showing their tooling marks. If they are in your own home, see which ones are used more. Give them away in fours ( i.e. 2 pairs of each) and later ask the recipients which they use the most. If you sell them, offer them for sale at the one identical price, & see which ones sell more readily.
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Re: Abrasives

Postby Bertie » Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:00 pm

Ian S wrote:Hi Bertie

Bertie wrote:Leaving tool marks is one thing, but leaving tool marks because you do not have the skill to do the work without leaving them is something else.


I make spoons (badly), and I have only started this year. How am I to learn how to make spoons better if I don't continue making spoons, hopefully each one better than the last?

Thats hopefully why i am here, you look at my work and say - one day i hope to be as good at spoon making, (the same as i do.)

Someone decides to take up turning as a hobby - the next thing is he is selling his work alongside someone who has dedicated a great deal of time and effort in producing what is undisputably perfect work - the criteria now being that tool marks and irregularities do not matter.


....and we're back to the quality debate, which is in another thread. I don't sell my spoons because to me they're nowhere near good enough, but at the green woodworking weekend at Wooplaw, one of the attendees asked if he could have one of my spoons - he was happy with it, tool marks and irregularities included. If I were to sell my spoons right now and someone were to choose to buy them, so what? A free market economy means that I, or anyone else, can try to sell at a price I, or they, think is justifiable, and the buyer buys if they are prepared to pay the price.

Quite true, however i have attended shows longside rank amateurs and watched their low priced work sail out the door - the year before i sold well, that year and the year after i sold nothing - 2 years later the show ceased to exist -

If we do not have criteria with which to measure good or bad work then there is little point in spending a great deal of time and effort in producing it.


Quality debate again surely? I measure my spooncarving quality primarily against my standards. I also have the standards of other peoples' work to compare against. At the moment I acknowledge cheerfully that my work is of poor quality, but how do I improve if I don't practice?

Absoloutely, and the same goes for me, i just love the stimulation i get from better makers work and strive heartily to achieve this.

Do we get as much pleasure out of listening to someone playing the piano badly as we do someone playing it well - surely the criteria we use are the same.


NO, but does the player who plays badly get as much pleasure out of playing the instrument (as well as they can) as the player who plays well?

True but if the bad player was paid the same as the good player what then?

Would you go to a concert to hear someone missing notes and being out of tune because it has a homely feeling?
Bertie somme rpt.


Have you ever attended a school concert with the children playing musical instruments? I would far rather listen to a professional Symphony Orchestra, but if I had children I would be incredibly proud to go to a concert to hear and see my son/daughter perform.


I should think so.
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