Friday, December 9, 2011

For the Metalheads--Sanding Small Parts

Tired of bloody fingers?

It's always a pain to sand small parts quickly and efficiently, and you tend to shred some skin in the process. If you're going to solder two parts together it's imperative that you have both surfaces in good contact with one another, and that means you need to get rid of high spots and have flush fittings.

You need a handle!

You need some tape. Duct tape or electrical tape are good because they have very sticky adhesive. My personal favorite is Gorilla Tape, but sometimes it can be overkill, but it's great for very tricky sanding jobs. For the purposes of the photos, I've used masking tape so it will show up better against the surfaces.

You need to have about 2" of tape for the "handle" and enough additional tape for the "legs" that will cover most of the piece. Double the tape in half, and stick together the first inch for the handle and then stick the two "legs" onto the piece, as shown in the photo below. Press the "legs" firmly onto the piece.

Now you can grasp the "handle" while you're sanding and have a secure grip on your piece. Sanding is easy!

Be sure to remove the tape adhesive before soldering, and make sure the whole piece is squeaky clean before soldering. You know the saying, "If it ain't clean, it ain't gonna solder."

Another pointer for a really small piece

If your piece is too small for tape, you can use the eraser off a pencil as a handle. Just push the eraser onto the piece to embed it. I like the white erasers that come off mechanical pencils, and you can buy them at stationary stores in a tube of erasers for replacements. They have the right amount of stiffness to grab them and not disintegrate, and yet soft enough to push down onto and embed a piece into them.

Wait! What's that sanding surface?

Aha. So you noticed my actual sanding block. I use 3M's finishing film stuck onto one of my bench blocks (I have two), in the 100 micron size. Sorry, can't find the mu symbol for micron in this program. It's self-adhesive, sands quickly and because of the close-tolerance graded media, no huge scratches that have to be sanded down further.

The bench block is perfect. It's very flat, has a decent surface size and it's heavy enough not to move around. I still have the other side to use for flattening things and other stuff a bench block is used for. I do have a small piece of rotary cutting mat I keep under it so it won't scratch my bench (not that you could tell really), and that mat also dampens sound when I'm banging on the bench block.

I don't get paid any kind of endorsement for touting 3M's products (wish I did!), but they have some awesome things I just can't get along without. The finishing film is one, and the other are the bristle disks for both your flex shaft and your bench polisher. That's for another posting.

If you liked this tip, look for other tips in the "For the Metalheads" postings.

Copyright 2011 by Katherine Palochak

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