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detail sanding

Guest beringia

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Guest beringia

I would like to pick some of your brains on how you go about sanding finely carved areas without losing detail.

I will shape an area using various burrs in my Foredom and then start sanding by hand with 220 grit and working down to 400 grit. I usually fold a small piece of sandpaper and then try to get into the area with my fingers. But maybe there are burrs or tools out there that can that can do the job more efficiently.

Some of the carvings I have seen on this forum are so detailed and finely finished that I can't begin to imagine how the carver has managed to do it.

I should probably point out that I work mostly with mammoth ivory.

Thanks in advance



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Guest beringia

Hi Dick,

Thanks for that suggestion. I have a set of diamond files but have never really had much luck using them on intricate carvings. I will try them again, maybe it is a matter of perseverance.


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I think that sanding was discussed somewhere between The Carving Path and the INS forum, but I am not finding it right now. Too bad, so here goes.


Carving mammoth ivory and also the hardest woods, is accomplished by scraping (akin to planing) and some cutting but not deeply. (I do not do much with mammoth, but am involved with a piece of it at the moment.) The worked surface is fairly smooth, but has some texture from the tool marks. I might start at 400 grit for mammoth to avoid scratching deep lines into the tusk, and work my way up to 2000 grit. I might start with 320 with the woods, or 400.


I have not tried the even higher grits, but do have some on hand. What I have is wet/dry sand paper: 220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1500, 2000. When I get above 1000 for antler, tusk or amber, I might polish/shine the surface to see where the scratches are remaining and back up to 400-600 to remove those, then work my way back to the highest grits. The final polish is done with a water soluble plexiglas scratch and haze polish. Other carvers have their own magic potions ;) for the polishing of tusk or antler.


Now, the control and aiming of the sanding papers. There are many ways to do this. (I am sure that we have discussed this before, anyone else remember where?)

-Bamboo skewers of various diameters up to round chopstick diameters to wrap small rectangles of the sanding papers around for certain uses.

-Bamboo slivers of various widths from pieces of wide diameter bamboo, the soft inner material shaved away to leave the hard outer surface. This provides a flat tool for either wide or narrow applications of the paper.

-A certain carving friend takes time to glue tiny pieces of sand paper to toothpicks

-I am experimenting with some other wood backing materials, and double adhesive tapes

-A carving friend sent some sticks from the craft department of a large discount store, which got me thinking about other offerings there. I went there myself, and came home with a pile of things to try (haven't yet, been too busy doing this sort of thing...)

-There are sanding things in the fingernail department of the girly areas in stores, with various grits and flexible foam sandwiched between the layers. This also is available for model makers, the small train builders and model ship builders are using these things, and Komada Ryushi has been experimenting with finding adhesive backed papers and sticking them on to strips of wood. All of the above can be cut with a knife or scissors to what ever shape you might want to use. I found some old fashioned, flat, thin, wood ice cream spoons in the same discount store which split fairly easily into thin narrow backing for the papers.

-For sanding areas where detail is minimal: another carving friend, from Eastern Europe, sent images of little circles of sanding paper perhaps backed by something a little more stiff, attached to a shank to be used in a micro-grinder. A miniature disk sander!


Sanding is the most tedious part of the whole process of carving (I'd rather be carving...), in my opinion. Especially with amber, antler or mammoth tusk where a glossy surface will show any scratch which remains, and if it is then stained, the scratches will show for sure. Absolute perfection takes time and patience but yields terrific impact when the piece is complete.


Hope you figure out something that works for you!



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I do a lot of sanding, and get a fair amount of razzing from some of my carving friends who think sandpaper is for sissies. Nevertheless, I've tried a lot of different methods, and seem to have thrown out all but just a few.


I have quite a few sets of miniature needle files, both with traditional scribed surfaces and diamond-coated surfaces. These sometimes come in handy, but they are usually too coarse and will end up leaving scratches that just have to be taken out another way.


I've tried gluing sandpaper to wooden sticks and dowels of various sizes, but have been generally unhappy with the results. A hard-backing behind the sandpaper tends to make flat spots on what should otherwise be curved areas. Dowels tend to make small channels which is not usually the desired result. Of course this depends on the material you are sanding. Very hard woods (like Boxwood) are less problematic than very soft woods (like Redwood).


Janel mentioned using double-sided tape, which is usually made from a thin foam material. I've had good success with this technique -- you can stick sandpaper to dowels (bamboo skewers are great for this) or carved craft (popsicle) sticks to make a variety of shapes, diameters, and sizes. The foam provides just enough of a give to distribute the pressure a little more evenly.


I have also had good success using sanding accessories made from hard rubber. I bought a set at Woodcraft, and they still carry them in their online catalog here.

(If the link doesn't work, try searching for "Countour Sanding Pads" on the Woodcraft web site.) I cut the pads into smaller sizes -- about 1/2" wide at the smallest. These pads have a variety of shapes on their smaller edges, from round to angular. I find these are great for sanding inside corners or undercut areas, but they can't help reaching the tricky spots.


For the smallest and most challenging spots, I usually resort to just holding sandpaper in my fingers. I cut it into small squares (abt 1.5"), then fold it like I'm making a paper airplane. This makes a good sharp angle that can reach into very tight spots. I used paper-backed sandpaper for this, because the cloth-backed sandpaper is too thick and doesn't fold with sharp creases. You can hold the paper between your thumb and fingers and give it a little curve, which helps make it a little more rigid. There is a down-side to this, and that is that the sharp point starts to soften after just a few minutes of sanding, so you have to be prepared to go through a lot of little squares.

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Hi all,


I find suitable to use sandpaper, which convolute in tube. Paper must

be is tightly convolute. Then this it is a enough springy tool.


This can be greater or smaller diameter, as you want for your purpose.

This can be cone-shaped little, if you will begin to fold the paper

from corner.


When sand is consumed on the end of tube, you may simply cut this to

scissors and continuing to work.







My Webpage


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