How do you sand the bandsaw boxes?

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Forum topic by Alin Dobra posted 11-28-2007 02:44 AM 3360 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Alin Dobra

350 posts in 2922 days

11-28-2007 02:44 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

Lately, a lot of lumberjocks started to make/post bandsaw boxes. Tony Ward popped the question how much time is spent sanding a box. I want to extend the question to how do you sand your boxes. Here is my latest method (I keep on refining it).

1. The secret to reducing the amount of sanding is to bandsaw as precisely as possible. This involves the following things: a) cut smooth curves. Resist the temptation to correct abrubtly b) cut as much as possible in a single move. If you stop on some wood types the wood gets burned (cherry does this) c) cut with a good quality blade (I use a 3/32 Timberwoolf blade)

2. I start sanding using the random belt sander at 80 Grit. It is tempting to start at 60 or 50 but I found that the scratches are so deep that I never get them out with subsequent grits

3. Sand by machine up to 150 Grit

4. Sand by hand at 180 and 220.

In general, sanding is boring. For bandsaw boxes I found that sanding is downright frustrating. Since the surface is curved, it is very hard to uniformly sand all the time. A simple mistake with the 80 grit will be visible when you apply finish. When using a machine to sand, it is very hard to maintain perfect pressure and balance of the wood and non-uniformities inevitably arise. For the last batch of boxes I made (11 at a time) out of frustration I started using paint thinner in the following way: (a) I put some paint thinner on a rag (not too much) and wipe the box, (b) I sand with the current grit until I remove the paint thinner. The paint thinner will make it obvious where the sand paper scratched and where it did not. Since this provides instant feedback, it improves the sanding skill as well. The downsides of the “wetting” method is that it smells and the sandpaper gets loaded up. I have a rubber sandpaper cleaner that I use to remove the mess every 30 seconds or so.

Once I sand at 150 on the sander, I switch to hand sanding. I get a lot of control this way and it works fast (just have to touch all the surfaces 3-4 times). Sanding with a sanding pad is out of the question except for the face and back which are straight. For the curved surfaces, I found at Walmart sheets of coloured foam with adhesive on one side (craft foam). I glue tow pieces together to get 1/8 of foam and then I glue the sandpaper. I use half of a 1/4 of a sheet of sandpaper (1/8 of a sheet). The foam is sturdy enough not to follow imperfections but soft enough to follow the curves. For the tight spots (like the inside curve on the “Leaf” box), I sand entirely by hand using this method. I take care to sand only along the grain.

In terms of how much time it takes (on everybody’s mind) I probably spend between 1-1/2 and 2 hours sanding. for a medium size box. In comparison, I spend about 1 to 1-1/2 hours sanding the natural edge bowls I make (sanded on the drill press with the new-wave system).

How do you guys sand the boxes and how much time it takes you?

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

10 replies so far

View Dadoo's profile


1788 posts in 3024 days

#1 posted 11-28-2007 03:11 AM

I find that I just cannot muster the patience necessary to spend 2+ hours sanding, especially if it’s a small project. So for the flat surfaces I use a disc sander from 80 to 220 grits. As for the curves, well the machine will just damage those, so hand sanding becomes a necessary evil.

And then there’s the set of scrapers…they pretty much make sanding obsolete.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Nicky's profile


672 posts in 3125 days

#2 posted 11-28-2007 04:22 AM

I have to agree with Dadoo, get some scrapers, they come in all shapes and sizes, leaves a polished surface.

I enjoy making bandsaw boxes, but hours spent sanding…that’s a deal breaker in my shop.

Tip #1 from your post is very good.

-- Nicky

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

350 posts in 2922 days

#3 posted 11-28-2007 05:11 AM

Nicky, I have scrapers but they are not useful for bandsaw boxes. They are 4” wide with wild curves. You simply cannot follow them with a scraper. Even when sanding them by hand it is hard to follow the curve.

I fully agree with you for flat sufaces. I use first a scraper then follow with 180 and 220 sandpaper. I almost never sand using a random orbit sander (I have a good one but I hate the vibration and noise).


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View SPalm's profile


5173 posts in 2916 days

#4 posted 11-28-2007 06:02 AM

I have not made a bandsaw box in years, but I always wanted to try a thin belt sander. My first cheap Craftsman bandsaw even had an option that would allow you to mount a 1 inch belt instead of a blade. Seems like this would be the only application for it that I could think of. They are not random, but they are thin and this would be with the grain.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jiri Parkman's profile

Jiri Parkman

951 posts in 2846 days

#5 posted 01-03-2008 03:16 PM

Interesting advices, I’m going to try it. Thanks.

-- Jiri

View Karson's profile


34984 posts in 3434 days

#6 posted 01-03-2008 04:03 PM

Alin a great post. Can you edit it and change the title to sand your boxes, instead of send your boxes. You have the same mistake in the first paragraph.

I guess I’ll be able to answer this question later and i just started my first box last night.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

350 posts in 2922 days

#7 posted 01-03-2008 04:32 PM

Thanks Karson.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 3070 days

#8 posted 01-03-2008 04:33 PM

I thought this was going to be a tutorial on shipping. I’m glad it’s on sanding. Thanks for the info, Alin.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Willwill's profile


3 posts in 52 days

#9 posted 09-23-2015 03:22 PM

Best box I’ve seen awhile. Keep up the good work. You’re a true woodworker

View Tennessee's profile


1875 posts in 1548 days

#10 posted 09-23-2015 03:49 PM

I have one of those Harbor Freight band sanders, which work OK where the drawers go, but will not do any type of finishing.
As far as pure sanding on these boxes, I finally let it stop at 120. I use a ROS as much as possible, then hand, always with the grain. Then after spray finishing, I hit it with steel wool (0000), and a nice coating of paste wax to knock it down and give it a semi-gloss finish.
If there is an area on the outside that is curving and demands lots of sanding, I usually just take it to 120 grit following the grain.

I used to try for polished finishes, and to be honest, it seems like the museum where I sell them, they go just as fast if not faster with the knocked down finish, and I don’t have to sand as much. High gloss finishes show that little error much faster than a semi-gloss finish will.

And yes, I also hate prolonged sanding.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

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