Sanding large cylinders (pillars)

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Forum topic by jbrukardt posted 05-24-2012 03:15 PM 3809 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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26 posts in 1653 days

05-24-2012 03:15 PM

Im looking to strip and refinish my porch pillars (in place, cant remove them), and they are pretty beat up and need some good sanding (material removal level sanding, maybe 1/16th off). However, i cant quite figure out the best way to sand an upright fixed cylinder. It would be easy on a lathe of course, but that would require a 10 foot lathe… and disassembling my whole porch.

Most sanders will leave flat spots on them and have a tough time sanding the round portions. Any ideas?

9 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


7115 posts in 1994 days

#1 posted 05-24-2012 03:21 PM

View jbrukardt's profile


26 posts in 1653 days

#2 posted 05-24-2012 03:25 PM

seems like the biggest pad available for that is 25mm radius, my pillars are way way bigger than that (probably 4 inch radius if i had to estimate, with tapering to a dozen different radii throughout the design)

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3066 days

#3 posted 05-24-2012 03:41 PM

I don’t think you need to try and get it lathe-turned round. just use a scraper to get most paint off, then sand using a ROS – lightly and gently around and around to establish a smooth surface. at these sizes and for that purpose, not having a perfectly round pillar will not show. just focus on getting the finish looking good on them.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4403 posts in 3378 days

#4 posted 05-24-2012 03:52 PM

1/16” is a bunch. Why not just use a non-woven pad to rough sand the paint, fill the bad spots with body filler (like Bondo), sand, prime, and repaint?
Without seeing the columns, mine is only a suggestion.


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26 posts in 1653 days

#5 posted 05-24-2012 03:57 PM

1/16th is a bunch, and that makes me think that maybe im thinking about this wrong…

What if instead of sanding off the voids, i fill them in instead like you said. I wish i had a picture of the shape its in, it seems to have always been.

its not nearly this extreme, but think significant 1/16th+ ridges due to grain, like it was never properly lathed (might not even have been lathed, the pillars are 90+ years old)

View Loren's profile


8158 posts in 3065 days

#6 posted 05-24-2012 04:04 PM

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341 posts in 1634 days

#7 posted 05-24-2012 06:32 PM

After removing the majority of the cracked and flaking paint (scraping), consider using automotive long board sandpaper like a strap, then using some somewhat compressable stryofoam 3/4 or so thick, use finer paper to sand again with the grain…

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1932 days

#8 posted 05-24-2012 06:44 PM

Are you sure they are solid? That’s the first question. If they are staves, they can be taken down and probably taken apart for easy sanding of each stave.
Crazy idea number one: If they are solid, after determining that, if you have access to a 36” bed lathe, you could cut them down to length and chuck them up for a quick smoothing. then post them back together with two inch dowels about ten inches long.
Crazy idea number two: Take a roll of sandpaper about 8-10 ft long, and with a helper, go back and forth on the post like running a two-man saw. Run up and down, following the curves and slowly move around until the bad surfaces are fairly smooth.
Crazy idea number three: Rent a sandblaster that shoots either walnut shells or something even less abrasive to smooth it all out. Stripper outfits clean off wood with blasters all the time.
Just some wild and crazy ideas to get the creative ideas flowing.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

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26 posts in 1653 days

#9 posted 05-24-2012 07:49 PM

haha, i actually kind of like crazy idea #2, now to find a helper willing to run around like an idiot :p

An idiot on 3 foot platforms to reach the top part of em..

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