Sander for tight spaces?

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Forum topic by MalcolmLaurel posted 12-18-2013 02:10 AM 5855 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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298 posts in 1649 days

12-18-2013 02:10 AM

I’m wondering if such a thing exists… I’d like to find a finishing sander that can get into tight spaces. I have a few orbital sanders and they’re great for large flat areas, but I’d like to have something that would reduce the effort of working inside small concave areas (the twisty bent sections of the mountain laurel branches I use to make lamps). A Dremel or flex shaft tool with a drum would get into those places, but they’re too aggressive, more for removing material than smoothing it out. Tonight I tried one of those newfangled oscillating tools (they’re great for sawing in tight places), but the triangular sanding pads it came with is still too large to get into the places I want to smooth out. It’s also too heavy for the fine work I need to do. Mainly I want to sand out the tool marks left from using a knife for bark removal. I’m doing it by hand now, but it’s tedious, and the arthritis in my hands doesn’t make it any easier.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

15 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#1 posted 12-18-2013 02:21 AM

Can you get fine rasps and files in there?

After rasping and filing, scrape with a razor blade,
knife edge or something similar. Sanding will
practically be unnecessary.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1961 days

#2 posted 12-18-2013 03:43 AM


I have a question about your comment above…

When you say scrape with a razor blade, do you mean a card scraper? If not, please let me know what you are talking about because it sounds incredibly useful. Like it could have saved me two hours today.

Thanks. I’ve just never heard of scraping with a razor blade before.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#3 posted 12-18-2013 03:51 AM

Single edge razor blades work great as super-fine scrapers. I do
not put a burr on them and don’t know if it works. They
get dull pretty quick but when they are sharp use them at
90 degrees to the work and they do a great job with fine
scraping. I dub off the corners on a grinder or stone

View dawsonbob's profile


2885 posts in 1781 days

#4 posted 12-18-2013 03:52 AM

Regarding the oscillating multi tools. I use a Rockwell Sonicrafter, so I’m not sure about other brands, but the Sonicrafter has a sanding pad that’s not much bigger than your thumbnail. I use it all the time for tight spaces/small things. It might even fit other brands of multi tools. Here is a link where you can see it alongside other attachments.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View wtnhighlander's profile


10 posts in 1652 days

#5 posted 12-18-2013 11:42 AM

If scraping isn’t feasible, try using a flap sanding wheel in the dremel. Not sure if these are commercially available, but you can make one by slipping a folded strip of sandpaper into a cotter pin of appropriate size to fit the dremel collet.

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


298 posts in 1649 days

#6 posted 12-18-2013 12:16 PM

I think a rasp or file would take off too much material. I’m not really trying to take off any material, just get it smooth preparatory to finishing. Right now, I start by scraping the bark off with a knife, then sand it only enough for an acceptable finish. I want to leave as much of the original surface texture as possible, even leaving bits of the inner bark in grooves of the grain is OK, but I want to get rid of the nicks left when scraping the inside of curves.

This branch is about 1 1/4” thick. The upper arrow shows (if the image shows up big enough) the nicks left by scraping; the lower arrow shows the kind of curved area I’m working with (there are probably nicks there as well but they’re not visible). Overall, this is the kind of finish I want, with some of the inner bark still left for character. I’d rather live with the nicks than lose the surface texture… or maybe I need a better way to take off the bark?

This a different branch, about 1” thick, that shows what it’s like before I start. Often (if I’m lucky) much of the bark just flakes off, as half of it did here, and all it needs is a light sanding, but there are almost always some areas that need scraping.

I’ll have to see if I can get a very fine flap wheel for the Dremel. I need something no more aggressive than an orbital finishing sander.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2632 days

#7 posted 12-18-2013 12:29 PM

I do not know if this would get into your tight places but works well on a drill and you can choose how corse you want

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2395 days

#8 posted 12-18-2013 02:16 PM

For those areas, what about a soft sponge with some sandpaper on it? Seems like it would conform to the contours without taking much off.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Sanding2day's profile


1013 posts in 1872 days

#9 posted 12-18-2013 02:52 PM

Dremel or flex shaft tool with a drum would get into those places
Haven’t ever done it but given the variable speed Dremel and drum with a piece of desired grit paper superglued to it might do the trick…

-- Dan

View Dan's profile


709 posts in 1918 days

#10 posted 12-18-2013 04:36 PM

try a bladed detail carving tool and use one of those face shield magnifier devices. Taper out the edges of the nicks.


-- Dan

View b2rtch's profile


4861 posts in 3074 days

#11 posted 12-18-2013 04:42 PM

I very highly recommend this one:

I have it for several years and it works very well for me, and for lees than $20.00 you do not risk much.

-- Bert

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


298 posts in 1649 days

#12 posted 12-18-2013 06:04 PM

Ed, that’s close to what I’m doing now except with my fingers instead of a sponge. The problem is that I can only do short strokes as I have to roll around the bend, moving with the grain. On straighter sections (or the outside of the curves) I use a felt backed pad.

Dan, a drum might be perfect if it was softer than any Dremel drum I have.

DanP, that’s worth a try.

Bert, that’s very close to what I already have… it’s a bit to heavy and cumbersome for the tight spaces I’m trying to work.

I’ll try the cotter pin thing… I’ve done something very similar when polishing the inside of holes in polycarbonate. I think that would give a softer touch than the commercially available flap wheels.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2395 days

#13 posted 12-18-2013 06:11 PM

What about a miniature spokeshave?

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2716 days

#14 posted 12-19-2013 02:07 AM

A sanding mop would give you the light touch and flexibility you need. They are easy to make in any size (diameter) you need.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Planeman40's profile


1179 posts in 2787 days

#15 posted 12-19-2013 05:37 AM

I am going to suggest one of the Iwasaki products

These are like rasps but the teeth are actually tiny razor sharp “planes that actually shave instead of tear. Unlike a rasp, they leave a surface that is so smooth that often it requires no sanding. They are not cheap though. But I’ll tell you, I am a stingy man and paying $25 to $35 for a “rasp” better damn well give me something that is worth it. These are worth the money! Find a size and shape you like.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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