PDA

View Full Version : Thickness sander or alternatives



rideak1
05-01-2015, 07:50 AM
Hey all,

New builder question. What type(s) of thickness sanders do you recommend? Also, are there any videos demos out there of ways to bring a board down to proper thickness without using a thickness sander. I made it about halfway through the luthiers lounge threads the last couple of nights so forgive me if this question has been asked and answered.

Cheers!

ksquine
05-01-2015, 08:04 AM
How many do you plan to build? I'd recommend a good bench plane and an orbital sander. A Wagner Saf-t-Planer in a drill press is great for rough thinning but I'm not sure if those are still available. (maybe on ebay) Slower than a drum sander but fine for those of us who only build a few per year. And you can use those tools for many other building steps

Hluth
05-01-2015, 08:31 AM
A Wagner Saf-t-Planer in a drill press is great for rough thinning but I'm not sure if those are still available.

There's a new made-in-Taiwan version of the Safety planer available, but it's completely unusable because of the soft cutters that come with it. Too bad, it's a great tool for all kinds of things.

Pete Howlett
05-01-2015, 08:42 AM
I really should let you into the secret of the Safe T Sander.... maybe tomorrow.

sequoia
05-01-2015, 10:59 AM
As pointed out, this question really depends on how many ukes you plan to build. If you want to go into the business of making and selling ukuleles you might want one of these:

79069

Yeah, a pretty big investment... You can use the Wagner Saf-T-Planner too. An intriguing alternative, but I've never used one. Hopefully Pete is gonna go into this more.

I have used the plane and orbital sander method which I will describe in excruciating detail below. It is neither the ideal nor the most efficient method, but it does work and it requires only simple tools and some patience.

After you have glued your plates together so that there is very little or no visible seam, decide which side is going to be the "show" side and which is the down side. Mark the edges of the work with a "v" to show which side is which.

Now comes the most critical part of the process: Your plane blade (iron) needs to be as sharp as humanly possible (scary sharp). This takes skill and practice to achieve, but there is no way around it.

Now you will have to somehow keep your work from moving as you plane/sand it. A challenge that has a number of clamping solutions. The work needs to be on something perfectly flat. I use a piece of MDF underneath. If you don't work off a perfectly flat surface, your top (or back) will have inconsistencies of thickness (not good).

Now plane and smooth with an orbital sander (to 120) the show side of the work so that it is flat and smooth. This doesn't take long. You won't touch this side again until later. The majority of the wood will be removed from the non-show side.

Flip the piece over and go at the wood with your plane occasionally smoothing things out with the sander (80 grit or coarser). Caution: make sure sandpaper grit/pieces of wood don't get under your piece because severe damage to the show side can occur. This becomes very important as you approach your rough target thickness. Clean under your piece obsessively. Try to have a set number of strokes with the plane and a pattern that you repeat so that the wood removal is consistent over the entire piece. In other words, don't go at it willy-nilly. The downside of this method is that it is hard to get perfectly consistent thickness. But you can get pretty darn close with practice.

In a surprisingly short but boring period of time you will reach your first rough target thickness. At around .110 or .120 it is time to cut in your rosette. Do not cut the soundhole yet. If there is to be no rosette, just keep on truckin.

Continue thinning on the non-show side until you get near the thickness you want. There is no exact measurement here other than probably thinner than you think. Lots of discussion on this I won't go into. Now flip over and sand out the show side smooth to about 180. Cut your sound hole and rough in the piece about a 1/4 inch bigger than your sides.

I think that is it. That is how I do it. Hope I didn't forget anything important. Pretty easy and quick (with a sharp plane) and can even be enjoyable if you like getting up close and personal with your wood.

mvinsel
05-01-2015, 11:22 AM
Sorry no video.
I don't expect to grow to real production or afford anything beyond the few tools I have, so I sand down by hand on a plywood jig.
The sanding jig that is basically just two pieces of heavy plywood, where the one with the sandpaper slides back and forth above the piece to no lower than the closely measured thickness of maple "rails" on the sides (plus the thickness of the sandpaper). The bottom plywood has slightly lower crosswise maple to keep the piece from shifting fore and aft. It only sands on one side of the piece, so I have to start with one good flat side or do a two step process.
Once it's set, I just sand back and forth until it levels down to the sides and is no longer sanding.

With 100 grit it has taken about a half hour of easy meditative arm exercise to get from pretty rough hand cut to smooth and even.
This was all a recent experiment, and it seemed to work fine for a low budget hobby builder.

After building a few boats before getting into ukes, I love how all the sanding tasks go so quickly!

Photos added:
7918279183
-Vinnie in Juneau

UkAlele
05-01-2015, 11:35 AM
I use the Charnwood W588 thickness planner. It eats its way through wood like a hot knife through butter. Very pleased with the product...

Pete Howlett
05-01-2015, 12:15 PM
Wait for my video - it's a shop made tool that is used extensively in South America and I copied from a description given by John Gilbert in a GAL publication 20 - 25 years ago :)

PeterF
05-01-2015, 01:21 PM
It's really not too hard to build your own thickness sander. I made one that cost around £30 all up! Not quite as effective as a commercial one, but certainly usable. You can get plans for it here http://woodgears.ca/sander/thickness.html

rideak1
05-01-2015, 03:14 PM
Hey VinNie,

I grew up in Juneau. Left in 2003. I saw your boat making references in other posts and I wondered if you were from the Southeast Alaska.I'd love to see your stuff got pics?

Cheers!

Ben

rideak1
05-01-2015, 03:42 PM
Thanks for the input everybody. I don't know how many I'm going to be building yet. I look forward to seeing Pete's video! Vinny I'm also very interested in your jig I think I have a visual of it. But I'd love to see a picture(s) of you have one. Coming soon... Queries about neck joints and jigs.

rmaine
05-02-2015, 10:07 PM
You might want to watch this video

Buiding a classical guitar - Bert van der Meij
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjJkD5Ra3z4

he pretty much completes the entire build process with, for all practical purposes, typical hand tools. The power tools he did use, a bench top drill press and a horizontal boring rig for his slotted head stock, a router table for cutting his binding slots and the dreaded table saw to slot his Spanish heal aren't really needed either. On the other hand if I were starting from scratch the first power tools I would buy would be a bench top drill press and a laminate router followed by a band saw. The drill press helps to make an accurate router table and between those two you can make just about any jig or tool, or accomplish any task you need including jointing and thicknessing for making ukuleles

http://www.wealdentool.eu/rf_tips/rf_tips_15.html

You need to remember that ukuleles are pretty darn small and hand tools can quickly accomplish most woodworking tasks at that scale. Folks like Pete and Rick and the other pro builders need big tools and lots of them to make a living. For those of us who aren't under pressure to build a sizable number of quality instruments in a cost effective manor many times the tools and their acquisition can only get in the way. My little bench top band saw gets used more often than the 14 incher that is only 30 feet away through one door because I don't have to get up and go that 30 feet into the main shop then change the blade find the fence etc. and quite frankly the bench top model can handle most of what I need for most projects. I would like to get a bench top drill press for the same reason, the big one with the cross slide vice is a pain to adjust for small drilling tasks (no table lift) and running back and forth from my benches through the sliding glass door into the shop to drill a couple of little holes then running back again is a waste of time. And yes being an American I love my table saw but it certainly isn't needed for building small musical instruments.

In summery you don't need power tools to make ukuleles, a couple of hand saws and hand planes, a chisel or two or three, a cabinet scraper and a piece of hot pipe and you're set. You also don't need a spray booth and a bunch of HVLP spray gear, leave that to the pros. A rag, and some Tru Oil or French polish up some spirit based varnish, if you do it right you will hardly even need sandpaper.

rudy
05-03-2015, 12:51 AM
Hey all,

New builder question. What type(s) of thickness sanders do you recommend? Also, are there any videos demos out there of ways to bring a board down to proper thickness without using a thickness sander. I made it about halfway through the luthiers lounge threads the last couple of nights so forgive me if this question has been asked and answered.

Cheers!

I use the Wagner STP for many varied tasks in the line of general woodworking and instrument construction. There's a shot of it being used about 6 photos down on my Uke construction tips page:

http://www.bluestemstrings.com/pageUke1.html

rudy
05-03-2015, 12:57 AM
I really should let you into the secret of the Safe T Sander.... maybe tomorrow.

I'm always interested in anything having to do with the STP...

rideak1
05-03-2015, 05:56 PM
Awesome! Thanks Sequoia!

Titchtheclown
05-04-2015, 01:16 AM
Was having tear out issues with some highly figured red gum I rescued from the firewood pile for fretboards so I switched to the Shinto saw rasp. Slower but no tear out.

mvinsel
05-05-2015, 09:16 AM
Hey VinNie,

I grew up in Juneau. Left in 2003. I saw your boat making references in other posts and I wondered if you were from the Southeast Alaska.I'd love to see your stuff got pics?

Cheers!

Ben

I posted the pics of the sanding jig above. Here are a few boats:
-Skin on frame adaptation of Modified McGinnis bateau from John Gardiner Building Traditional Small Craft. Heavy dacron fabric but coated with 3m 5200 instead of polyurethane or varnish. Looks kind of rough but you can drag it right over barnacles. It rows like a feather & now I have a spritsail for it and

-Platt Monfort “Geodesic Aerolite” with laminated ribs for more stable hull shape

-My version of a pontoon float tube - originally a pedal boat for school project.

-I also built a plywood flatiron skiff from gardiner's "the Dory Book". I love his books.

Sorry to divert off topic. I guess the relevance is that I wish I still had the perfect Sitka Spruce 8 inch wide boards that I got to select from a neighbor's milling that went into some of these.

-Vinnie in Juneau

sequoia
05-05-2015, 07:31 PM
I wish I still had the perfect Sitka Spruce 8 inch wide boards that I got to select from a neighbor's milling that went into some of these.

-Vinnie in Juneau

You might want to try Alaskawoods. http://alaskawoods.com/

I got some nice Sitka spruce that was very nice and you can't beat the price...

mvinsel
05-06-2015, 12:50 PM
Thanks Sequoia - I just received my first package of yellow cedar from Brent there at Alaska Specialty Woods, whom I'd heard about for a while.
It is a pleasure to not have to pay any extra for shipping to Alaska and to have it arrive in two days.
I will be sanding down some of it this evening on my plywood jig.
-Vinnie in Juneau

rideak1
05-06-2015, 04:58 PM
Oops,

Sorry I missed the jig link. Thanks! I like it and will definitely build one when I can. The boat pics are beautiful. The canoe is exquisite. I'm homesick. Good tip on the alaskawood link Sequoia!

sequoia
05-06-2015, 09:03 PM
Just a last thought on this thread and maybe nobody will read it, but my experience with Alaskawoods has been problematic. Really good and not so good. The wood is really nice and sounds good on my ukes, but their "grading" is a bit off if you ask me. Now, I'm no professional wood grader and wouldn't know the difference between AA and AAA, but I do know a nice piece of wood when I see it. I once got a piece of sitka marked AAAM, which I took to mean AAA almost master grade which had a flaw even I could see. There shouldn't be visible flaws in near master grade wood. Below a picture of a AAA piece on an uke that I made which really is nice and then a piece that was AAA master that wasn't. Hey, this is a pretty rough operation up there in Alaska and I don't expect perfection, but just don't pass off master grade stuff when it is just, well, nice sitka spruce. Are you listening Alaskawoods?

Below a really nice sounding spruce top uke. Graded AAA. Note the beautiful medulary bear claw rays. Cost: $14 dollars US.

79277

79278

Sounds great and then now this is something I got marked AAA master grade. No way I'm gonna put this on as a top. Not only is it visually flawed, but structurally flawed as well. Pity. I'm thinking this might be a great candidate for a sunburst finish if you know what I mean.

79279

Master grade? I don't think so thank you very much. I love the wood but don't pass off what it isn't what it isn't. Some very, very nice sitka though.

mzuch
05-07-2015, 06:17 AM
With all due respect, Sequoia, bashing merchants in this forum is in bad taste. Did you take the issue up with the seller first? If not, you really should have. You state that you "took" AAAM to mean "almost master grade," but did it occur to you that it might mean AAA minus? If you're not happy with the wood, return it for a refund. I have not done business with this particular small company, but I'd be surprised if they weren't willing to make it right.

A wise man once said something like this: "If you have a bad experience with a merchant, tell the proprietor. If you have a good experience, tell the world." IMO, these are words to live by.

sequoia
05-07-2015, 10:20 AM
With all due respect, Sequoia, bashing merchants in this forum is in bad taste.

Guilty as charged and I apologize. I have actually written that bashing luthiers/suppliers by name is not a good idea and then I go and do it myself. Doh! But actually I like the wood and it looks and sounds great and have had excellent customer service. So why did I quibble about a flawed plate? Yes, I should have just returned it.

dave g
05-11-2015, 09:23 AM
Hey all,

New builder question. What type(s) of thickness sanders do you recommend?

Cheers!

I've got one of these: http://www.grizzly.com/products/10-Drum-Sander/G0716 and I'm perfectly happy with it. For some reason they say the minimum thickness it can do is 1/4", but all you have to do is adjust the stop screw and it can go thinner. I've got mine set at about .050" and it does just fine.