Friday, October 31, 2014

Finish the Job Right with a Finish Sander

Porter-Cable 380 1/4-Sheet Finish Sander

The old palm sander in my shop went tits-up a while back: the fiber backing pad for the sandpaper simply off one day, leaving it essentially useless. I was on the way to my local BigBox store anyway, so I jotted “new finish sander” at the bottom of my list. Meanwhile, I figured it wouldn't hurt to try re-gluing the pad. I gotta admit, the flexible adhesive (E-6000) I used definitely surprised me! By the time was completely dry, though, I'd already bought a replacement, a Porter-Cable 380 1/4-Sheet Finish Sander.

When I eventually got around to trying out the new sander a couple of projects later, I was quite pleased: the 380 is definitely a tight little piece of work. It’s ergonomically superior to sander it replaced (an old Black & Decker) and much quieter. It also has rudimentary dust-collection – not a match for a vacuum system, but better than letting dust fly.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Workshop's Gentle Persuader: The Rubber Mallet

A Workshop's Gentle Persuader: The Rubber Mallet

Some kind of hammer is most likely the first tool most people accumulate, whether their destiny is to become a carpenter or a hedge fund manager on Wall Street. My first tool, which I still have more than fifty years later, was a wood-handled 16-oz finishing hammer. Now that one has been joined by all sorts of hammers, such as a classic Estwing rock hammer and an 8-pound sledge. All these metal hammers have hard heads, though, so whenever I run into an situation that requires a little finesse I break out my Stanley Rubber Mallet.

The Mallet's Design

I’m talking old-school design: the mallet isn’t a 21st-century technological wonder with Bluetooth and iOS 8.0; and it’s not constructed of miracle nanotech materials. It’s simply a cylindrical hunk of black rubber sitting on a simple wood handle made of hickory, like baseball bats once were, and given a coat of lacquer. The head has a little heft, weighing in at 18 ounces, and is made of a tough yet yielding synthetic rubber compound. The flat striking face is 2½ inches in diameter to reduce the chances of marring or denting a delicate-ish surface, but it still lets you smack something hard enough to nudge it in the right direction.