Q I saw a recent column of yours about cutting sandpaper. Thanks for the tip about that cutting board. I built one immediately and it really works. I have a Porter-Cable 330 sander like you mentioned in the article and I really like it. It works reliably and quickly; now I know how to cut paper for it. But I do have one problem with it. It leaves swirl marks on lighter-colored wood, which are only visible when I apply a stain. Why am I
getting these marks and how do I a) get rid of them and b) avoid them at all? Thanks for your help.
A Unfortunately swirl marks are usually part of the package with an orbital sander but there are some precautions you can take and some remedial actions. Be sure you are using a premium grade sandpaper like 3M or Klingspor. These expensive papers are expensive for a reason. They are long lasting and the quality control in the manufacturing process is excellent. With the better papers the grit is consistent over the entire surface of the paper. Lesser quality papers may have varying grit sizes on one sheet which accounts for uneven cutting and produces noticeable swirl marking.
Keep the surface of your sandpaper clean. As you sand, some dust accumulates in the grain of the paper, even with the dust collection system used on many modern sanders. This accumulation can cause uneven cutting on the surface and cause additional swirl marks. Just lightly touch the pad of the running sander to a nylon scrub pad or piece of heavy denim (old jeans) to clean it off as you work.
While you invested in a good sander to quicken the pace of your work, you might want to slow it down a little. Moving a vibrating orbital sander over a surface too quickly does not allow the action to cut and recut the same area efficiently. This recutting action eliminates many of the swirl marks. Just slow down the lateral speed of the sander. It will save you time in the long run by cutting down on swirls.
Finally, a piece that has been sanded mechanically should never be stained until it has been sanded again by hand. I know this is time consuming but it does pay off. Using a felt block and 120 grit paper you will remove even unseen marks by sanding one last time in the direction of the grain. A block should always be used on flat surfaces. Your fingers will cause the paper to dig into the surface unevenly and this effect can be worse than swirl marks. The other advantage to final hand sanding is that you will see every square inch of the work one last time and will be able to fix any flaws that may have been previously concealed by the sanding dust generated by the electric sander.
This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine
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Overall the solution to swirl marks is patience and attention to detail.
QI have a seven-piece (mirror with beveled edge, bookcase headboard, dresser, chest, two nightstands, chair with original upholstery) blond mahogany bedroom set made by R-Way that is part of my mother’s estate. Even though it has a lot of sentimental value I
really don’t have anyplace to store it. I am wondering if it is valuable or if you can point me to any websites that are interested in mid century furniture. My mother always gave me the impression it was a high quality set so I’d hate to give it away. I appreciate any direction you can provide.
— Name Withheld
AR-Way was the successor company to Northern Furniture of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1949. While your bedroom set may in fact be blond mahogany (a 1950s oxymoron) it appears to be made of maple or birch with a bird’s eye maple center section on the dresser drawers which does not show on the chest. The modern styling is very similar to what was happening with the leader in modern furniture design of the 1940s and 1950s — Heywood-Wakefield. However, R-Way made medium quality furniture, much of it designed for the growing motel industry the ‘50s and early ‘60s.
There are very few sites entirely devoted to mid 20th century furniture although there is quite a bit on eBay. The problem will be with shipping if you try to sell it online. Unfortunately, while certain segments of the market are highly collectible, mid century mass produced modern furniture has not really developed a broad following yet so there is a very thin market for it, especially in a less than robust economy. I would expect your set to sell in the range of $500 for the entire set at auction. Sold individually the pieces might bring more than that. Or if you sell the set privately through a classified ad you might do better. Disposing of family pieces is always difficult. I wish you the best of luck.
Editor’s Note: We teamed up with our sister publication, Popular Woodworking, for a special offer. Visit ShopWoodworking.com to find thousands of references about sanding and other woodworking topics, and enter Discount Code WOOD20 during checkout to save 20% on your total purchase and receive free shipping within the continental U.S. Discount does not apply to 3rd party products, items that ship directly from manufacturers, value packs, collections, bundles, kits, magazine subscriptions, or toward tax. Offer expires Dec. 31, 2015, at 11:59 p.m.