Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 10/15/01

Three Tools for a Desert Island
by Sheldon Grand

If I were to be stranded on a deserted island, there are three tools I'd most want to have with me in order of importance: First is a flap wheel sander. This is an arbor-mountable (or mounted in the smaller sizes) hub to which are attached flaps of sandpaper. When the wheel turns, the sandpaper removes a light amount of material from the product which is brought into contact. The longer the contact is maintained, and/or the greater the pressure used, the more material is removed, just as in any type of grinder.

These "wheels" come in a variety of diameters, widths, grits, and arbor holes. I believe some are designed to run at very high speeds - up to 30,000 rpm - but I prefer to mount them on fractional horsepower motors that run about 1750 rpm. My favorite is a motor scrounged from an old washing machine with shafts at both ends. I simply obtained a pair of arbors with holes to slip over the motor shafts, held to the shafts with set screws and with ends threaded with 1/2" - 20 threads, and then obtained wheels of 6" diameter, 1" wide, with 1/2" arbor holes. Note that the left hand arbor has a left-handed thread (counter-clockwise) so that the wheel does not "self-loosen."

Medium-grit wheels are mounted on each. I use one wheel only on flat surfaces (in order to prevent uneven removal of stock from the flat surfaces). On the other wheel anything goes and most often results in a v-groove running down the middle of the wheel - the result of breaking, softening or rounding sharp (hard) edges of workpieces. Fine-grit wheels do a nice job of removing paint and other mars on surfaces.

Often I will use a wheel of about 3" diameter, 1" wide, mounted on a 1/4" arbor and chucked in an electric drill in order to bring the tool to the workpiece rather than vice-versa. I once used such a set up on a rounded piece of walnut mounted on a spur-center in a wood lathe. With both tools running, the end-grain disappeared, I guess because fine dust generated by the combination filled the open pores of the end-grain. I really can't tell you why I never re-visited this setup, perhaps because of fear of failure.

One of the advantages of this tool is that you really need to make an effort to hurt yourself with it, unlike a powered sanding wheel or belt or carborundum wheel - where a poor hand-hold could result in great discomfort if not disaster. Another is that it is much less likely to burn the work-piece; and another is that it is equally at home on wood or metal.

The place I first found the tool (even before the internet) was at Merit Abrasives, now reachable at 1800-421-1936 or on the web. At Merit it's known as a Grind-o-flex wheel. You might also visit Standard Abrasives, and if you're a Google Fanatic like me, a search for "flap wheel sander" will turn up other sources. The cynics and skeptics out there should note that motors on my deserted island will be run by solar power and/or windmill-generated electricity.

The second of my deserted island tools is double-sided carpet tape - on a CLOTH backing, not plastic. It is normally purchased in rolls an inch-and-a-half wide and longer than you'd be likely to use for any wood-working or shop project. It is useful for joining together similar or dis-similar materials such as wood, leather, cork, felt, cloth, plastic, aluminum, and steel, or any combination thereof. The bonding is instant and needs no time to cure or set; the joined surfaces will not normally separate unless you intend for them to do so, but once the tape is removed the surfaces can be restored by cleaning up with lighter fluid or other solvent.

If you use either a bandsaw or a scrollsaw or a hand held jigsaw for making cuts by following lines on paper templates or drawings, try using several pieces of double-sided tape to fasten your drawing or template directly to the surface of the wood to be cut. Use enough tape to cover all areas where a saw cut will be made. When finished with all cutting, simply peel the tape off the wood. If necessary, use solvent to clean up the surface.

I've heard of using the product for mounting wooden workpieces to lathe faceplates but have not had occasion to do so. I certainly would use enough tape to cover the complete area of the smaller surface, refuse to stand directly in front of the spinning workpiece, wear a full length face-and-neck shield, and take very light cuts with the lathe running at slow speed.

Some of my applications are reasonably permanent but allowing for easy replacement, e.g., a leather insert in a wooden desktop. Others are intended to be temporary, e.g., bonding together two pieces of wood to ensure exact alignment of a hole to be drilled through both.

The third of my essential tools is fibre-reinforced tape available in widths from one-half inch to two inches, or better. I was recently faced with inserting a one-quarter inch threaded rod into a five-sixteenth inch threaded hole where the only consideration was that the rod not easily drop out of the hole. A few turns of the reinforced tape around each thread did the job. The actual application was a metal "slider" foot in each of four places on the bottom of a cabinet.

My latest project to utilize it is an easel made of one-quarter inch plywood to support a book or magazine for reading at a convenient angle (about thirty degrees for me). I used the wide tape instead of a metal "piano hinge" to join the vertical and angled pieces of the easel, thus allowing it to be folded flat for convenient storage. The tape was installed on both sides of the joint.

Besides this use as a hinge, I often use tape of this type instead of any other type of tape because it is so much stronger. I've not done any technical tests, but I am comfortable that it will hold better than duct tape, masking tape, and just about any other tape you can name.

Sheldon Grand

Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank You! And you can usually find their titles at a discount from Barnes And Noble

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