Sanding has changed a lot in the past few years with new better sanders, better dust collection and extracting, and now, even better sanding mediums in the form of sanding discs. Easily the most popular form of sanders is the Random Orbital Sanders (ROS) versions which are available in a variety of brands and sizes. They offer the best sanding results with the least amount of effort, but can often be "dusty", but that is about to change ... 

Watch it on Youtube:

When you combine Random Orbital Sanders (ROS) with 3M's NEW XtractTM 710W Net Sanding disc, not only can you get superior sanding results on your projects, you can also achieve a virtually dust free environment.  

Easily the most popular ROS for most of us is the 5-inch version that comes as an electrical plug-in or cordless model. Most random orbital sanders have been designed to try and control the dust they create during the sanding process. This is achieved through a kind of suction process that in part, draws the dust through holes in the base of the sander, and the surrounding base and into either a dust collector or in many cases, these sanders are fitted with a small plastic box or bag to catch dust. Some of these onboard dust collectors have moderate capabilities. 

orbital sander dust extraction

A far better solution is some sort of device that assists in drawing the dust through from the base of the sander into another containment area. Many of us have dust collectors in our workshops and this is one option. By connecting the sander to our dust collector we can make these random orbital sanders work better. Depending on the type of sander you have there may be a variety of options for connectors. Most of the brand-name manufacturers of random orbital sanders will have a variety of options that will allow you to connect your sander directly with a dust collection system.

Dust extraction hose for sanders

An even better option for getting rid of dust is a dust extractor. These are similar to dust collectors but offer a much higher "draw" rate and for an example of a simple "dust extractor", most shop vacuums would fall into the dust extractor category and are especially good at drawing smaller particles in a concentrated area, such as is the case with sanding. 
Shop vacuums are often excellent for connecting to sanders, and even better if you have one that can be fitted with a self-contained bag. These vacuums will draw all the dust into a disposable bag which when full can be easily removed and replaced which cuts down even more troublesome dusty duties. 
On my shop vacuum, the exhaust air is vented out the back of the vacuum, which is a woodwork shop can create a terrible amount of dust because of the vented high-speed air blowing directly onto other tools, the floor, and anything else that is around and stirring up dust that is otherwise inert. To prevent this, I fitted the exhaust port of my shop vacuum with a simple linen bag which now distributes the exhaust dust in an envelope of extracted air around the back of the unit and which does not disturb all the other dust in the shop.

woodworking shop vaccum bags

A huge part of controlling dust can be attributed to 3M's new XtractTTM 710W net sanding disc, which as you can see are not solid, the dust extraction capabilities can be further enhanced with a type of netting, which these discs have that is part of the hook-and-loop system that attaches these sanding discs to the base of the random orbital sander. The netting in these sanding discs helps to keep the dust under control and because of the fibrous design, much of the duct can pass through the netting and go on into the dust collector of the extractor.

3M Sanding Discs

Next, we come to the hook-and-loop design that most random orbital sanders have on their base as an attachment for sanding discs. I have come to discover that not all bases are good bases and even within a single manufacturer there can be variances. 
For example, my corded sander which is about 10 years old, about 3 years into its life, became hard to attach sanding discs to. My solution was to change the base of this unit and instantly it fixed the problem. That sander has been working fine now for the last 7 or so years.
More recently, like about 4 years ago, I purchased a "cordless" sander which worked well until a few months ago when I found that it was having difficulty holding on to sanding discs. Again I decided to change the base and once again if fixed the problem. 
I am no expert on sanding bases, but it seems to me that there are different qualities of bases, which would make sense because there are many different manufacturers of hook-and-loop materials. Some will say that "you should never store your sander sitting on its base" and that may be true with some, but my corded sander has been sitting on its base for 7 years since I change the base and it still works well, so "sitting on its base" is not always an issue. 

Replacing your oribal sander hook and loop pad

To go over the new 3M XtractTM 710W discs for a moment, they are available in sizes from 3" to 8" and come in the most popular grits from 80, 120, 150, 180, 220, 240, and 320. I have used them on most wood products where they work well and you can even use them on metal surfaces.  And as I said in the YouTube video, within the first week of receiving my supply of discs, I moved out my old sanding disc because I knew I would never use them again ... I was that impressed with these new 3M sanding discs, but check out the details of these your self HERE, or click the link below to open in a new page. 
3M XtractTM 710W Net Sanding Disc Detail and Purchase Page
Also as I mentioned in the video, this is a fairly new product so many of you will NOT be able to run down to your local hardware or big box store to get a supply of these sanding discs to try out, which is another reason for the links.
3M Xtract Sanding Discs

One of the things that I really liked about these 3M XtractTM sanding discs is the fact that they are available in intermediary sizes, not just the standard sizes we have all come rely on like 80, 120, and 220. For example, I often use what is called a "hard wax finish" on my wood projects and have been using this for well over 10 years now. The manufacture of this topical finish recommends a final finish, on most projects and woods of 150 grit in most instances. That means sanding with a finer grit is not only a waste of time, it creates potentially more dust (for no reason), takes more time, and delivers a lower quality final finish.  Other similar products also recommend 150 to 180 grits as their final sanding grit.

3M Xtract 710W Net Sanding Discs

One of the tricks I use most of the time now, especially with larger and wider boards is to lightly mark the board end to end and side to side with a graphite pencil. This helps me see where I have sanded and where I might need a bit more sanding and it prevents me from OVER SANDING, which is also counterproductive. 

Sanding tips for less sanding

Whenever you are sanding, it is ALWAY recommended to wear good health protection including eye, ear, and breathing protection and I also use gloves that not only protect my fingers from abrasions but to grip the boards so that I don't lose control or drop them. 

Wood sanding safety

I always use anti-skid mats under whatever it is I am sanding. This helps to keep the wood from moving around, but mostly I use it so that the underside of the wood does not get damaged from the movement of the sander. This is especially true with table or cabinet legs where all 4 sides need to be sanded. 

Non slip sanding pad

One of the sanding items I have used for years ... when needed, is to clear sanding material of clogs. This usually happens when you are sanding non-wood items where the material can clog the sanding medium and rather than throw it away and get a new one, with some materials you can use a sanding eraser which will clear the bulk of the clogged materials off so that the grit of the sanding medium can do its job. I have not sanded epoxy top coating, but this is known to clog some sanding materials so if that happens with the 3M Xtract, you could try the sanding eraser to clear the clogging and thus get more life from your sanding discs. 

cleaning your sanding pads

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Copyright Colin Knecht