Infeed on SCM/DMC SD series sander. SCM is distributed by J & G Machinery, an exhibitor at Wood Pro Expo Charlotte.

Conventional wisdom on setting sanding machinery and hand sanding tools is not always right, and after a couple decades watching mis-steps leading to sometimes disastrous results, tech expert Adam West is speaking up.

"My specialty is helping people get their various sanding and finishing operations to work together for the best efficiency and quality," says West, who is the resident expert at Dixon Abrasives. His focus is on getting machinery and power tools to work well together in processing wood surfaces, concentrating on the sequence of the abrasives, and pressures and settings. 

"My unique perspective often introduces the customer to concepts they have never considered. I enjoy working through the entire sanding process and creating systematic, unified steps that result in repeatable quality. This results in much better control of the process."

One area West notices is the tendency among users of power sanders to tip the device to get into crevices and edges. This damage the overlooked component of hand sanding: the backup pad, situated under the sandpaper. West explains:

"The backup pad is the part of the sander that the sandpaper attaches to via hook and loop or pressure sensitive adhesive. For flat surfaces, this pad must remain in good condition and it must remain flat.
"When the operator tips up the sander to dig out defects on a surface, not only does this dig a divot in the workpiece, but it also damages the outside diameter of the backup pad. Over time, the pad starts to retain the curve induced when the sander is tipped up and it no longer maintains a full 5-inch circle of contact on flat surfaces." As he explains in The Most Overlooked Orbital Sanding Issue"The reduced surface area makes flat surface sanding take much longer and it induces much more swirls into the surface." 

One of West's breakthrough articles at concerned adjustments (or misadjustments) in wide belt sanders. In "Stop! Don't Buy That Widebelt Sander Until You Read This," West tells of a small woodshop that he has visited, looking to add a new belt sander.

West advised the owner with great specificity based on the work he was doing:  the sander should have dead shafts, air exclusion (allowing him to pop the heads up/down with the flip of a switch), and it should have a steel drum, 60 shore drum, combi-head with a 36 shore drum, and a bladder platen. 

"I told him this machine would run 80-120-180 extremely well and his sanding belt life would be unbelievable," West says. But after determining he could only get those traits in a new machine, the owner hunted for weeks for a less expensive used machine, and only found ones with completely different specs. After he came back to West weekly to vet his selections, and was always advised "No," he relented and bought a machine with the specs exactly as West suggested. 

"His first set of belts ran for approximately 40 working days. That is right -  he got around 40,000 pieces through the machine. Yes. You read that right. No. I’m not kidding," West says. (Read the entire "Stop! Don't Buy That Widebelt Sander" here.) 

You can meet West and hear a sampling of his collected wisdom on sanding at the Wood Pro Expo Cabinet Conference, March 6 at Wood Pro Expo. The show is co-located with Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo at the Charlotte Convention Center March 6-8, 2019.  The Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo last appeared in Charlotte in 2011. The Wood Pro Expo brand comprises a series of strategic regional events, located in key areas throughout the U.S. where professional woodworkers congregate. 

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.