No matter how sophisticated mechanized sanding gets it seems that some hand sanding chores are just unavoidable. The question is whether there is some abrasive product that can make that work a little easier and faster. 3M claims their new Pro Grade Precision sanding sheets do that, so I was anxious to give them a try.
The sample pack I got to try included 80, 150, and 220 grit 9x11-inch sheets that do look and feel different than most of the sandpaper I’ve used in the past. The purple grit side is made up of what 3M calls “premium mineral technology” that comes from 3M’s Cubitron II industrial abrasives. It is designed to resist clogging and sand faster using grit that is engineered to break into sharp, shaped edges as you use it so that it cuts cleaner and lasts longer.
The backing is different, too. It looks like paper, but it feels heavier and more like cloth. It has a coating that allows the backing to stick to itself when you fold the sheet. That makes for surer hand sanding, less slipping, and less tearing. It also seems to hold up better in sanding blocks and when mounted on powered sheet sanders. 3M says the backing also allows for wet or dry sanding.
How does it work?
I tried the sheets on a variety of both hardwood and softwood samples. I also mounted it on sanding blocks and sheet sanders, and I tried it in both wet and dry sanding. The sandpaper performed excellently in all of those uses. I don’t have any scientific test to show it worked faster than conventional abrasive papers in identical applications, but it sure seemed that way.
The no-slip backing definitely makes these sheets easier to use and helps them hold up longer. I didn’t see any deterioration of the sheets when used wet. I also didn’t see the tendency to tear at the edges that is so common in typical garnet papers. These sheets performed more like cloth-backed abrasives that are more commonly used in metalworking and on industrial sanding machines.
One other concern I had that was apparently unfounded was that the bright purple color of the abrasive might transfer to light-colored woods, but I saw no evidence of that.
According to 3M, the Pro Grade Precision sheets work well on bare wood, painted surfaces, metal, drywall, and plastic. Currently, they are exclusively available through Home Depot locations and are available in grits from 60 to 400.
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