Ridgid Oscillating Belt & Spindle Sander

The word that best describes the Ridgid oscillating belt sander is “workhorse.” It is one of those rare tools which ends up at the heart of your workshop — fast, precise, durable. The belt rotates like a standard sander, but also simultaneously and automatically oscillates up and down 60 times per minute, giving you better space coverage and a wider stroke (about 1 in.); this is especially helpful with larger pieces, because you don’t need to reposition or flip the piece to sand the whole thing.

I use mine almost daily to fabricate parts in wood, metal, and plastic. The metal platen provides plenty of support for serious, precision sanding. I routinely sand to the center of a 1/64 slot on an Incra ruler. Not bad. It’s also very quick to swap out the belt and use it as an oscillating spindle sander, meaning you can handle both flat and curved sanding.

It’s designed to sit on a bench top, but they also molded slots into the bottom so that it rests stably on a sawhorse. It has an incredibly well made tilt table, with fence, that folds down onto a molded storage bay which holds all the accessories it comes with. And a vacuum port is molded into the back of the unit for clean up.

Two things to know: I find I often have to adjust the belt tension to prevent the belt from rising or falling, but this is easy to do on account of a large, well-placed knob. Also, the belts and spindles it comes with are extremely aggressive and are meant for hogging away wood. If you want to do more delicate work, you need to get higher mesh belts from a specialty store like Rio Grande, Klingspor, or maybe Grainger or McMaster-Carr.

-- Sam Mapadatha  

Ridgid Oscillating Edge/Belt Spindle Sander
Manufactured by Ridge Tool Company

Available from Amazon

Or $200 from Home Depot

Micro-Mesh Abrasives

Micro-Surface makes the finest sandpaper around: Micro-Mesh abrasives. I originally used their sanding pads to get a perfect finish on a plastic model car by sanding each layer of spraypaint I applied to the model. Their finest sandpaper is rated at an incredible 12000 grit. (Although that number isn’t using the same ANSI scale as commonly available sandpaper).

I was amazed that I was able to sand a scratched plastic window to perfect clarity, although I shouldn’t have been surprised: micro-mesh is used to repair the acrylic windows used on many airplanes. I’ve since used the same hobby kit for repairing scratches in the clear coat of my REAL car. I’ve even carefully polished out deep scratches in the bottom of several CDs. You can also polish out scratches on reading glasses.

Micro-Surface makes a wide variety of abrasives, in every size and type I can imagine needing.

-- Mike Gebis  

Micro-Mesh Abrasives Kits
Avialable from Micro-Surface Finishing Products

20X Sandpaper 400 grit       20X Micro-Mesh 1500 Micro-Mesh is what we like to call a non-abrasive abrasive. It is considered a cushioned abrasive in fact. Conventional sandpaper is designed to be aggressive so that it will dig deeply. In its manufacture the crystals are electrically charged so that they will stand up. They are locked into a hard resin and when you apply the paper to a surface it will literally tear in and remove the substrate of the material you are sanding. The crystals cut in a negative raking motion, leaving inconsistent scratch patterns. Micro-Mesh does the opposite. The backing is long lasting cloth to which an ultra-flexible cushioning layer is applied. This cushioning layer will determine how far forward you can push crystals before they will penetrate the cushioning layer. On top of this layer, we have a very resilient glue, not a hard resin, but a completely flexible glue that will hold the crystals while allowing it to move and rotate. The crystals can turn in any direction without coming loose. When you start to apply pressure to sand with Micro-Mesh, the crystals will go into the cushioning layer while beginning to cut a bit. If you push harder, they will go further into the cushioning layer, which serves as a safety valve. It determines how much pressure you can exert in a downward direction. Instead of a deep scratch that sandpaper makes, Micro-Mesh produces a refined scratch that is close to a RMS of 1.0. The cushioning layer also allows the crystals to cut with a planing motion that leaves an extremely consistent scratch pattern and allows you to achieve extraordinary levels of gloss.

Pedro Fina Ceramic File

This is the last nail file you need to buy. Do yourself a favor by replacing those sandpaper disposables with Tweezerman’s 3in long Pedro Fina ceramic file. Comes in its own plastic carry case with pocket clip, about the size of a large pen. It’s sturdy enough not to get broken or lost in any bag, and one end is tapered for cleaning under dirty nails. The best part is the triangular design, consisting of two flat surfaces with little lips on the edges and a third concave surface. Unlike the traditional flat file, these contours make it easier to file around shorter nails.

I have one in my office, my car, my handbag, my home computer desk, bathroom, bedroom…

-- Sarah Cooke  

Pedro Fina Ceramic File

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Tweezernan