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How do you sand/steel wool in tight corners


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Again, I turn to the experts!


With full size cabinetry there is no problem in getting within an 1/8" or so of a corner with sandpaper/steel wool to smooth down any nibbs in a lacquer or painted finish prior to the next coat. This is not a problem with full size cabinets, but what tricks/tools do you use to get as close as possible to corners or other crevices in a miniature (like where a side panel meets the top)?


I have heard of using cotton q-tips wrapped with steel wool, using a child's battery operated toothbrush with the bristles removed and replaced with sandpaper, forming a block of wood in the shape of the crevice and affixed with sandpaper/steelwool.


What do you use?  No secrets of course!

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I use different sizes of wood blocks for sanding, I learned this little trick from Carol Hardy the first year I attended Guild School. I usually have two different grades of sandpaper on the blocks. I use double-sided tape to fix the sandpaper to the wood blocks, first stick the tape on, pull the backing off, stick it to your sandpaper and cut the sandpaper with a craft knife, that means you have sandpaper right to the edge. It also works great for sanding your pieces before you start gluing, this keeps your wood edges nice and crisp.

In the attached photo you will see the legs stick out from the back panel but I can still sand right up to the leg. For curved areas I use different sizes of dowel sticks, for really small areas and grooves either number 6 escapement files or a folded piece of sandpaper.


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I think the question is more about how do sand or rub out a finish..... Getting the little dust partials etc out of the corners. It is very time consuming...... I use bits a wet/dry sandpaper, like 400 or 600 grit, fold them and work these tight spots. Then I take 4/000 steel wool and work the area some more often using a tooth pick to hold the steel wool. The thing is you have to careful not to go in the same motion all the time or it will show..... Bottom line is it takes time. It normally takes me 3 to 4 hours to rub out a piece of furniture, so if I make 6 of something, that is 3 full days of gently rubbing.

Hope this helps.

BTW.... How have you been doing it?

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Thank you guys for taking time out of your busy workday to respond!


I guess I'm a throwback from cabinet making in that I would do a "gluesize" which is basically very lightly wetting a surface to allow the wood fibers to raise and once dried I would finish sand all parts down to the finest grit prior to assembly making for the need to just do a touchup sanding after assembly.  

Any NGR (non grain raising) stain/dye whether mixed with mineral spirits, lacquer thinner or alcohol will raise the grain of wood (some more than others).  I wouldn't even think about using a waterbased stain on bare wood.  So to nip some of the nibbs in the bud prior to finishing, I would gluesize and then finish sand and then apply the finish.  

 Like a fair amount of folks, I have been using a airbrush for lacquer/paint on the miniatures.  I have found that I have to be very careful with air pressure and distance from the target area as too much pressure will cause turbulence and cause the lacquer to start to dry before it hits the piece leaving a slightly rough gritty finish especially in corners or inside a cabinet.  And of course too fluid leads to the dreaded runs in the finish.


Like Elga, I have been using small shaped blocks of wood and double stick tape to hold the sandpaper onto the block.  I will have to look up "number 6 escapement files".  I also have been using sanding sticks/files and Plastic Sanding Needles from Alpha Abrasives bought at Hobby Lobby with great success.  The files are a stiff foam with different grits on each side and are about 1/8" wide.


And like WR (if I may) I use worn 400 grit paper although sometimes I think worn fine grit papers burnish the finish instead of cutting the surface.  I do use 3M Ultra Flexible sanding sheets for irregular shapes like leg turnings as they conform to the shape without any gouging from the paper sheet because they have a soft almost vinyl backing instead of the stiff paper of a regular paper.

Interesting that you said to go in different directions and not necessarily with the grain.....How many times have I see a piece be returned because QA (Quality Assurance) with their eagle eye and very bright lights would see cross scratches across the grain that would telegraphed once a finish was applied!!  I think what I hear you say is that the time that you spend prepping and finishing a piece will reap it's rewards in the end.


Thank you for your gracious responses and advice....taken to heart!!!


I have a question on turning thin legs on a duplicator lathe but that's another topic...if I'm allowed so many questions,


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Walter, here is a link to escapement files, they are wonderful to use on both wood and metal and come in different cuts, I have some in different cuts, it just depends on what you want to do and how much material you want to remove.


And you are welcome to ask as many questions as you want, this is what the forum is all about, learning from another. I have turned thin legs with a duplicator before, so ask away.

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