Advantages of abrasive advancement.
by Josh Bohm
Two articles in one issue…we’re getting into uncharted territory! I will make sure to keep it exciting so you stay absolutely glued to these pages! I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed by all the projects I need to get done this week, but coincidentally a great deal of what I need to do is in regards to the topic of this piece: sanding. From adjusting bridge saddle and nut heights on musical instruments to softening hard edges (which reduces guitar strings breaking across them), I’m sanding all the time at Acme Guitars. I use everything from the coarser grits on those saddle shaves to the super fine grits to buff my freshly rounded-over edges (which I knocked down with coarse, of course) to get them to a near-perfect smooth finish that looks like nothing was ever touched.
I’ve had pretty much all the issues you can have with abrasives—especially clogging—so being able to talk to these rough and tumble experts helps for my own uses as much as in getting information for this article.
I got a chance to chat with John Petersen, Advanced Product Development Specialist at 3M; Mike Gulley, Product Specialist for Mirka; and Lorilee Torrey of Atlass Marketing, who reps for Festool about all things nitty and gritty.
Not Your Father’s Sandpaper
And if it is your father’s sandpaper, give it back to him! If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time at Mug Pub Inc., it’s that there’s seemingly no limit to innovation in this industry and a lot of it happens at a “blink and you’ll miss it” pace. It’s almost a full time job to stay on top of it, but conveniently enough, the companies I consulted are more than willing to divulge the unique aspects of their products and what benefits all of that constant and consistent R&D has achieved.
First up is 3M with its latest and greatest. John Petersen told me about 3M’s Advanced Abrasive Sanding Sheets with NO-SLIP GRIP™ backing and premium mineral technology. “They provide longer sheet life compared to 3M conventional abrasives of comparable grit, plus less effort and less hand fatigue,” he explained. “The No-Slip Grip coating on the back eliminates slippage and allows you to easily use your entire hand when sanding.”
This solves a common issue of not getting a good grip on the backing when working on a surface. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve slipped on paper or have had hand strain after a particularly long sanding session, I can say with all the honesty that I’d make enough money that probably I wouldn’t have to write anymore! But now as it seems that 3M has put an end to that, I’ll get back to the keyboard.
“3M Ultra-Flexible Sanding Sheets are perfect for flat surfaces, spindles, trim and other hard-to-reach areas,” Petersen continues. “These abrasives combine synthetic minerals, strong resins, and an innovative film backing so you can fold, roll, or shape them into any form you need to get the job done. Plus they are clog resistant and can be used wet or dry. The tough backing resists puncture, tears, and creases, helping the sheet keep its original shape. It’s also great for flat sanding; simply wrap around your hand or on a sponge for more traction.”
Possibly the most exciting feature—and the one nearest and dearest to my uses where I’m creating a very fine dust—is in 3M’s new Ultra-Flexible sponge. “It has grooves that channel dust away from the abrasive surface, reducing dust and increasing sponge life,” said Petersen. He suggests using the patterned side for detail sanding and superior conformability, while the standard side works on flat surface sanding. I’ve actually had a chance to use this one at the shop on one of those saddle jobs I talked about earlier, with excellent results.
Oh, and Jerry just reminded me that you can see 3M abrasives in action in our Start to Finish Project article in this month’s issue of The Paint Contractor.
Free to Be…
Mirka’s Mike Gulley laid out some of his company’s innovations for me, especially regarding developments in dust-free sanding, something your lungs will thank you for! He told me that the goal with these products is to eliminate airborne dust when sanding wood, paint, or drywall. “Mirka has been at the front of this concept with Net abrasives,” he attests. “By selectively coating a woven nylon mesh, we have been able to produce sanding discs and strips that have dust extraction points within 0.5mm from the abrasive grains. Mirka’s Abranet abrasives provide unequalled efficiency for dust-free sanding when used with a portable or central vacuum system.”
Makers of CEROS and then the new and improved DEROS model, this time Gulley wanted to discuss Mirka’s new DEOS (Direct Electric Orbital Sander), a lightweight, precision sanding machine that, according to the company, provides superior finishing characteristics along with the ability to be used with Mirka’s Net abrasives.
He continues from here: “It is lighter, and a lower profile than competitive tools, so it can be used in smaller areas, and it has a brushless DC motor for precise control of the sanding speed. Its 3mm orbit is 50% larger than its closest competitor for faster performance.”
Finally, our friend Lorilee Torrey of Festool had some to say about the R&D successes at that company. She was telling me about one of Festool’s biggest recent innovations, its new cordless hybrid sanders that work with the company’s GRANAT abrasives. “With a 30-minute runtime and 30-minute charge time, our cordless sanders give paint professionals the freedom they need to work anywhere and everywhere quickly and without hassling with cords and hoses, while maintaining the dust extraction that they need to keep a clean and efficient job site” she said.
The goal of the Festool system, she noted, is to help painters work faster and cleaner, plus when it’s time to go home they won’t have a floor full of dust to sweep up. “When painters utilize our system, they have an opportunity to be more competitive on bids, reduce call backs, and add value to each and every job,” she said. With all of this development in the sector it’s really up to you to pick which of these advanced products to stock. But the secondary is how many of them and which styles to carry. Fear not! That was my next question.
The Truth About Grits
There’s so many different types of abrasives and just as many grits, so how do you pick the ones best for your store? Or do you toss up your hands and get your grits at Waffle House? All three of our friends had some ideas about that. (Your store, not Waffle House.)
John Petersen of 3M suggests to carry it all! “Users need to sand with multiple grits from coarse to fine, skipping no more than one grit between coats,” he points out. “The No-Slip Grip sheets are great for flat surfaces, the Ultra Flexible sanding sheets are great for curves and details, and the Dust Channeling sponges are great for walls and drywall sanding.”
Gulley from Mirka has a slightly different take: “Industry-accepted practices have created standard operation procedures (SOPs) for most tasks. Whether that means using an 80-grit abrasive for stripping paint or a 180-grit prior to staining, the sequences are the same for almost all users. Manufacturers of paints, stains, and other coatings all indicate their recommended sequence of abrasives needed to properly use their products. By stocking these recommended grits, you will be sure to have the necessary abrasives to support those products.” This is a more coating-centric approach, so your decisions would moreso be based off of what brands of coatings you carry.
Festool offered an in-between solution. “Our GRANAT abrasives perform at a very high level for painters,” said Torrey. “Having a good selection for all applications will help. Festool offers very coarse grits to extremely fine grits.”
So once you have your lines and grits picked out, what are some ways you can market these products? Customers might know that they need an abrasive, but they might not be aware of the breadth in selection or what goes with what. How can you help?
Grinding Away at The Competition
The omnipresent question is always about the best way to market the products we talk about, and in my newly acquired experience, my panelists have always been helpful. Torrey at Festool says that placement is key. “Making it easy for the painters to identify where abrasives are located will make it easier for them to be found,” she put simply. “Independent dealers want to be a one-stop shop for all the painter’s needs. If abrasives are not front and center, the big box store may be the painter’s next stop.”
Independents are always wanting to be THE source for everything a painter would need, so I completely agree. Every time I can make one of my clients come back to Acme and keep them out of a Guitar Center (the musician’s Big Box Store) is a great day for me and a great day for independent retailers as a whole!
Mirka plays on the knowledge base of the independent and how you can leverage it to keep your customers coming back to you every time they take sandpaper to surface. “By educating the end-users of these products on the benefits of dust-free sanding and high-quality equipment, you can create a customer base that looks at the long-term return on investment in both healthy work practices and tools designed for professionals,” said Gulley. “Lost time cleaning sanding dust, or lost work due to health issues after breathing dust for extended periods of time are not worth a few cents saved per disc. The combination of portable vacuum systems, lightweight sanders such as DEOS or DEROS, and Mirka’s Abranet abrasives provide the perfect solution for dust-free sanding.”
Polishing it Off
There’s been a lot changed in abrasives since the Chinese put crushed shells, seeds, and sand on parchment in the 1st Century, and I believe we’re all the better for it! There’s products for any application under the sun and more grits and technology than you can shake a paint paddle at. With all the R&D this sector has put in, and with a little research on your own, you can be certain that you’re selling your customers the best there is.
With the skill and knowhow you have as a dealer, you can know what to stock and how to guide customers to the right product for their project so that when the dust settles, everyone from paint pros to DIYers will come to your shop time and time again.