Introduction: DIY Indoor Sanding Box

About: I am a costume and prop designer and maker. I build costumes and props for my own cosplay, other cosplayers, collectors, and even feature films.

Do you have limited space and ventilation but still want to make cool stuff? Try making one of these Sanding Boxes! It's a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to do messy stuff even inside a small house or apartment!

What Supplies Do I Need?

  • Clear Storage Bin - the lid doesn't need to be clear, but it will help if the tub is. I also recommend one with latching handles. Choose a size big enough for your needs
  • Weather stripping - any will do, you just need something for medium to small gaps
  • Weatherseal Tape
  • Plexiglass or Polycarbonate sheet in a size that matches your tub lid
  • Long cuff gloves - these neoprene ones are thick and tough and will last forever
  • Duct Tape
  • Optional but HIGHLY recommended - if you'll be using a rotary tool, having a flex shaft makes this work much better.
  • Optional but will help with less mess - Air filter - Any cheap one that is a size to fit the tub you choose will work

Step 1: Cut the Lid

The lid is really the most critical part of the build because without a viewport you won't be able to see what you're doing! Lay the lid flat and center your piece of plexiglass over it and trace it with a pen. Then give yourself about 1/4" - 1/2" of an edge. This will be what supports your screen. With a sharp utility knife or your preferred heavy-duty cutting item, cut your lid along the smaller rectangle.

Step 2: Make the Viewport

Next, use your transparent weather seal tape to adhere the plexiglass to the lid. I taped it on both the inside and outside just to make a nicer seal and ensure it would stay stuck on.

Step 3: Seal the Lid

Next open up your window seal and follow along the edge of where your lid touches the top rim of your tub. Double check because it might not be obvious at first. I was in a hurry and made this mistake and just followed all the way around the outer edge before realizing at the handles the tub touches the inner part of the lid so I had to cut my seal and add more around the handle holes. Your lid is all ready to go!

Step 4: Hand Holes

Next you need a way to get your hands inside to work with your parts while maintaining a seal. This is where we create something like you've seen dozens of times in movies where scientists are messing with things they shouldn't :D On one of the long sides of your tub, draw two circles that will easily accommodate your hands. I made two 4" circles. Cut them out with your favorite cutting tool. Because the edges were a little jagged, I used some of the weather seal tape to soften all of the edges. At this point you have a couple of options.

  1. You can tape over the hole and then cut across your hole diagonally to make a sort of seal (bottom left). Then just stick your hands in there wearing your preferred gloves. This will give you more options for different kinds of gloves and more dexterity, but depending on what you're wearing on your sleeves and how much your arms fill the holes, it may reduce the efficiency of the dust seal.
  2. Go full scientist. Put a pair of heavy-duty long cuff gloves into the holes and tape them down using the weather seal tape. This ensures a perfect seal. Depending on the type of gloves you get and what your tub is made out of, you may want or need to reinforce this part with duct tape.

Step 5: Tool Holes

Then you'll want a small hole for either your rotary tool shaft to go through, or, if you are putting your whole dremel into the tub, a hole big enough for your plug to fit out. You can't really see it in the photo, but I did the same, tape the hole and cut across it to make a sort of flap seal around the shaft. And the last hole, which is optional but highly recommended, is for your dust collection. Measure the diameter of the hose for your dust collection system (or in our case, the vacuum) and repeat the same process - cut the hole, tape it, cut a flap seal. If you plan to also use your tub with other sanding implements, I highly recommend making plugs for these holes so you can have a good seal even when these aren't in use. I just used some scrap EVA floor mat to cut plugs!

Step 6: Optional Air Filter

One final optional step is to use an air filter. While the dust collection will suck the dust right up without the filter, it also means you can't lay anything down in the box, or if you're working with small parts, you risk them getting sucked up! With the air filter over top of the hose, the suction will suck the dust down into the filter and trap it causing less dust in the tub while you're working, while also allowing you to set parts inside the tub (and decrease the amount of times you have to open and close the lid). This does mean that you'll need to periodically vacuum out the air filter, but its a pretty good trade-off in my opinion.

Step 7: ​Get to Work

And you're ready to work! If you aren't blessed with a rotary tool with a foot pedal (we aren't), you'll need to put one hand in the tub and hold the shaft, then turn on your tool and slide your other and in. Using our sanding box, we've been able to do quite a lot of work without ever going outside and without ever having to clean up a huge foam dust mess in our space. The added benefit is that while you're using the box, you don't have to wear a respirator since the foam is all sealed in! I hope this was a helpful tutorial. Would you like to see more like this one?

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