Introduction: Sandpaper Center

When knifemaking, I find myself shaping and polishing metals and other materials. In doing so, I find myself working with a wide range of sand papers. Although I had the sheets fairly organized, it seemed I was always looking for the right grit, cutting some pieces off a sheet, loosing pieces, and forgetting which ones were where.

Whilst at the local dollar store (of course looking for things to re-purpose), I spotted some binder clips and started on the idea of a Sandpaper Center that would be mounted above my workbench. I love visual control so having them all lined up in plain sight made sense to me.

The 10 Clip Example

My edition of the Sandpaper Center has spaces for 10 different grits that range from 100 grit to 2000 grit, but I'll provide you with a table so you can scale it up or down according to your needs.

For the 10 space example shown the materials required are:

  • Medium 1-1/4" binder clips (10)
  • 5/8" Plywood, 7" x 40"
  • #8 x 1/2" pan head wood screws (10) -- #10 is okay too
  • 1/4" flat washers (10)
  • Mounting screws of your choice (I used 1-1/4" wood screws)

Tools to construct the center you'll likely need:

  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Saw (maybe your local building supply place can cut for you)
  • Screwdriver
  • Pencil or marker
  • Drill
  • 3/16" bit
  • Scissors
  • Safety glasses

Now on to the layout...

Step 1: Layout the Board

Before you cut and layout the board, you'll need to decide how many different grits of sandpaper it will hold. Ideally each grit will have it's own clip.

For your usual wood sanding, perhaps only 8 different grits are required, say 60, 100, 120, 180, 220, 320, 400 and 600. For high lustre metal and plastic polishing it's not uncommon to go as high as 2000 grit. In my 10 clip example, I use: 100, 150, 220, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1500 and 2000.

I made this table to give the length of the board in inches based on the number of clips.


The formula for the length of the board is:

Length = ((Number of clips -1)*4") + 4"

After cutting to length, start laying out where the clips will go.

From the top of the board mark 1" down and 2" from the left side. Then move across and mark every 4". If everything works according to plan, there should be 2" left at the end when you're done.

Mark the three mounting holes. As suggested, these are 2" down from the top and 1" from each end, the middle hole is 2" down from the top and 1/2 of Length (middle of the board).

Drill the three mounting holes with a 3/16" bit.

Next we'll attached the clips...

Step 2: Attach the Clips

This part is pretty easy. Grab a screw and slip a flat washer on it. Screw the clip to the board on the first mark. Make sure the screw is into the rear of the clip like shown in the picture.

Tip: Sometimes it's helpful to give the screwdriver a little bump with the palm as you are starting the screw. This aids in getting the point of the screw to into the wood.

Repeat moving across the board, putting a screw into each mark that you made in Step 2, until you are done.

For even speedier access and visual control, put a small label near the clip indicating the grit. Now we're smoking!

Now you can mount the board on your wall, bench or wherever it works best for you. I used some 1-1/4" flat head wood screws.

If you have one empty clip, you can hang your squirt bottle from this. More on lubricant and polishing tips coming right up.

Step 3: Cutting the Paper

This is probably old hat for most, but it gives meaning to the spacing of the clips and size of the board. Sandpaper comes in lots of different sizes, but in North America the 9"x11" seems to be very popular at building and automotive supply stores. For hand sanding I like to cut my sheets into 6 pieces.

Hold the sheet in "landscape" position and cut it in half. With the two half together cut these into thirds. See pics.

Polishing Tips

Many metals can be polished to a mirror finish. Here are some tips on sanding and polishing metals.

  • Start with coarse grit and increase the grit number in steps. The surface gets smoother as each new grit removes all scratches made by the previous grit
  • Use a lubricant such as water with wet/dry sandpaper to clean the surfaces and prevent galling
  • As the finish becomes very smooth (after 2000 grit) apply polishing compound with a cotton rag

A lot of plastics can be polished as well. I've been able to make plastic look like glass. Polish up to 2000 grit and then use a liquid scratch remover like Meguiar's Scratch X and polish until clear.

A great Saturday project is to rejuvenate those old yellow headlights. Take a look at gmatta's How to Restore Your Headlights Instructable.

This and many more Knifemaking D.I.Y. Articles can be read on my blog: D. Comeau Custom Knives.

Thanks for stopping by!