This may barely, if at all, qualify as an instructible. In fact, it might be better called a TIPtible. Regardless, I wanted to share with those who, like me, find themselves sanding small items using electric and pneumatic sanders and being disappointed with the efficiency at which they remove material.
If you aren't already doing it, this one simple change to your approach to sanding small items with powered sanders WILL improve the efficiency at which they remove material from small items.
For those not already aware, when you try to hold small parts with your fingers and sand them with a powered sanders, the sander tends to overpower your grip, and the part will begin to vibrate in sync with the sander. Obviously, this slows the sanding process WAY down.
The solution is easy: Use some type of clamp to hold the part being sanded steady, so the vibrating surface of the sander can move across the part being sanded without moving (vibrating) it too (see photos, above).
Holding the part being sanded in some type of clamp or vice will, at the least, double or triple the speed at which the sander removes material. As indicated, this is because you are, with reference to the abrasive, making the part stationary. That is, stopping it from moving with the sander. Essentially, this results in the abrasive moving over the surface of the item being sanded many more times than it would if the material were moving with the sander.
Of course, sanding delicate items, like wood or plastic, requires the jaws of the clamp be wrapped in cloth or tape, to avoid leaving indentations or scratches in the material. Alternatively, you can use a clamp with soft jaws.
If you don't have clamps, but have a drill, jig or band saw and some scrap 3/4" plywood, you can make your own clamps sized to your needs. I made an instructible for simple and effective clamps I use, religiously, for cutting, drilling and sanding small parts. It may be seen at https://www.instructables.com/id/SMALL-PARTS-HOLDI...
In case you are wondering, the two metal looking things in the yellow clamp are rare earth magnets. They allow me to hang the clamp on my band saw door, where the clamp is handy for cutting small parts.
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Step 1: Because You Need at Least One Step to Qualify a Post As an Instructible, This Is That Step
Everything after the introduction is just fluff, to qualify this as an ible. As such, you can stop reading here and, probably, will meet success. After all, I am merely suggesting a change to what you were already doing with your bare hands.
Seriously, I presume, probably correctly, you know how a sander works, or are as capable of figuring one out as the millions of others, including children, who have done so over the decades. However, to keep it official, I added this step:
[STEP] Bring your sander, with sand paper appropriate for your project mounted on it, together with the item you are working, and which you have clamped using one of the suggested methods, then make sawdust, metal dust, plastic dust or whatever kind of dust your project will produce
Sorry about the step covered, for the most part, in the introduction. The ONLY reason I took time out to share this information is, I thought it would be a quick share, and it wouldn't take me from other projects, to which I've assigned higher priorities.
Beyond this, I won't create unnecessary steps. For example, I wont:
1) Direct you to get a small piece of material to sand (then list some of the usual things, like wood, plastic and metal or iron, and copper);
2) Direct you to buy, borrow or steal a clamp [or, if I did, I might include a suggestion you could duct tape whatever is to be sanded to a stick, then explain it's more about stabilizing the material than about just "clamping" it);
3) Direct you to wrap the jaws of the clamp in tape, foam, water hose or what have you, if working soft material and to avoiding damaging your work;
4) Direct you to use the appropriate safety gear, like eye, ear respiratory protection (if you're sanding things like shells, this can be even more important, since the dust can trash your lungs, not that the dust from plastics or exotic woods are going to improve your breathing and life span.
5) Then, show a part being sanded, and toss in a photo of the end product.