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How to sand without sand paper? Answered

 So my question is, is there a fairly efficient way to sand  something without using sandpaper? I am doing a project for haiti, and i just realized a breakdown in a system. Sandpaper would add a huge cost to anything. 

Right to what it is used for: I was wondering, if anyone have any simple ideas on how to sand soda cans after cutting them into sheets? Solutions i can think of in context with whats available in Haiti is may be rubbing the sheets against concrete or even in a sand box? 

I am just thinking, back in the old days, before sand paper, how did people do it? any ideas would be really appreciated!


you cold make a sled from the metal and just ride it around for a while or use it to drag stuff on sand or concrete it could also work on gravel then flatten it with heavy rocks


3 years ago

In the old days some craftsman just us wood on wood meaning the scrape the surface with a wood block (Vice versa) try rubbing two flat wood surfaces and you would get a smooth varnished finish.... and you'll also have larger arms..haha!

I'm not sure if anyone said this, and I'm too lazy to read through all the answers, but Bear Grylls uses rocks in a shirt once, and I've tried it myself, and it works quite well. The smaller the rocks, the easier and better results you probably achieve though


8 years ago

In addition to scrapers and scraper-planes, shark skin (yep, from sharks), and horsetail (no, not from horses) were also used. Horsetail might be a good bet, because it is an ancient and widely distributed plant en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum

I don't know if this answer is cheap, but it can be if you have items laying around. You can make a simple sandblaster. Sandblasters are much more effecient and they get into grooves where paper can't. So just find an air compressor and make yourself a sandblaster.

Depends on how picky you are about the surface.

If you just want to scratch it to death, any rough hard surface will work -- a block of sandstone would be the obvious choice, but there are plenty of others. Yes, concrete would work, especially if it's high in sand that has fairly consistent grain size.

In the days before sandpaper, people used scrapers. (Some woodworkers still swear by scrapers as the best way to get a clean surface.)

Or, as others noted, an abrasive powder or slurry would work for your purposes, since those are relatively easy to wash off metal. (Less so wood.)

If this is for Haiti for emergency purposes, I would focus on functionality and rapid construction rather than on appearance. If you don't have money to spend on sandpaper, you probably don't have time to spend on sanding.

 yeah... thanks for the input. I definitely agree with you on focusing on functionality. The biggest worry is keeping things low tech, and keeping the cost of tools and materials down. But either way, I am going to experiment with all the possible solutions. thanks again

For a distressed can look, use a wire wheel on a grinder or a wire brush.  A little heat will soften the paint if you need to.

In the old days, scraping and filing was normal for metal, rather than grinding or sand paper. 

 Soda cans are hard enough to sand with good materials, I spent a good amount of time trying to do so for my soda can xmas robot ornament instructable.  I'm not sure what your final use is, but you'll be better off just putting the labels on the backside if at all possible.

 Yeah, that is the fall back plan. But i really like the look of the weathered, brushed can. 

Seems there is a beach there somewhere.  Collect some sand and use any of the methods mentioned in the other answers.

Well, they made sandpaper, they glued sand to paper ! Then they moved to glass, then carborundum etc etc

Working with wet sand might be considerably more rapid BTW


Might even work to make a slurry of sand & water in a shallow basin, then just scour with a coarse cloth. No gluing required.


8 years ago

You can use pumice or fine sand or most any abrasive, fine grained substance as a substitute for sand paper.  I have used very fine pumice mixed with a few drops of lemon oil to rub out fine scratches on very expensive furniture.
You can use almost any  oil or grease that will hold onto the grit. Dab it on with a piece of cloth and rub the object to be sanded briskly.

Why do you want to do this - are you making Al-cells?