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Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Tools and Techniques: Custom Sanding Sticks
Want to make some custom sanding sticks? Here's how:
Sanding sticks are a great tool, useful for smoothing and polishing surfaces. I use them a lot when sculpting my Skull Forge Scenics bases, and when filling and smoothing over the joins in the cloaks of my Nighthaunt figures.
Micro-Mark and Stevens International make some great sanding sticks in a variety of grit. But they wear out fast and can get pricey.
The work I did on my car bumper left me with a lot of extra sandpaper, in high grit numbers that are prefect for miniature work (The higher the number, the finer the grit). Each of these packs were under ten dollars, and has ten sheets, enough to make about 30 double-sided sanding sticks. Compared that to 15-20 dollars for a pack of ten sanding sticks. The wooden craft sticks run about eight dollars, and has more than enough sticks. Even better, you might already have sandpaper and craft sticks left over from other projects, which means you might not have to spend anything at all!
For my sanding sticks, I'm using 5/5-inch wide craft sticks, but regular size "popsicle sticks" will work too, and are useful for thin sanding sticks that allow you to get into tight areas. You can also trim the sticks to make tapered tips. The grits that I'm using are 180, 800, 1500, and 2000. You could even go higher than 2000 to get a really fine polish (Some of the Micro-Mark sticks that I have are 2400, 4000, and 12000.)
Start by selecting the stick size and grit that you want. Use a steel ruler and hobby knife to trim off part of the stick to make a tapered end. Then, super glue one side of the stick to the back of the sandpaper.
Once the glue has dried, carefully trim away the excess paper, following the contour of the stick. Then repeat to glue sandpaper to the opposite side.
And that's basically it! Quick and cheap sanding sticks. You can make them larger or smaller to cater to your specific sanding needs.
One advantage that the store-bought sanding sticks have is that they have a foam and plastic core so they are a little softer and can flex around curved surfaces. You can get something similar by using off-cuts of sheet styrene.
I took a spare piece of 1mm-thick styrene and cut it into tapered sticks.
Some sandpapers have a soft fabric backing so they can be attached to velcro sanding tools. These will work just as well as the paper-backed sandpaper.
Here, I've made 180 grit and 2000 grit sanding sticks, and the styrene plastic flexes much better than the wooden sticks.
The only thing left is to write the grit number on the stick with a fine sharpie so you don't lose track of which is which.