This file is a collection of various messages having the common theme of using a sander to aid in the making of felt.  The information is primarily from the feltmaker's list. I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, most of the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter. The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors. Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the orignator(s).
Pat Spark, Manager of the Feltmaker's List.
Return to feltmakers list FAQ



PROBLEMS WITH SANDER                 



Back to Index


* Jill Gully, May 15, 1996
I opted for the cheapest model I could find...Black and Decker from Target or WalMart..around $28-$30. It was called a "finishing" sander..(as oppose to an "orbital"), and it works just fine. Because the "plate" appears to be made from some sort of pressed fiber rather than the foamy stuff on more expensive models, it takes a little longer for it to dry out after use, and I am always careful not to have my wool too soggy when I use it. There is always the risk of electric shock, since this is not exactly what the sander was designed for! Husbands may faint the first time they see you use it for this! You will be amazed and delighted at the reduced felting time you get with the sander! I also find that it disturbs the fibers less than using your hands, especially at the first. I agree with Pat, it is great for inlaying pre-felted pieces onto a larger whole background.
*Jill Gully, Oct. 13, 1996 (In reply to a question about using a belt sander.)
I have been using a sander in my felting for a couple of years now. Your belt sander is not what you need, though. You need a regular"finish" sander, without the sandpaper -- not an orbital sander will shift your fiber too much.
*Pat Spark, August, 1997
After trying many different makes and models, I think I have found my favorite sander.  It is the Black and Decker, 1/3 sheet finishing sander.  It does not have a dust bag!  The models with the dust bags have large holes in the bottom where a fan pulls the dust up into the bag.  This seems to me to be an invitation for water to be sucked into the sander.  I have electric versions of this sander and I also have a battery operated version of it.  While quite expensive, I do like the gentle action of the battery operated sander for felting fine detail work that I am afraid is going to shift with a faster action.

Back to Index


*Anne Willsford,  Aug. 2, 1996
I have been using a sander quite a lot, since Beth Beede visited Australia  in mid 1993 to be exact! I was wanting to make some comments about safety issues.

I use an extension cord with a plug incorporating a safety switch which I plug my sander into. This earth-leakage switch cuts off the power if there is any interruption to the power flow (for example, if water gets into the motor, or if the electrical cord is cut or damaged). It is important that the switch be plugged into the powerpoint on the wall, otherwise it will not work. I was also advised by an electrician to always test the switch before I use it, then reset the switch. It is also useful being on the end of an extension cord as it can be used with other electrical appliances, at other times.

Most people here use the sander with a sheet of reinforced plastic between the rubber sander plate and the wet fibres, as a safety precaution.. I prefer to use the sander directly onto the wet fibres. I always lay a sheet of fibreglass flyscreen netting over the dry fleece, saturate the fleece with water, then scrape most of the water off the fleece with a window squeegee. Then I remove the flyscreen, lifting the edges very carefully so the fibres don't catch on the raw edges of the screen. At this stage the fleece is wet but, when sanding, only a small amount of water splashes up. If too much water splashes up I put the flyscreen back on the fleece and scrape off more water. I then start sanding, beginning with very light pressure so the fibres don't move too much, and then gradually increasing the pressure as the felt becomes stronger and holds together.

*Jill Gully, Oct. 13, 1996
I have been using a sander in my felting for a couple of years now. So far, I have not electrocuted myself, but as Pat has mentioned in past posts...don't have the fleece sopping wet when you "sand" it. Water will still spray up in a fine mist either side of the sander, but it doesn't seem to cause any problems.   I did a felting demo for a 4-H group one evening, and there were a number of Dads at the meeting. You should have seen their eyes bug out when I said I was going to "sand" that wet surface!! I could almost hear them mentally planning to go home and hide their sanders from their wives and kids!!

Back to Index

* Bob Carter, Oct. 17, 1996
As I have a bit of experience installing Ground Fault Interruptor (GFI) outlets in our greenhouse, Helene asked me to contribute a few words to this thread.

GFI's are designed to give you an extra level of protection wherever there is a danger of short-circuits occuring, particularly areas with moisture present: bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, outdoors and in greenhouses. In essence it is a small circuit breaker, more sensitive and quicker responding to a short-circuit than your main circuit breaker box in your house. If a short-circuit occurs they will not necessarily prevent you from getting a shock but will limit it's duration to a fraction of second. Whenever using electical appliances near water it's wise to insulate yourself from the current by wearing good quality rubber gloves (thick ones) and rubber based shoes. Don't become a live wire! ;-)

If you have an outlet that is your primary site for using an electic sander for felting, then the easiest solution is to replace your existing outlet with a GFI. If you've done some wiring before then this is a simple procedure, and the GFI comes with installation instructions. ALWAYS make certain that the power to the outlet is turned OFF before you do any work on it. If you don't feel confident installing a GFI then find someone to help you.

Back to Index

*Pat Spark, Nov. 8, 1996  Mary asks about the safety of sanders: I first heard about sanders in 1988, but I didn't use one until 1995. It took me this long to get up my courage! It is probably a good thing too, because since 1988, I have greatly reduced the amount of water I use in felting. There is not "water flying around". If it does start to fly, I stop immediately and use a towel to sop the water off the felt before I continue. Another think I have done is to put a silicon gel sealant on the bottom of the sander. This protects the base from water. All of my sanders are double insulated, which also gives some protection. In addition, people should work with a ground fault interrupter which cuts off the power if any water gets into the electrical area. This device is in the wall socket. Some people are using sanders run by air compressors.  

Two of the biggest problems I see in using sanders are:
1. The noise causing ear problems.
2. The vibration causing nerve damage to the hand. So do use caustion. Wear ear plugs and don't run the tool for very long at a time.

*Debbie Nelson, Aug. 2, 1997.
Thanks to the advice of Margo Akins, Canada, I was able to solve my concern about the sanders. She advised, and I was able to find, a portable GFCI at my local Home Base store. It was $24.99. It is made by Pro-Line and says "Prevents Shock Hazards". It is basically a Ground Fault Plug on a 6 foot cord that is portable and can be plugged in anywhere. (I would guess your system would need to have a ground).

Back to Index

*Jill Gully, Aug. 21, 1997. (Shelby asks about sander safety.)
Someone else asked me the same thing just a few days ago. First I would buy a thick rubber mat from WalMart -- cost me about $7-8.  I always have my students stand on these while sanding. I work inside on my large kitchen island - 4'x3'. I put a large towel down first so that water does not drip all over my floor. After wetting the fiber down, lay another towel over the top and gently press out the excess water to keep water from spraying up all around your sander. I don't worry about a little fine mist, as the motor is housed up near the handle (at least on my sander). Others have purchased ground fault detectors -- which I think operate by shutting off the electricity if something appears to intefere with the circuit. Others have bought air-powered sanders, but I haven't heard them comment on the effectiveness of these. Remember, if you are using my merino for your work, you should only sand a couple of seconds on each spot, otherwise you will felt your netting to your fiber. Once I remove the netting, I sand a little longer directly on the surface; turn it over and repeat. You will be amazed at the time saved in the felting stage.....Now if we could just find a way to reduce the fulling stage.....

*Debbie Nelson, Aug. 21, 1997 (Shelby asks about sander safety.)
I too contacted the list several weeks ago with some real concerns before I used the sander. Some of the safe-guards I take are:
-Wear rubber soled shoes
-Do not use the type sander that "sucks up" the sawdust to exhaust it out
-Make sure that most of the loose moisture is blotted out so that as you sand you don't have droplets popping up into the sander motor
-It is best to use a felting net on top of your work until it is starting to felt
-The sander is a felting tool not a fulling tool
-Most Important, for peace of mind, I purchased a Ground Fault Adaptor that says it is to avoid "Shock Hazards" when using electricity near moisture. It is on an extention cord and can be used at any outlet. It cost $25.00.

Back to Index

*Pat Spark, August 28, 1998.  (Weaving List brings up concerns about sander safety.)
Here are some things to consider:
1. Use only slightly damp wool, not very wet. Since most intermediate or advanced feltmakers use very little water anyway, this is usually not a problem. Just sop up any excess moisture with a towel. You shouldn't see water around your hand when you press down on the wool. But the wool shouldn't look dry and fluffy either. You can get it too dry to make felt.

2. The sander is double insulated, so the water cannot get easily up to the motor from the flat face of the sander. But it can spray up into the motor through the air holes on top of the sander if you have too much water. If your water is spraying up, use a towel to sop up some of the excess moisture.

3. Do not use an orbital finishing sander that has the dust attachment. At least from the outside, it looks like there are holes in the bottom of the sander so that the air is sucked up with dust into the body of the sander. It seems like this would pull water into the sander as well.

4. You can buy a portable Ground Fault Interupter. This is an extension cord version of what people have in their bathrooms, kitchens etc. It is a device in the plug in area, which will shut off the electricity if any water touches the motor.

5. You can wear rubber soled shoes or stand on a rubber pad to help protect yourself.

Other things about the sander: I like the Black and Decker 1/3 sandpaper sheet size sander. I believe the model number is 7448. The moisture of wool can loosen the glue on the sander pad and it will fall off. Some people glue it back on using a marine glue (GOOP is pretty good). Some people leave it off and attach some rubber stair tread on the bottom using the sandpaper clips. By the way, you have probably figured out that we are not using the sandpaper, just the sander itself.

Back to Index


*Pat Spark, July 23, 1996
For some reason the things I have written about this subject for the feltmakers list do not seem to be in my Eudora files. Maybe the following will help. It is from an article I wrote in the North American Felters' Network, Summer 1995.

........Because of two tools I used on the pieces for this show, I was able to make several new pieces. I had heard of both of these tools before and I had even tried them, but I wasn't really satisfied with my results until now. The first tool is the electric sander. It is a small, hand-held finishing sander with the sand paper removed. The platform the paper usually sits on is covered with a type of cloth faced foam rubber. I used the sander in the beginning stages of felting. I was working with some complicated inlaid imagery. I was using half-felts, wet inlay, silk paper inlay, cloth gauze lamination and other techniques. These inlays were layered over one another to create a sense of depth in the work. Because there were so many layers, it was sometimes difficult to get them all to adhere to each other with the regular hand rubbing techniques. I remembered that when I was at the felt camp in Hungary in 1988, several of the German felters were talking about using sanders to help in the hardening stages of feltmaking. I came home and tried this but I was unsatisfied with the results. (At that time, I covered the wet wool with a thin layer of plastic to save the motor from getting wet. This layer of plastic seemed to prevent the felting and I didn't save any work time.) Because I was in a hurry and I had more ideas to try than time in which to complete them, I decided to give it a try again. This time I removed most of the water from the fleece, covered the inlay areas with mosquito net and put the sander directly onto the surface. (In order to keep water out of the sander's motor, I pressed the foam pad down on dry towels as I was working to soak up any excess moisture that had accumulated in the foam.) The net would begin to stick after about 1-20 seconds of sanding in each section of the surface,  so I would carefully remove it. At this point, the inlay was attaching pretty well, so I left the net off and continued to "sand" the various areas of the piece. In about a tenth of the time it normally took, the felt was holding together well and able to be fulled with a bamboo mat and rolling bar.....

Back to Index

*Pat Spark, Aug. 21, 1997
I have a felting table set up like this: Hollow core door finished with verethane. Attached to legs like those used on bridge tables. Pieces of 2" x 2" taped to the edge of the door on all four sides to create a frame. Piece of vinyl laid over the frame to make a sort of large tray.   When I am making a felt piece that is going to be sanded, I lay out the piece as usual. Then I cover the fleece with nylon netting. Using hot, slightly soapy water, I press a sponge down onto the mass. This flattens the pile (removes the air) and gets it slightly damp at the same time. (This is a new innovation for me. Up until a couple months ago, I sprinkled the water on and then pressed the fiber down with my hands. Using the wet sponge allows for the wool to be wetted without being too soppy.) I refill and move the sponge over the entire surface until the whole thing is flat and damp.   I carefully lift the felting net and press my hand down onto the surface. If any water puddles around my hand, I replace the net and use a dry towel to sop up the excess water.

I keep the net on the felt the first round of sanding. I press the sander onto the net-covered fleece for a few seconds. Then I lift the sander and move to an adjacent area. I use a pressing action, not an ironing one. (Remember back in high school home economics class where we were taught that to press, literally means to hold down in one spot while ironing was done in a back and forth motion?) I try to make sure that the net doesn't stick to the fleece. After the whole surface has been vibrated, I remove the net and try working directly on the felt. If nothing shifts, or begins to pick up, I work the whole surface again without the net. If some things, like perhaps a silk paper inlay, are not attached while, I replace the net and work that area again with the net covering the design to protect it.   Some people use very thin plastic bags (like those used from dry cleaners) to cover their sander. The plastic must be thin though, because (in my experience) the thicker plastics absorb most of the vibration of the sander and the wool itself does not felt. The same thing will happen if the pad on the bottom of the sander comes loose.   BTW, the pads do come loose. I haven't discovered the perfect waterproof glue yet for re-attaching the pad to the sander.

Back to Index

*Linda  , Apr. 17, 1997
I just made a safe adaptation for my sander. The rubber mat I stand on is now on the plate of my sander. It built up the thickness of the plate, and does not absorb any water. It is a relatively smooth surface and felts wonderfully. Now I am not nearly as nervous as I was when the water started jumping up around the plate. I had to use a water proof epoxy to hold it. And Pat, I haven't noticed the sander vibrating rougher yet, but my older craftsman orbital sander sure is much rougher now, but it has years of use and not just for felting. I'll let you know if my black and decker palm sander changes with use.

Back to Index


*Pat Spark, Apr. 17, 1997 (Pat posed the following question to the list regarding sanders.)
I have a question for those of you using sanders. I have found that the sander's rotation (oscillation) seems to change over time. I will describe what I mean. With new sanders, the vibration is gentle and it is easy to hold on to the sander. (I am using the Craftsman 1/4 sheet size (sandpaper sheet) finishing sander. The one without the dust bag.) After teaching a couple of workshops (where they get heavy use), the sanders start to make a rougher vibration. They can vibrate so heavily that you need to really hold them down tightly to keep them from "running" across the felt away from you. In addition, they seem to really move the ground cloth and the fleece that I am trying to laminate together. Things shift and cause problems in the felting.

I can't figure out if it is because the sander has been used for awhile that it seems to run rougher, or if there is some fluctuation (sp?) in the power that runs the sander in various parts of the country where I'm teaching.   My battery run Black and Decker (1/3 sheet size), does not seem to change it's oscillation sequence, but the batteries only last for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before they have to be recharged (and that takes 12 hours).   Speaking of 1/3 sheet size sanders, while I was in Missouri, someone brought an electric Black and Decker (1/3 sheet size) to the workshop. It was great for the gentle action needed to fix the thing layer of wool to the ground cloth. I am looking forward to trying to use one of these over several workshops and see if its gentle action also starts to change.   OK, so the questions are: Has anyone else had such a problem? Does anyone have any ideas on the subject?

Back to Index
*Jill Gully, Apr. 18, 1997
I use an electric Black and Decker that I have had for over a year now. I have made dozens of items using at as well as using it for my workshops. I don't know that it gets quite the workout that yours probably does, but so far I have had no problems with it. I suggested a sander to another felter here, and she bought a Sears Craftsman. So far, in the course of 10 months, she has burned out three of them. Now I don't know HOW she is using it, and whether she is rougher on it than I am with mine, but that's my two cents worth.   Since I almost exclusively use my wonderful Aussie merino for my felting, I find I only have to sand for a short period of time to form a skin on the felt. It may well be that other breeds require far longer spurts of sanding that put more stress on the machine. I recently bought some mixed breed wool batts to sandwich between the layers of merino to cut down a little on my costs, but I DO find I have to sand much longer to get that stuff to felt, so perhaps that has a lot to do with it. By "sand for a short period of time" I should explain that I hold the sander down for a maximum of 3 seconds at a time on any one space, and only cover the whole area once before lifting the netting. I usually find there is already a skin, and so I sand once over the entire surface again, this time without the net. Then I turn it over and repeat the two sandings -- one with the net, and one without. For my merino, this then is sufficient to allow me to begin the fulling in the blind.  If I am inlaying or using surface decoration, I may sand one more time on those areas, to be sure it has adhered well before fulling.   So perhaps if you are having to run the sander for much longer periods of time, that may be contributing to your problem. Maybe others can be specific about their use of sanders and we can discover whether it is the brand or the usage that is causing the difficulty.
*Barb Bush, Apr. 18, 1997
I use a small battery powered Black and Decker sander in much the same manner Jill has described. I felt two or three pieces each day and have so far had no problems with the sander. I too felt for only a short period of time -- no more than 3 seconds on each space. I sand on top of the net covering the entire piece once,, remove the net to avoid felting it into the piece, replace the net and repeat the process twice. I never sand directly on the fleece. I then flip the piece over and sand once on the back side.I use a felt batting of romney, rambouillet and angora, with a variety of fibers on top. After the four short sandings mentioned above the piece is ready for fulling.
*Sue Bowen, Apr. 18, 1997
Have you tried oiling the sander? Or using silicon lubricant? There might even be fibers stuck inside somewhere.
*Pat Spark, Apr. 18, 1997  Sue, that sounds good.  How do I do it?
*Sue Bowen, Apr. 20, 1997  
Unplug the sander. Check the outside casing of the sander (mine is black). Look for holes with screws at the bottom of them. Find a set that are at the four corners of the most reachable part of the casing. Find the appropriate, fitting screwdriver, tape, and a marker. Put tape at (not over) each of the screw holes. Number each hole. Unscrew each screw and label each with the tape and the number.  Remove the casing. You may have to lever it open with some tool like a  chisel, which will promptly loose its eede. Look at the inside. You are looking for metal parts that rub against other metal parts as they function. Leave anything like a wire or a motor alone.  Take a few cutips. Soak in oil or cover with silicon lubricant. Coat all the working, metal parts where they rub together with the oil or lubricant using the cutip. Put the casing back on. Screw the screws back in. Remove the tape. Plug in the sander and see if it still works.
Back to Index

Page Updated: August 21, 1997