Microplane Stainless Steel Sanding Discs - Review
Microplane has recently come out with an interesting and innovative idea; stainless steel sanding discs for an orbital sander. According to Microplane, the discs, which are available in coarse (40 grit), medium (80 grit) and fine (120 grit), remove wood five times faster and last seven times longer than regular sandpaper. It supposedly takes 35 regular sanding discs to measure up to one stainless steel disc.
The discs are just what you would assume they would be; Borg versions of the standard orbital discs. The back of each disc has eight little Velcro pads that are placed so as not to interfere with any of the dust collection holes (the discs are compatible with both five and eight hole orbitals). The sanding side of the discs have a number of little blade protrusions on them. The coarse grit disc resembles a bullet-riddled piece of metal, while the finer two grits take on the appearance of a flattened version of Microplane's great kitchen graters. The discs attach to the sander just like regular ones do.
Microplane warns that the discs cannot be bent, so they should be removed from the sander with a flat head screwdriver or a putty knife. Even then, we had some difficulty, which, we suppose is a good thing; a guarantee that the disc will stay put during sanding. Once we took a disc on and off a few times and started getting a feel for how far we could bend it without destroying it, it got to be a quick procedure. Like most new things, it just took a little time to get used to it.
Because of their rigidity and the placement of the cutting blades, we felt we had less maneuverability than with a regular sanding pad. We're often tilting the orbital up on one end to deal with a curve in the wood or to add additional sanding pressure to a particular spot. Since the Microplane discs cannot be bent, we lost the ability to do this. We also note that the stainless steel discs cut as opposed to grind away the wood, so if you're looking for a smooth as glass finish, a light sanding with regular paper is needed.
We decided to test both the speed of material removal and the longevity of the discs. After returning from the hardware store with some regular 80 grit discs, we got started. For the first test, we marked up a board with a sharpie and gave the sander a solid fifteen count with light to medium pressure, first with the stainless pad and then with the regular pad. As you can see from the photos, the regular sanding pad actually removed more material in the allotted time. The results from the stainless pad weren't disappointing or bad, just slower than the regular one.
For our durability test, we took a piece of 1x, put each disc on the sander and essentially sat on it for 5 minutes. To make it a little more challenging, we blobbed a line of Titebond II on the wood to simulate a newly glued joint. This time, the results were considerably different. Sometime in the third minute, the regular sanding pad burned up like a meteor hitting the atmosphere. It was so destroyed that it melted much of the Velcro off our orbital. In the time that it was functional, the sanding disc removed plenty of wood, but its demise was a brutal and costly (yet another $20 for a new Velcro sanding pad). The Microplane disc, on the other hand, didn't seem to mind the abuse and made it through to the end of the five minutes, good as new, removing more wood than the regular disc. It is also worth mentioning that the stainless steel pad had no problem securing to our recently devastated sanding pad.
Microplane has made a nice little product here, and although we didn't find it to be faster than a regular disc, there is no question of its absolute dominance in the Thunderdome of durability. We have no doubt that one of these would last as long at 35 regular discs. Since we conducted our punishing test, the 80 grit disc has kept performing like it did when we first put it on.
So overall, we would recommend that you pick up a few and try them out and see what you think. They have their limitations and won't completely replace your regular pads, but they'll be a great supplement to them, particularly for those long days of milling and sanding.
Microplane Stainless Steel Sanding Discs are available in three grits (60, 80, 120), which can be purchased separately or in an assortment pack. A set of three sells for under $15.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at April 13, 2007 7:11 AM