It may come as a surprise to end-users that there are relatively few manufacturers of abrasives in the world. What they generally produce for mass consumer markets are so-called ‘jumbo rolls’ some of which are sold to other companies who in turn convert the jumbo rolls into various forms of abrasive that can be used by consumers. So, that 5 metre roll of abrasive for decorators, flat sheets, delta shapes or various round discs with fancy hole patterns to aid dust extraction, are all made from huge rolls of abrasive that are as tall as a person and weigh much more.
National Abrasives, based in Reigate in Surrey, is a major player in the UK in converting Jumbo rolls into ‘endusable’ formats of ‘sandpaper’ for consumers. National Abrasives has recently launched its range of mesh-backed abrasive sheets that covers pretty well all the available formats of hook-and-loop based sanding machines. Until recently, there has been little competition in the mesh-backed abrasives market for general users, but the decision of National Abrasives to source mesh-backed abrasives from one of the most famous names in ‘sandpaper’, Sia, has immediately added another dimension to the competition.
Sia Abrasives is a Swiss company with a long history. Founded in 1867 it has been making abrasives and innovating for over a hundred years and is renowned for the quality of its abrasives. The abrasive grits used on the sianet mesh-backed abrasives is blue-fired aluminium oxide that is extremely hard, and therefore long lasting, with a high resistant fabric backing. The abrasive grains are applied using a special coating method that coats the mesh parts of the backing, but also leaves the gaps between the mesh open for easy transition of the sanding dust through it. The sianet mesh uses a hook-and-loop fixing that, in my view, is the best way of attaching an abrasive to a sanding machine because it keeps the abrasive sheets flat and firmly fixed. The old-fashioned method of using spring-loaded clips is clumsy and very often ineffective, to say the least. Sianet’s method of attaching the abrasive grains to the mesh keeps them free of the fastening loops and this makes for a secure and long-lasting fixing to the sander platen.
Aimed at: Pros and discerning amateurs who want effective and almost
completely free sanding with machines.
Pros: Long lasting Sianet abrasive, dust director pads give excellent dust
collection and all the formats you need for all machines.
I was sent a huge variety of National Abrasive’s range of mesh-backed abrasive sheets to try out. These included half, quarter and third sheet formats for platen sanders, large and small delta formats,
including the delta shapes that look more like the base of an ordinary steam iron. There was also a selection of discs to fit my favourite 125mm and 150mm diameter random orbit sanders. I use these regularly and they are the mainstay of my sanding operations, be it on painted walls or fine furniture. If I am not mistaken, there will soon be mesh-backed belt sander belts available from National Abrasives as well.
There is a good range of grits available in the above formats too – typically from P80 to P400 – so there should be enough to cover everything from first coat sanding and paintwork to the fine finishing required for an oil or polished finish. What is very noticeable when handling the abrasives is that the abrasive surfaces are so sharp that they tend to cling to your fingers – surely an indication of how the abrasive grains will perform when they finally get to work – and of course a good thing that they are!
However, there was a little surprise in each pack of abrasives – the blue Dust Director Pad. This is a millimetre thin pad that has a multitude of holes in the surface. They are not random – they are designed to fit the various dust collection holes in the myriad of makes of sanders on the market. The pad has a set of hooks on one surface and a set of loops on the other and is attached to the sandpaper by the hooks and to the sander by the loops. The Dust Director Pad is therefore an interface between the disc and the sander platen and the object of it is to create a small gap through which dust particles can travel more quickly when the sander is connected to a vacuum extractor.
To be honest, all of my regularly used sanders have been chosen because of their sanding performance and their ability to collect dust well, using either a dust bag or extractor. It keeps customers happy and my lungs healthy. I tried using the mesh-backed sianet pads on my sanders and it was clear that more dust was being extracted to the vacuum machine. The usual puff of dust
occurred as you sand over an edge for example, but that seems to be unavoidable using traditional sanders. So, when I attached the Dust Director Pads I was interested to see whether they made a difference as to how much dust was collected. It is clear that the pads create just enough of a gap to increase the effective ‘pull’ from the vacuum extractor and clear the path to the various dust
extraction holes for more efficient extraction. Even sanding up to the edges seemed to be an improvement, with the puff of dust as the telltale sign virtually eliminated. The result is the multi-hole Dust Director pad with the sianet without doubt collects more dust than any other product seen on the market.
Whatever format of sanding machine you use, they will give quick results and a smooth finish. In fact the sianet abrasive has out performed any other mesh abrasive I have used, with the edges of the sheets performing very well and the harder grit making for a much longer lasting product. With the extra dust extraction provided by the Dust Director Pads, users can feel that they are maximising the
possibilities of collecting most dust safely. The dangers of exposure to dust are now becoming fully understood and it makes no sense for anyone exposed to dust to ignore the possible effects. The National Abrasive sianet abrasives, linked with the Dust Director Pads and a quality M or H class vacuum extractor should provide some confidence to users that the dangers of dust exposure are being minimised.