Sanding the Inside of a Turned Vessel

By Ellis Hein

Need to sand the interiors of hollow vessels, but don't want to risk your fingers?

Here's a simple solution - a small sander that you can make to chuck in a 1/2" drill. You'll need a 1/2" x 10" dowel rod, a piece of 1-1/2" x 4" plastic pipe, and a #6 x 1/2" wood screw. Cut a 1" long slot in the end of the dowel and then rotate it 90 degrees and drill a pilot hole for the screw. Note that this hole is perpendicular to the slot, and about 1/2" from the end of the dowel. Countersink for the screw head.

Next, cut an assortment of grits of cloth-backed sandpaper to 1-1/4" x 8". Fold one of the coarser ones in half, to make it 4" long. Slide the doubled strip into the slot in the end of the dowel, grit sides out, and position it so that equal amounts of paper protrude on either side of the dowel. The image at right shows the dowel with a piece of sandpaper in the slot at the top, and the screw locking it in place. If any of the screw protrudes out the back, file or grind it flush.

  Next, slide the 1-1/2" plastic pipe onto the dowel. This handle will help you control the movement of the sanding head. Now, chuck the end of the dowel into a 1/2" drill, as shown at left. Roll the sandpaper around the dowel by manually turning the drill chuck forward while holding the sandpaper. (This way the sandpaper doesn't try to unroll itself when you run the drill.) Insert the business end of the jig into the vessel, switch on the lathe and pull the trigger.

Move the stick back and forth to sand evenly along the length of your turning. The wood fibers of the dowel will be compressed by the drill chuck and will allow the dowel to loosen up over time. So, stop the lathe and the drill every so often to tighten the chuck. And changing grits or strips is simple. Remove the screw, pull out the old sanding strip and insert the new one. If you ground off the point of the screw, use a brad awl or nail to reach through the pilot hole and punch a hole in the sanding strip. Then install the screw, tighten it, and you're ready to go again!

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