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I'm curious how long it takes you guys to finish sand a guitar

I'm talking after carving stage (lets assume its roughly at 40 grit stage)

So sanding 80 then 120 then 320 or whatever similar pattern you use.

The reason I ask. I've sanded LOTS of guitars. I know it takes me an hour or less but that is hard work, breaking a sweat and arms get tired.

Now I've employed a guy to do finish sanding (an will take on additional duties the longer he's worked here), he's getting an hourly wage. He works hard, but it's taking him 4 hours to do one guitar. I'm not questioning his work as his sanding is great and I'm sure that in a few guitars time his amount of time spent will get faster and faster.

I'm just curious, what is an average time for different people? What should I expect. It's been so long since I was "new" at sanding between all the cars and guitars over the years that I cannot even remember how long I was taking in the early days.

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He may be trying too hard. Have a talk with him about expectations and results. I

He may simply be trying to gain your respect, and is taking his time to do it above and beyond what is necessary, vice filching the clock.

Thats all hypothetical of course.

I actually set a timer for sanding. When i get over 120 grit, i do 45 minutes with each grit up to 320.

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I think you're right bob, BUT, I want him to try hard and I want him to sand that little bit more that the average person would.

Either way - he got another guitar done today in about 3 hours and he finished off one from the other day - so sanded for six hours with a 40 min break and a couple quick cigatette breaks. Thats pretty good for now.

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Bear in mind that working on top of somebody else's work has two additional problems.

Firstly, he has to work to your standard which is a similar problem to that bob123 mentions. Finish sanding is such a critical stage that any flaws in his work reflect on the finished item and therefore the quality of your output. If he is having to second-guess what you deem acceptable then more than likely he has to spend time making sure he hits it out of the park. This is a good thing because he is showing standards and wanting to play the game.

Secondly, he did not work on the instrument up until that point. He hasn't gained familiarity with the workpiece and listed focal points where it is most important to spend his time. In that respect the entire instrument becomes that focal point.

Combined, these two steps can make one hour become four, easily. If the work is up to your standard then I would say four is acceptable until you bring him further into the work further up the line. If he has contact with the specific workpiece or becomes more familar with specific models then those four will become two. I would question the work of anybody that spends just one hour finish sanding for me, but then again I have to be a control freak when it comes to my work. So should you. This guy is by default an ambassador for your work.

Perhaps you need to ask questions; "what could you do with this guitar in two hours?", "in your opinion, what will be the most time-consuming part of this guitar?". That's not really anything short of a work appraisal though. If the dude rocks an awesome finish sand in four hours, that works within your client's budgets and remains profitable in terms of both money and allowing you to split your workload, cool.

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My junior takes four hours also. He's slow. But Id rather that, than give him an orbital, and he busts through some binding.

Takes me between 30-45 minutes with an orbital. I work as cleanly as i can to avoid too much sanding. I use the most expensive sanding discs i can find.

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That's good to hear.

I've done the same thing. Told him the orbital isn't used in finish sanding stage and that its hand sanding only. I do use the orbital for most of it when I'm doing it myself, but for the same reason don't want the guy to damage anything.

I'm just seeing $20hr moving by and adding up every guitar, but I guess that's business.

It's been freaking awesome having someone else sand, then hand me the guitar whilst I grain fill it and he starts the next one. I could really get used to this.

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I actually set a timer for sanding. When i get over 120 grit, i do 45 minutes with each grit up to 320.

Do you mean 45 minutes with each grit, or a 45 minute span with all the grits up to 320? 45 minutes with each grit is insane...

I know its xcompletely overkill. My problem is that im pretty impatient. By setting a timer, i can justturn music on, grab a beer and relax. Its not too much more time, 45 on 180, 45 on 220 and 45 on 320. Its just a method I use to get things done properly. Best way? No sir. But it works for me!

Demon, what are this guys qualifications with wood working? May be an investment on your end to train him to use the orbital properly? Just shooting ideas out here.

Edited by bob123
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Demon, what are this guys qualifications with wood working? May be an investment on your end to train him to use the orbital properly? Just shooting ideas out here.

All in good time. Have to walk before you can run.

His main woodworking background is many years as an African drum maker. He does however have a background of having played guitar for around 30yrs and is familiar with setup and electronics, but no construction experience. He grew up with a hotrodding father so has car paint prep experience which is very similar to wood prep.

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  • 3 years later...

Resurrecting an old thread. I too have found myself spending much more time on sanding than I'd like. I'm looking at something like 45 mins for 120, 30 for 220, and back to 45 for 320. Granted these were setnecks (some tight corners) and basses (larger) but I'd still like to go faster! Figured this might be a good place to do that?

1- @demonx did your hire ever get faster, and how?

2- If the 'how' involved teaching him, would you share your guidance?

3- You and @rhoads56 mentioned relying heavily on RO sanders. Are you using them for just the flats? Or also bevels? Gut cuts? Sides?!

3a- What size disc for the various surfaces you use them in? 6"? 5"? 3"?

3b- Do you employ varying firmnesses of pads on your RO sanders for different surfaces or grits?

4- For those of you not using RO sanders do you have any tips, tricks, techniques of note (what you think is common may be news to others!) for sanding tops, sides, body round overs, necks, tight corners?

 

Here's my current take:

Tops/back/arm bevel: RO 120 + 220 and then cork-back sanding pad 320

Sides: Cork-backed sanding pad 120-320, flat for convex surfaces, round for concave

Rounded edges: Small sandpaper sheet  folded over twice to give it some firmness. 120-320

Gut cut, headstock transition, sculpted heels: same cork-backed round sanding block.

Tight areas: 3/8" dowel or a popcicle stick wrapped in sandpaper.

Alright boys, let's talk efficiencies!

Chris

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I use random orbit sanders heavily on a more or less daily basis; specifically Mirka DEROS 5650CVs in conjunction with Festool MIDI and MINI CTL extractors. In my opinion (which is me just being overly humble, because this is fact) having more than adequate extraction for removing dust makes the job far better, and quicker.

I use Abranet for flat surfaces and sometimes Abralon for anything that needs softening. This tends to be furniture rather than guitars, as I'm more controlled and less wanting to produce softer tactile forms with guitars. I prefer not to use a pad saver, however I configured the DEROS for use with one (extra bolt on the eccentric weight) so there you go. I use it right up to 180 grit, and as long as extraction is good and tool use is fine, there are no curlicues. 240 grit and 320 grit I tend to do by hand, as this is where I'll work any contours and edges. Always by hand. Beyond that, straight to Abralon pads 400-600-800-1200.

I use 5" almost exclusively, as we buy in boxes of Abranet at that size. 6" might be useful for my daily work, but they're too big for instruments.

I agree with your "current take", Chris. For rounded edges, I like to use something in addition to folding the paper to keep it flat in one plane, otherwise it has a tendency to start breaking over the edges. Credit cards work nicely, as does thin sheet plastic, card, etc.

Efficiency is maybe a totally different subject....I could bang on for hours about how I sand dozens of home furniture components methodically, such as how long a 120 grit Abralon pad will last for and how many passes it needs when new or worn.

Here's a neat trick that'll save your fingers; cut the fingers off a rubber washing up glove and pop that onto your forefinger when detail sanding. Your skin will thank you for it later. Also, moisturise and keep hydrated. Eat more fish, etc.

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11 hours ago, verhoevenc said:

No one else? I figured with how much people hate sanding that there'd be some real time saver nuggets out there.

Chris

I actually enjoy sanding. I love feeling and seeing the wood getting smoother and more highly polished....it's like bringing it to life. I do all finish sanding by hand; my methods would slow you down and probably cause you to twitch after a while.:D

SR

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  • 1 month later...
On 31/01/2017 at 2:26 AM, verhoevenc said:

Resurrecting an old thread. I too have found myself spending much more time on sanding than I'd like. I'm looking at something like 45 mins for 120, 30 for 220, and back to 45 for 320. Granted these were setnecks (some tight corners) and basses (larger) but I'd still like to go faster! Figured this might be a good place to do that?

1- @demonx did your hire ever get faster, and how?

2- If the 'how' involved teaching him, would you share your guidance?

3- You and @rhoads56 mentioned relying heavily on RO sanders. Are you using them for just the flats? Or also bevels? Gut cuts? Sides?!

3a- What size disc for the various surfaces you use them in? 6"? 5"? 3"?

3b- Do you employ varying firmnesses of pads on your RO sanders for different surfaces or grits?

4- For those of you not using RO sanders do you have any tips, tricks, techniques of note (what you think is common may be news to others!) for sanding tops, sides, body round overs, necks, tight corners?

 

Here's my current take:

Tops/back/arm bevel: RO 120 + 220 and then cork-back sanding pad 320

Sides: Cork-backed sanding pad 120-320, flat for convex surfaces, round for concave

Rounded edges: Small sandpaper sheet  folded over twice to give it some firmness. 120-320

Gut cut, headstock transition, sculpted heels: same cork-backed round sanding block.

Tight areas: 3/8" dowel or a popcicle stick wrapped in sandpaper.

Alright boys, let's talk efficiencies!

Chris

@verhoevenc

Sorry, I don't log in as much as I used to, so I haven't seen this till now.

Ok... I do my own sanding these days, I got rid of the lackies a couple years ago and now it's just me. It's just so much easier to do everything myself and not have to worry about it being stuffed up by other people. Spending my time training other people or looking over my shoulder watching other people. So, I am now the sanding guy again.

 

Unfortunately as you have found out, it takes time. Simple as that. You will also find some timbers sand so much faster than others. For example you might sand two mahogany guitars in the time you sand one Walnut guitar. Being careful in your carving stages and not leaving mega deep marks means less sanding them out. Sometimes a few seconds with a bastard file in the hard to sand spots can save several minutes of hand sanding.

 

I use a electric random orbital, I didn't like the feel of air sanders when I experimented, for a lot of the deep sanding, 80 grit, 120 grit, 320 grit. Some guitars I'll go down to 600 grit. I hand sand any hard to get spots using the same grits and that would include the inner horns or bevels etc you asked about. I don't use pads or any of the mesh things or any of that crap. Just good quality discs on a cheap quality random. I've got cheap through to overpriced random orbitals and for some reason I prefer the cheapest ones they have. I end out buying a new one every 6-12 months, but it just has a better feel than the more expensive makita's etc.

 

If I'm doing block sanding, I use a small cork block. I have a whole series of automotive sanding blocks and I don't use any of them on guitars. Just the old fashioned cork blocks from the hardware shop and I have several scattered around the workshop.

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Simple is often what produces the best results for a number of reasons. Most importantly, simple is slow and hence more manageable. It doesn't do much for productivity though.

Agreed about air sanders, but not so much about cheap. I'm doing a proper video review of the Mirka DEROS, which I just rely on now. Pricy, but replaces every other sander except for your hands. Didn't like the Festool Rotex. A bit too Fisher-Price, but maybe not as big plastic kid's toy as the Kapex....which is a great mitre saw once you get over the big clunky plasticfest.

Am I right in thinking that your years of experience in paint before guitars has held you onto simple paper discs? I like picking between Mirka Gold and Abranet mesh depending on the job....the mesh produces virtually zero dust which is the biggest advantage in my book. Gold is thin and flat with no room to give or round edges over, so yeah. You pick your battles.

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Thanks for chiming in @demonx, late to the party is still making the party.

I've been playing around with this a bit myself; both on scraps and on guitars. Flat surfaces that are wide and expansive are easy (read tops/backs) so I'll just skip those. Where my concerns always are is sides (read narrow surface you still want flat), especially concave sections, end grain, and complex surfaces like fretboards and necks.

I've found out two things recently about end grain concave side sections like the butt of a guitar. My god a random orbital makes fast work of those areas! But for the love of god don't use one if you have binding as you're asking for those sections to be visually thinner than places where you didn't use an RO (see below about concave sections), especially plastic, and don't use one after you've done your roundovers... do those after the side geometry has been sanded up through 120. Which leads me to my grip still: End grain side sections where you do have binding are still a pain in the butt. I've never used lower than 120P on almost anything... but in order to level binding after install you sort of have to start there no matter. Which leaves a TON of work still IMO with 220 (I have no idea how you go 120 to 320). Getting out the 120 scrapes that run parallel to the side takes me forever in end grain. For all this I'm using a cork-backed plywood block for those that care. One thing I've also noticed myself wishing is that I owned an RO with a diameter close to the side height... like 3" instead of the standard 5". I feel like it'd balance better and have less risk of tilting over and screwing something up.

I also learned long ago not to use electric sanders like ROs on concave surfaces... you're just asking for unevenness, faceting, etc. If you want an unsmooth concave side section go at it with an RO (even with just 220 or 320 IMO). So this leaves ALL concave surface work to cork-backed sanding blocks. This is especially frustrating in sections around the neck pocket as they are both concave and end grain (where I'd prefer to be using an RO). So those places take forever.

Necks I've never found a good way to use an RO... Maybe that's just me.

Finally, 320 grit! This is a fast one and I've come to agree that your hands, even with the thinner 3M gold stuff, are fine. Once you've gotten up to that grit, and if you're correctly sanded the other grits, you're not doing enough sanding to risk making things uneven or any of that stuff. I've found this knowledge especially helpful when it comes to sanding fretboards! Even diligently going up through the grits diligently I was finding I'd be left with scraps parallel to the string path because there's NO random variation in the path of a radius block! You're keeping that thing centered as can be to not screw up your radius and so it does the exact same path every time. If you are level at 220, I'm safe to go by hand from 320 up. I just said "screw it" one day and tried it and found the frets were just as level with much less frustration.

I had a similar issue with end grain sides as fretboards as the motion had very little randomness to it as well... hand sanding the sides at 320 also helped me here.

Lastly, I've found that naphtha is my best friend. There are some woods that will still be visibly "line-y" even at 320 (like this one Honduran mahogany body I did). Throwing some naphtha on it made it very clear, very fast, that none of that would show up with finish on the instrument. The minute there was any solvent, and then later finish, you couldn't see any of what you were seeing dry. Naphtha is like scrap highlighter (just like finish is... but I'd prefer not find scraps at that stage especially seeing as I outsource my finish work now haha).

As dull as it may be... I'd pay money to watch a professional sand a guitar (even if that video was hours long) if they just talked through what they thought and saw as they went.

Chris

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