2019 Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 1: Cork Sanding Block


Editor’s note: I usually start this gift guide in November, but November got away from me. Apologies. I started this guide after my kids began asking me what I wanted for Christmas. Some of the suggestions I gave them ($3 Bessey mini clamps, blue tape etc.) were so useful and appreciated I thought that others might agree. 

I’ve always had a cork sanding block. It’s such a crucial part of my tool kit that sometimes I forget about it.

Cork blocks are useful as a backing material when hand sanding. If you hold the paper with your fingers only, the wood is unlikely to feel flat after you sand it. If, on the other hand, you use a rigid plastic or hardwood block to back up your sandpaper, you will have to work long and hard to get the surface feeling flat.

Cork is the perfect middle ground. It is rigid enough that the wood feels flat. Yet it has enough give that you can follow the hills and valleys of a large surface and get the job done quickly.

Where should you buy cork sanding blocks? Good question.

My old boss made me one from a piece of 3/4” plywood where one surface was covered with adhesive cork – the kind you line kitchen drawers with. It works OK. The better tool is a piece of solid cork. The block I use measures 1” thick, 2-1/2” wide and 7” long. You can wrap a 6” sanding disk around it (we don’t bother with sheets of sandpaper here because we don’t use much of it).

Finding cork blocks for sale on the internet is all about paying insane amounts of money for shipping. Your best bet is to buy a block from a local woodworking store, where you’ll pay about $6 to $10. You are probably paying too much, but the blocks don’t wear out or go bad.

Another option is to buy a cork “yoga block.” These typically measure 4” x 6” x 9” and you can get one for less than $20. Then you can cut them down to whatever size you like (using woodworking tools). And you can make some for your friends, too.

— Christopher Schwarz

Disclaimer: We buy all of our tools. We don’t accept advertising or sponsorships. We are not part of any affiliate program. We don’t make any money if you buy these items. We just like these tools.

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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17 Responses to 2019 Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 1: Cork Sanding Block

  1. Michael O’Brien says:

    FYI: the cork blocks in the Amazon link in your email have a foam core, cork on surface only. So would not be good for sawing up in smaller all cork blocks. Search for “solid” cork blocks, about the same price.

  2. Steve Jones says:

    The link is to an EVA foam block. Search Amazon for “cork yoga block” and you’ll find lots of choices. The smaller sizes (bricks) could easily be chopped into several right-sized sanding blocks.

  3. Bruce says:

    I use balsa cut into the sizes that fit cut sheets or strips of sandpaper finer than 80 grit. Old fashion thumb tacks keep the paper adhered to the blocks. Felt pens mark the grit at the ends of the block.

  4. Robert says:

    I bought a small sheet of cork years ago and made my own blocks. I still have plenty left over. Also can be used for push blocks for the table saw and jointer. It never wears out.

  5. Richard says:

    Try Tools for Working Wood. Nice size too!

  6. Patrick says:

    WooHoo! It’s back! I was wondering if it would show up.
    Also off topic but since I don’t have Instagram (or any other social media account) I want to congtatulate you and Lucy on your 30 year journey together. That’s fantastic!

  7. wb8nbs says:

    You can buy sheets of cork gasket material in Auto stores, glue to a block of MDF. I’ve been sanding with one for years.

  8. Pascal Teste says:

    You can get cork blocks from stores that sell cross-country skiing equipment. They are used to spread the wax on the ski base. Bonus, they are shaped to be held firmly in your hand and they are cheap.

  9. flyandgrain says:

    REI sells solid cork blocks if you live in a city with a high Hipster population, as I do.

  10. Rachael Boyd says:

    I was worried you had forgotten about Christmas this year.

  11. Neal says:

    Misdirected link by Amazon or no, I am enormously grateful as I have been every year for these ideas. I’m also relieved since I worried Chris’ schedule would make it harder to get to these. Thanks Chis

  12. Josh says:

    Those cork yoga blocks are often bundled in packs of two, also for about $20. You can buy a gift for your favorite yoga practitioner and your favorite woodworker (or yourself) at the same time.

  13. Steve P says:

    Ok, inspired by this I went to my local hardware/hardwood store and they were out of stock. Went to the Rockler down the street from there and they had one for $6.99, so i bought myself one for an early stocking stuffer.

  14. Matt Petersen says:

    FWIW! I use cork flooring offcuts for my sanding blocks, What is particularly nice about them is the cork on the top side is harder/denser and the bottom cork is softer/more resilient giving you options depending on what you’re sanding. I cut the flooring into 3″x4″ blocks and apply PSA sandpaper on both sides, making sever in varying grits.

  15. alsatiannd says:

    Sage Restoration has cork blocks, $5.00. That’s the same website you referred to for the Allback Linseed Oil Wax Finish which is also on your 2019 Anarchists Gift Guide.

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