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
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