Abrasive paper, which is also called sandpaper or glasspaper, is used for all manner of jobs. Here at Otter surfboards it is one of the first things and last things used when constructing our surfboards; initially to remove the rough edges and splinters left when the ribs are cut out of the plywood sheet from which they’re routed, and finally, stepping up through the grades, to achieve a silky smooth finish on the boards before they head off to the laminators. It’s great to think that something so ancient, cheap, and accessible plays such an important role in the crafting of so many items, our surfboards included.
You can get abrasive paper in such a wide range of grits, from the super rough stuff (used to remove loads of material when sanding things like areas of hardwood flooring) through to paper which feels smooth to the touch and is more akin to a polishing cloth. Wrapped around a cork sanding block to provide a flat surface, you’ll most likely be using an 80 grit to rough sand something and knock the bumps out or remove splintered edges. 120 grit will start to produce a finish that is smoother to the touch, removing scratches and starting to make the wood look a whole lot nicer, before you then move on to 180 grit to get somewhere close to the silky soft touch that you’re after. You can get grades in between and beyond, and we’ve got stacks of it on our shelves, but that’s your guide to the coarse/medium/fine that you might need to be getting started with. And to save yourself some time and annoyance, please use them in the correct order! Essentially, as the numbers on the back of the paper go up, the size of the scratches goes down.
Next time you wrap a bit of abrasive paper around a block of cork, pause for a moment to consider how the simple bit of rough paper in your hand is so good at what it does that it hasn’t really changed in the last seven hundred years. Impressive huh?!