Dinky Sanding With Fine Control
Most of us will use an abrasive at some point in our lives and most will not give a second thought about where the abrasive came from or what brand it was. But we would notice if it was ineffective in use – and maybe even complain about it!
However, there is also a large group of professionals who depend on using abrasives every working day, and they generally do care - passionately - about the quality and cost of the abrasives they use, because they need speed, accuracy, consistency and efficiency in their abrasives to do a good job.
Master Abrasives, based in Daventry, Northamptonshire, has been supplying abrasives in the UK for nearly fifty years, and over that time has built a reputation for providing high quality products and professional service under the MASTER brand.
With four distinctive business units - MASTER Precision Abrasives, MASTER Surface Finishing, MASTER Tool Services and MASTER Grinding Machines, the company aims to cover the specialist needs in UK industries for abrasives, machinery and grinding. Working to ISO standard 9001, the company has set a benchmark for others in the UK to follow.
I was sent an intriguing little set to try out – a new product – the ZIPP Mini Air Sander. It comes in a self-contained custom case with all the discs and pads needed to prepare a panel for finishing and painting, for example. This is what you get in the case: -
- 3" Mini Sander (ZP386A) 1pc
- Medium Density Holder Pad 1pc
- 60 Grit MASTER Zirconium Quick Change Sanding Disc 10 pcs
- 80 Grit MASTER Zirconium Quick Change Sanding Disc 10 pcs
- 120 Grit MASTER Zirconium Quick Change Sanding Disc 10 pcs
- Coarse Surface Conditioning Quick Change Disc 1pc
- Medium Surface Conditioning Quick Change Disc 1pc
- Fine Surface Conditioning Quick Change Disc 1pc
It was of course the little ZIPP Mini Sander that really caught my eye – it is indeed mini – just big enough to fit into one hand. It feels heavy and robust – but air tools need to be constructed to withstand a bit of air pressure so that is to be expected. The ZIPP Mini sander has a good quality rubberised grip, a black trigger just big enough for one finger, and a speed control button on the back above the handle. Turn the button to the left for a slower speed and to the right for high speed. In high speed mode, you can hear the revs going by the hint of the air tool whine. Exhaust air is ejected downwards from the bottom of the handle, above the inlet adaptor, where it shouldn’t cause any problems with the dust caused by the sanding.
In operation, the ZIPP Mini sander has such good bearings that there is no vibration and very little noise apart from the air escaping. I also found that it was easy to control and move to reach patches where you needed to work. The choice of speeds also adds to the controllability, because at high speeds the amount of material that can be removed is considerable considering that the discs are only 75mm in diameter.
Attaching the various discs and surface conditioning disc is very easy. On the back of each disc is a metal nipple with a simple single thread on it. The nipple is fitted to the recess on the Mini sander rubber platen and turned clockwise to lock it into place. I was worried that the discs might not sit flat on the platen or might come loose. However, in use, I found that this system was perfectly secure as the action of the sander tends to tighten the disc onto the tool. Because the rubber platen is slightly flexible it is possible to shape it to curves and bumps on the workpiece, within reason, without the edges of the abrasive cutting in. Experience with the tool will improve your skills in this area!
I did try a sample of every grade of the abrasive discs as well as the three surface conditioning discs.
The abrasive used on the discs is Zirconium, which is a high quality, long lasting and efficient abrasive often used on metals. The discs themselves are cloth backed and slightly flexible, and the nipple appears to be glued on with a strong enough glue to resist the inevitable heat and pressure of sanding. For a really quick removal of rust, coatings, paint etc the 60 grit discs make short work of the job. There is quite a force on the tool so you need to be careful to position it correctly to ensure that you get a good job without the tool twisting. But with the small discs you can reach into smaller crevices and joints that might not be possible with a bigger machine.
I largely used the ZIPP Mini sander to help me clean up some light steel shelves and components before repainting them and putting them back into use. With my trusty small 8 BAR compressor (all air tools should run at 7 bar maximum, otherwise will shorten the life of the tool), I found that I had easily enough air pressure for continuous work, even at the higher speed.
As I have mentioned before, preparation of the tool for working is simple and quick, as is selecting the appropriate discs - I found that the 60 grit was just too rough on the paint removal job, so I stuck to the 80 and 120 grits. I did find myself leaving a few semi-circular score marks, but that is due to my lack of practice rather than the tool. Once the paint was cleaned, I applied the medium and fine surface conditioning discs and ended up with a surface that was nearly mirror-like. More than I needed for a simple paint job on top, but it was worth a try to see how perfect it could be.
I can see that this tool set would have many uses for several reasons. The kit of discs and air tool come in a small case so are easy to store and carry. The simple addition of a small compressor makes it ready to use, so trades working out of the back of vans doing small repainting jobs and repairs would find it useful – as long as they remembered to replenish the discs when they were worn!