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Sanding Ziricote?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jisch, Jan 3, 2017.

  1. Somewhat pointed question, but in working with this fingerboard I have successfully clogged up paper on both a sanding planer and an oscillating drum sander, to the point where we had to just throw it away after I was done (or almost done). I need to radius this fingerboard and if things go the way they did with those two operations, I will have to change sandpaper on the radius block 14 times before it's done.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for how to prevent paper clogging with this wood? I was considering spraying the paper with silicone or something to make is slick, thinking that the coating would wear off the top of the grit and keep the sawdust from sticking to the valleys.
  2. fenderfour


    Sep 3, 2015
    Seattle, WA
    An abrasive cleaning stick would probably help: Abrasive Cleaner Stick 8" - Rockler Woodworking Tools
  3. Thanks, I tried that and it doesn't unstick the ziricote dust - I even tried sanding a hard wood (maple) after the ziricote and that wouldn't knock the dust off either - it turns to a hard coating. I can't even get it to come off with a screwdriver (not that I want to de-stick all that area with a screwdriver, I was just testing to see what I was up against).
  4. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I radius my fretboards first by roughing with a ball mill, and then detail the exact radius by sanding on a belt sander while held in a swing jig.

    I don't recall Ziricote causing any significant paper clogging issues even with 150 grit. I've sanded many fretboards since my last Ziricote fretboard using the same belt.

    Maybe you can use lighter passes and clean with a blast of compressed air between strokes
    jchrisk1 and Jisch like this.
  5. honza992


    Jan 25, 2006
    Nottingham, UK
    With the oscillating drum sander I find I have to use the abrasive stick that fenderfour mentions every few passes for wood like ziricote. It's pretty boring but otherwise it gets clogged very quickly.

    Jisch it may be that the extraction we are using on the drum sander is less effective than Rodent's is on his belt sander. My guess is the better the extraction, the less dust gets stuck to the sandpaper and the less buildup there is. I find if I don't use the abrasive stick every few passes even for wood like rosewood, the drum sander paper becomes unusable very very quickly.

    When I'm using the abrasive stick I hold it in one hand and my shop vac is in the other sucking up the bits of rubber as they come off the drum. It's not a perfect solution to small bits of rubber being sprayed everywhere, but it does help. I then use the brush attachment on the vac to brush the drum to get the remaining bits up. I usually find there are a few small places where the buildup is still stuck to the drum so I go at these with an old screwdriver.

    For an oily wood like ziricote I'd probably be using the brush attachment on my shop vac to clean the drum sander every 2-3 passes, and the abrasive stick every 4-5 passes, maximum.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
  6. honza992


    Jan 25, 2006
    Nottingham, UK
    Sorry, when you said oscillating drum sander I had in my mind a drum sander like the Jet 16/32. You're talking about what I call a spindle sander. The principle though is the same. I think you're waiting too long to clean the paper, and your extraction is doing a poor job.
  7. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
    What grit are you using and how much are you trying to take off? Maybe you need to use a coarser grit? But yeah, all those heavy exotic woods can be variable in how oily they are and how bad they clog paper. I have better luck feeding faster and making lighter passes when that happens.
  8. Honestly not sure on the grit (I'm not at the shop right now), but after reading through the comments, I think the problem is I am letting the abrasives get too hot. The combination of oily dust and heat is what is causing my problem. Slower feeds and shallower cuts are probably a good idea. It will probably be less of a problem using the radius block since I can go slower. Thanks for all the comments, I'll reply back once I get the radiusing done.
  9. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
    Faster feeds and shallower passes. Slower allows too much time for the wood to heat up.
    Rodent likes this.
  10. Makes total sense - thanks.
  11. Dean N

    Dean N

    Jul 4, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Maybe lubricate the paper with mineral spirits? Seemed to help me a little bit with blackwood. Also, a stiff brush (like brass) to scrape off the cloggy bits might help. But yeah, stock up on sandpaper! :woot:
  12. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    Yes, sanding ziricote is a pain. It clogs sandpaper rapidly. It does make for a wonderful neck. Silky smooth when finished
  13. rwkeating


    Oct 1, 2014
    Is a cabinet scrapper an option when working on raidusing a fingerboard? I am just learning about those scrapers and often read that they are an option to sandpaper, but I have no idea of their limitations. Would someone with experience please comment ... and edumacate us :) ?
  14. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar
    Not the best tool for anything the needs to be precisely flat or straight like a fingerboard. If you were going to use an edge tool a medium size hand plane like a #5 would be good. Long enough to make the fingerboard true. Doing it by hand I would still do the final shaping with a sanding beam.
    Will_White and rwkeating like this.
  15. cazclocker

    cazclocker My social skills are rapidly dwindling.

    Oct 24, 2014
    Newton, Kansas
    Try pre-loading the sandpaper with chalk. The kind you write on a blackboard with. Before sanding your ziricote, just go over your sandpaper with lots of chalk, and then sand away. Because the valleys are already full, the wood dust will just fall off your neck or fingerboard. I use this trick all the time on my files whether I'm filing wood or metal. Works with sandpaper too. Good luck.
    fenderfour likes this.
  16. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    All good suggestions already for sure and I also agree with 100%. I have the same experience with cocobolo and other oily woods like ziricote too. Only thing I would add to try is use good quality paper I can’t stress how much of difference good sandpaper makes. I have been using the best 3M and Norton and Norton Gold sticky rolls for my aluminum sanding beams.

    So with the last few fretboards I have radiused I have noticed a few things that make the job more accurate and keeps the paper open. First thing I was having difficulty keeping the fretboard perfectly level and even from one end to the other because I was going back and forth side to side which makes the middle get more sanding because it is always covered by the beam and the ends not as much. It may seem silly but I go from one end to the other in a complete pass and start again this way the whole board sees the same length and amount of sanding with each pass. Then besides getting clogged I also had little tiny globs and they can make deep scratches and cause more work and sanding. So with the oily stuff after every 2-3 passes I vacuum the fingerboard of dust and my beam of dust. I also use another piece of sand paper to rub on the sandpaper on my beam it breaks up the little blobs and unclogs the paper almost to new every time but you have to do it from the beginning. Sounds nuts and like a ton of extra work but for me it’s not it makes it easy, accurate, and my paper lasts way longer. The way I get this into a rhythm is I do it with my building partner. He sands and I vacuum and I have found that I get it done quicker and better now with less corrective work to do and we do a few at a time.

    I have also heard of guys spraying paper with a silicone spray and that can help. I like the chalk idea I never heard of that and if you don’t want silicone on anything that might be an awesome way to go. I am going to try it like tomorrow!

    Another thing my partner Eli makes fun of me for keeping tons of little pieces of sand paper and trying to make it last and last. He and I toured the PRS factory in Maryland this past summer and I watched the guys on the line in the neck and body department and they used paper like you would not believe. I stood for about 5 minutes during our tour and this one guy was doing the bodies after they came out of the Fedal CNC machines and he was switching discs of paper less than every minute I am not kidding you. They had bins of used sand paper and discs everywhere. I felt like a cheapo big time I think I try and use paper way too long it loses its cut so fast and when it comes down to it the cost isn’t that bad and I have started to try and get used to tossing paper pretty quickly now and the work it goes way faster now. But throwing away discs and sheets after only 5 minutes or so hurts me deep inside still…ha!
    BassHappy and smithcreek like this.
  17. I had a large pile of tiny pieces of sanding paper - I don't throw it away until I can write on it with a pen :-D It is always amazing when I'm sanding with an old piece of 220 and I finally give up and get a new piece, whoa warp speed sanding. I can see my dad has the same problem, most of the low grit sandpaper he uses is the ends of the paper from the sanding planer - that stuff is tough and lasts forever if you're using it by hand.

    The problems I've had with the ziricote so far are on machines, not by hand - they are all loaded with quality paper, but as @smithcreek pointed out, the speed and depth of cut meant they were heating up. That heat caused the sawdust to solidify and polish up - stuff is hard!
    Means2nEnd likes this.
  18. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    In my experience with Ziricote, it will clog your drum sander much worse than it will the paper used on a radius block. The drum sander produces much more heat than the radius block does which I think is the problem.

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