I'm building a small shelf for organising my desk, using sections of 42mm*19mm hardwood. I've cut the pieces to appropriate length using a hand saw, allowing some tolerance for the kerf. Now I'd like to ensure the cut ends are square.

Using a sanding block with some garnet paper, and a try square for checking, I'm trying to shape the cut edges. However, I'm finding it difficult to get a good perpendicular line with the sanding; it seems that I'm rounding the end off too much, rather than sanding perfectly perpendicular to the piece.

Back in high school woodwork class, we'd do this with a disc sander mounted into a solid table, ensuring that the sanding is done in a flat plane. Unfortunately, having left high school some 13 years ago, I no longer have access to one of these.

So, does anyone have a good technique for sanding the edges square? Or should I give up on sanding and use some other method? Or bite the bullet and buy a small disc sander?

  • clamp your sanding block to a table so that it is at 90 degrees, then slide the shelf back and forth along the table.
    – mike
    Oct 31 '13 at 16:11

You don't say what saw you used to cut the wood, but if you use a tenon saw you should get a cleaner cut in the first place that requires less sanding. This is because the saw has finer teeth for a smoother cut and a stiffening spine that means you get a straighter cut.

Clamping a second piece of wood to use as a guide is another alternative.

Alternatively you could use a plane to remove the excess wood - but make sure that you clamp a piece of scrap wood to the end of the plank to avoid it splitting:

------> direction of plane
|         |   |
|    ^    |   | <- Scrap
|    |    |   |
|    |    |   |
  direction of grain
  • I used a tenon saw (15tpi) in a small miter box for the original cut. Would you suggest a finer saw for this? Feb 23 '11 at 13:57

Cutting the ends square really should be done in the cutting process, not the sanding stage. If you don't have access to a chop saw, (miter saw) then you could use or make a cheap manual miter box. The only sanding you should be doing on the cut ends is for smoothing or removing small burrs. A fixed sanding disk machine would work, but you don't have access to one. I use the sander to adjust for small angles or custom fits. Another technique you could use in the absence of the proper power tools would be to clamp a guide board to your work piece perfectly square and use it as a guide for you hand saw.

  • I used a miter box for the cut, it's pretty close to square, but not perfect. Perhaps I'm just being too pedantic? Feb 23 '11 at 13:54
  • Good advice about the cutting process rather than sanding, I'll work on that instead. Feb 23 '11 at 14:03

If you are keen on doing this with hand tools, then you might have better luck with a planer than sandpaper.

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  • Yup. A good plane and a shooting board should make quick work of these. Jan 15 '12 at 0:18

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