Final Sanding

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With the banjo neck already test fitted to the pot assembly, it is time to do the final sanding in preparation for the stain, sealer, wood filler and top coatings.  Sanding is time consuming and there is no way of getting out of hand sanding.  I used palm sanders made by Porter Cable and Rockwell Delta for the flat portion of the peghead and a little on the sides of the peghead and the balance was done totally by hand/elbow power.   The palm sanders have a flexible base and it is very easy to distort and round the edges of the peghead if one is not careful.  I started out with 100 grit aluminum oxide paper and worked my way up to 600 grit wet and dry paper made by 3M company but there are other brands that will work just as well and some probably much better; especially the finer grain open mesh type of paper.  The double cut peghead took more time to get rid of the sanding marks left by the small sanding drums since the finest grit I had was around 150 grit, if that fine.  I used a small section of an aluminum arrow shaft and applied double stick tape to it and wrapped my sanding paper around the shaft.  You can use whatever material you have such as a wooden dowel to accomplish the same thing.  Final sanding is monitmous  but a very necessary step to obtain a "piano" type finish associated with musical instruments.  I have seen many custom made instruments that were a long way from perfection in their construction but the craftsperson had a fantastic finish which over powered the construction short comings.  It is imperative that you sand with the grain and remove all tool and sanding grit marks working your way to the highest grit papers which is 600 grit.  Many go up into the thousands of grit with their final sanding which renders a sheen and high luster under the top coatings.  In the past, 320 grit worked fine on most everything except for the peghead and fingerboard that had inlays of which the higher grit papers allowed the mother of pearl and abalone to manifest their color and figure to higher luster and sheen.    

A vertical spindle drum sanding machine is about a must for sanding the peghead since you can keep the edges of the peghead parallel to one another without distortion which is very hard to do when sanding the peghead shape by hand. 

Care must be taken not to change the angles of the points of the peghead as it will be very noticeable because of their vertical and parallel orientation to one another and the eye will quickly lock in on any deviation and distortion from parallel.  After removing the sanding marks from the sides of the peghead and finishing up with 600 grit wet/dry paper, the "knife" edges were slightly rounded for eye appeal and to aid in the adhesion of the finish top coats of nitrocellulose musical instrument grade lacquer.

I finished each part by polishing with 0000 grade steel wool with the wood grain under a good light to ascertain that I had removed any visible scratch marks from the various grades of sanding papers. 

The resonator was sanded pretty well when l received it and did not take too long to get a smooth finish using the palm sanders and ended up using 600 grit wet/dry paper sanding by hand.  The sharp edges of the binding on both the top and bottom of the resonator were relieved and a slight radius sanded to them.  There were a few blemishes in the resonator where the white/black/white rings were installed in the back of the resonator and hopefully will not be noticeable once the filler is applied which should hide them.  Great care and attention must be taken not to sand through the thin outer veneer on the back of the resonator and the side wall since most manufacturers use a standard 1/28 inch veneer which is very thin indeed.  The prewar ones had at least .050 inch thick veneer on some of the curly maple and mahogany resonators and the wall outer ply was about twice as thick.  Again, I finished up with 0000 steel wool polishing with the grain.

I did the final sanding over the course of a couple weeks; sanding a few minutes when I had the chance.

I took very few pixs at this stage of construction but will add a pix or two of the palm sanders, etc.

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