Friday, January 1, 2021

Sanding Tools

Of the many tools we have on the workbench, sanding tools get used on almost every model project whether it be a freight car,  structure or maybe a resin vehicle.  Due to the variety of sanding tools available, I will share the ones I have and use and  I asked my good friend George Toman to share sanding tools he uses.

I will begin with the sanding tool I use the most.  It is the simple nail file or sanding stick with course grit on one side and a fine grit on the other.  I like the  nail file because it comes in various sizes, various grits and types as the cushioned type.  I can use it as is or cut it half or even smaller strips to get into tight places.

Nail files in front tray.
(Click on this or any image to enlarge)

Cushioned nail files.

Large nail files of various grits.

George like many of us used sanding sticks often called nail files found in stores in the cosmetic section until finding and trying out sanding sticks marketed by Stevens International.  He located these in a store that caters to Military Modelers. They come in various grits of 100,180, 220, 320, 400, 600 and 800 grit. George tells us, “I found the quality of these to be just superb. I am still using a 320 grit one that is now about 3 years old. It is getting worn out and is used to smooth brass photo etched parts cut from the frets that hold them. You can see this old one on the left hand side of the picture below showing the various grits available. You can see that these also have a slight taper that helps getting into tight spots. I also will cut these into custom widths and shapes to help reach difficult areas. A sharp pair of scissors or single edge razor blade (SERB) can cut these.  I find I use 240 and 320 grits the most frequent. They do seem to last longer than other brands I have tried.”  George purchases Stevens International sanding sticks from Hobbylinc as he can buy them at a discount and in packages seen in the photos.

Sanding stick made by Stevens International.
George Toman photo.


I have a few of the above sanding sticks.  A similar sanding tool I use are Micro-Mesh Dual Angle standing sticks which can also be purchased from Stevens International.

Dual Angle sanding sticks.

George also uses a neat variant of these called Swizzle Stick Sanders.  They come in a assorted  pack of 15.  They are about .1 inch wide and come in 100, 180, 240, 320 and 400 grit. These really get into tight spots and between panel lines on boxcars. George put a ruler in the photo for a reference or size.

Swizzle Stick Sanders.
George Toman photo.

I have a similar sanding product; however, round rather than flat on each side named Plastic Sanding Needles made by Alpha Abrasives.  The tips of the sanding needle can get into the smallest area.

Plastic Sanding Needles.

George also uses some machined aluminum sanding sticks that are marketed by UUM-USA that come in 5 different widths. George says, “I either use sandpaper with sticky tape on it or use double sided tape to secure the paper. I have also discovered that Canopy Glue can be used to attach the sand paper to a stick. You can also cut a piece and just wrap it around to hold, but I prefer to attach for a nice flat surface.”

Aluminum sanding sticks.
George Toman photo.

Aluminum sanding sticks.
George Toman photo.

I have a set of plastic sanding sticks that come in different colors to allow me to have a color for each grit available.  The sanding sticks use a sanding belt that is easily moved on the stick with one’s thumb to allow the user to have a new sanding area as needed.  The belt once used up is simple to change due to a built in spring in the sanding stick.

Plastic sanding sticks with belts.

George says, “An old tool on my bench is a sanding bar made of Tungsten Carbide and comes in a few variety of lengths and shapes. The two you see in the photo below are fine and medium grit and are no longer available but there is a new but thinner version of it that can be secured to a flat surface or a special aluminum block made to secure it. I find mine useful for things like sanding the backs of resin parts."

Bench sanding bar.
George Toman photo.

Rather than a sanding bar,  I have the sharpening DuoSharp bench stone with Diamond Machine Technology (DMT).  It is a 8-in. DuoSharp Bench Stone Fine/Coarse Sharpener With Base (WM8FC-WB). I too find mine useful for things like sanding the backs of resin parts.

DuoSharp Bench Stone Sharpener with base.

DuoSharp Bench Stone Sharpener with base.

Another tool I have is The True Sander made by Northwest Short Line.  A great tool for keeping items square or equal length when sanding them.  One example is getting resin car sides in  a flat kit the same length prior to assembly.

True Sander 

George added a fairly recent and clever tool called a Tight Spot Sander sold by National Scale Car to his sanding tool collection.  Ryan Mendel, owner, came up with this neat idea.  The Tight Spot Sanders are simple acrylic plastic shapes with a rounded out hollow for your finger to hold as you sand.   A package containing three sizes  of the Tight Spot Sanders cost five dollars.

Tight Spot Sanders.
George Toman photo.

Not recently, rather nine years ago I thought it might be nice to have a power bench sander to help with the sanding of parts when building a freight car or structure.  The power sander had to have a slow RPM so as not to burn/melt plastic or resin.  I found no such sanding tool on the commercial market to fit the need.  While at the local junk shop, the Axe Man, with a friend we found a two-step motor with a five inch aluminum disk attached that would work to build a power sander.  After bringing it home and building  an enclosure for it my power “slow sander” became a reality.  I use it to sand the backs of resin parts as sides and ends on cars.  I built a 45 degree accessory to sand  a 45 degree angle on plastic structure parts like walls for assembly.  Additional accessories include a miter gauge and right triangle. 

The right triangle is held against the miter gauge to keep small parts such as doors square.

Slow Sander

Sanding accessories: 45 degree one on top,
miter gauge and right triangle.

Slow Sander motor enclosure removed.

George says, “Last in my toolbox is a quality package of sanding paper of various grits that I cut to size as needed and attached to my desired sanding tool. This package is from Alpha Abrasives. This package has grits up to 1200. These are good for wet sanding as well.”

Sanding  paper.
George Toman photo.

As George, I keep packages of sanding paper of various grits type and sizes.  I use cut  strips or part of a sheets folded that I hold in my hand for sanding.   I attach sheets or cut strips to a board or plate glass to have a flat surface larger than the DuoSharp. 

Various sanding paper.

Various sanding paper.

I will cut sandpaper sheets into strips to attach to wood sanding blocks I keep in  a drawer at the workbench.

Wood sanding blocks with cut sandpaper strips.

In the tool drawer is another plastic hand block type sanding tool with dual angled ends.  As you see in the photo below this sanding block uses purchased belts available in various grits.

Plastic sanding blocks with sanding belts.

In addition to sanding sticks, I also keep  packages of the Micro-Mesh polishing  Stix on hand.  As sanding sticks the polishing sticks come in various grits.  I find them especially handy to repair flaws in a paint surface of freight cars.  Of course, they are also great to to obtain a fine surface on a putty or MEK Goop filled area.  Polishing pads are also available in the various grit sizes.

Various grits of Polishing Stix.

Various grits of polishing pads.

One final unusual sanding tool, Frog Tape.   When working with small parts and trying to sand them such as resin placard boards and other small parts that need the back sanded down,  George and I will sometimes use a method using masking tape to hold the part.

George says, “Lester called this a masking tape vise when I told him about this sanding tool.  I start with Frog Tape (green tape) and cut a piece to the needed size and tape this sticky side up to a small 3 x 3 steel block.  Next I place the resin part front side down on the Frog Tape to hold the part so you can sand the back. I sometimes use various sizes of styrene strips to help support the side of a part that is not flat to keep it from damage, such as when you are trying to clean up an L shaped piece. The supports prevent the part from breaking when you apply pressure sanding.  For some jobs, the tape method gets the job done quickly and accurately.”

 I still think this is a vise made using masking tape for holding the part while sanding.

Attach part to Frog Tape.
George Toman photo.

Sand back of part with sanding stick.
George Toman photo.

Sanded part ready for use.
George Toman photo.

I hope that some of the sanding products described above find their way into your sanding tool collection if not already there.   To find additional information on a product or make a purchase to add it to your sanding tool  collection links are as follows:

Sanding sticks in general.

 Stevens International sanding sticks from

Stevens International sanding sticks

Machined aluminum sanding sticks. UMM-USA.

Perma-Gritt. available from Micro Mark.

Tight Spot Sander from National Scale Car.

(note: you may have right click on link)

DMT Duo Sharp bench stone.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.  Please sign your comment with your name if you choose to leave one.  Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.

Lester Breuer



  1. Wow- I never knew that there were so many sanding devices availablle. I liked the "slow sander" that you created, Lester and from George the masking tape vise (by the way in the paragraph where you were first describing these, you used to word "vice" - it may be a vice but I think you meant "vise"? Great blog post and one which you should try to get into one of the magazines - there's plenty of tips for every modeler here.

    1. Thank You for your kind words Joe. And, correction made.