Make a Sanding Mandrel

by Fred McLeroy

Let's skip the trouble and expense of buying sanding mandrels for your rotary tool. It's easy to make your own. All you need is an adjustable chock on your rotary tool (about $10), clothe backed sandpaper, nails with the head cut off (or any other rod that will fit in your tool), and a hot glue gun.

sanding mandrel compoonents

Cut your clothe backed sandpaper into small rectangles. I've used 240 and 400 grit. Experiment with how much sandpaper you use, and how much paper you extend over the tip of the nail. One wrap is enough paper, several wraps work, too. Extending the paper beyond the nail tip gives you a flexible area that can be useful, but which will wear quicker.

Plan for the direction your rotary tool spins-- 1. hold the butt end of the nail (the end that goes into the chock) in your right hand, 2. hold the edge of the paper closest to you against the nail, and 3. roll the paper so that the edge of the paper furtherest from you ends up on the top of the roll. Do some practice rolls before applying the hot glue.


sanding mandrel

Apply some hot glue to the clothe side of the paper, so it touches the nail and the paper, and connects the paper to itself as you roll the paper up. Be sparing of the glue, you only want enough to hold the paper on, and too much is sloppy. Some hot glue guns are hotter than others, so take care not to burn yourself.

sanding mandrel

Roll it up like a cowboy rolls up his cigarette. Leave room for the nail to go into the adjustable chock on your rotary tool. Leave some paper extending beyond the nail. Experiment how much to extend the paper beyond the nail tip. It's nice to have some soft flexibility at the end, but if it flops around it will deteriorate quickly.

sandng mandrel

sanding mandrel

The left over glue, preferably not a lot, will dissipate with use. Use low speeds on your rotary tool. High rpm's are a no-no. Eye protection is a yes-yes. When the paper wears out, pull it off and reuse the nail. Make a bunch of them at once. You can also use wooden dowels, or even tooth picks, but they won't last very long. A very small nail, or a toothpick, and 400 grit sandpaper can make a mandrel for detailed sanding of those little sensitive places, like the edges of eyeballs.

sanding mandrel

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