It has been said that sanding is about 90 to 99 percent of prop making. I couldn’t agree more. If you want your prop to really match the finish and texture of the piece you’re replicating, you’ll end up spending some serious time with a hunk of sandpaper clutched in your claws. While there are plenty of mechanical means to get you most of the way there, you’ll eventually find yourself with that tiny piece of 220 grit folded over twice and wedged into some crevasse on your prop to get it just right.
That being said, it’s important to remember that not all sandpaper is created equal. In my experience, I’ve run into some really terrible stuff. Sandpaper that clogs or wears out easily is simply the worst! When it comes to sandpaper, pay for the good stuff. You will thank yourself down the road!
“OK Mr. Spartypants/Moneybags, what sandpaper do you use?”
I’ve tried many different brands, but right now I’m way into these rolls of sandpaper that are meant for large drum sanders. I get them in 100 grit and 220 grit off of Amazon. They are backed in a stiff cloth, so they don’t tear and keep a pretty nice hard edge, even when they aren’t folded over.
I also really like that I can just carve off a piece that’s the width I prefer. So, if I’m working on a small detail piece, I’ll just cut off a half inch chunk. This way I’m not wasting a whole sheet of sandpaper by only using the edges of a piece.
Like most other sandpaper, you can glue a hunk to a popsicle stick or dowel to make a nice little tool for getting nice, refined details. Think of this like a nail file on steroids.
If you’re like me, you have a couple of those handy rubber sanding blocks lying around. The sandpaper rolls work great for that! Though you do end up with a little bit left over. I hang on to these scraps for when I have a specific use for them.
I like to cut these scraps into thin strips that fit into my scroll saw! I’ve tried to do the same with paper that isn’t backed in cloth and it can’t handle the stress. Another win for spending the extra coin on the good stuff. If you’re looking for a mechanical way to sand some hard to reach parts of your props, this can come in super handy!
My sandpaper rolls live front and center in my workspace. I have a couple of labeled bins to hang on to the scraps of the most commonly used grits, steel wool, and those cool nail files I made. This way I’m never more than an arm’s length away from good, durable sandpaper!