Handyman, My life

Sanding rough cedar

I’ve been fighting a cold, which makes me feel grumpy and unmotivated. Last night after work I made some hot lemonade and decided to tackle something fun: sanding the cedar beams from the fireplace.

For some strange reason, Alicia didn’t want me to sand them in the house, so the first order of business was to lug them out to the shop. I moved all but the huge top beam. I’ll need help with that one. I leaned them against a shop cabinet that I still haven’t set up (after ten months of living here).


I bought this cheap belt sander on clearance at Target ten years ago. It’s their store brand, and has never been very good, but it got me through several important projects back in Dallas.


The main problem is all my belts are also ten years old. They snap as soon as you try to use them.


I tried the handyman’s secret weapon, but it didn’t help. It lasted about two times around the pulleys and then came apart. I went through four belts without getting any sanding done.


So I went searching through my boxes and bins, and found my plane. I bought it in Costa Rica in 1992. Tramontina is a good Brazilian brand.


The only problem is, I hadn’t used it in years. The blade had developed a little rust. I decided to try it anyway.


It worked all right, at least to begin with. Did you know that cedar’s natural color is white?


You can really see the sawmill blade’s tracks as you knock off the top of the roughness.


The plane eventually ran into some wood it couldn’t handle and got dull. While I was looking for a whetstone, I found my dad’s belt sander, which I inherited when he died. This is the real deal! Better brand name, wider belt. Most importantly, newer belt! (Although it’s probably at least five years old.)


It turned out to be very effective on that rough wood the plane couldn’t handle. Here you can see the huge difference between rough stained cedar and freshly sanded cedar.


I sharpened the plane blade with a discarded sander belt. Between the plane and Dad’s sander, I got through one upright and the mantelpiece before Alicia got home. I had a wonderful time and didn’t think about my cold symptoms at all. (Maybe sawdust is good for the sinuses.)

Signs of a happy carpenter:  sawdust-covered clothes and a cold beer.



19 thoughts on “Sanding rough cedar

  1. We have so much in common: you-uns just *have* to visit here so folks can ask if we’re twins. I just recently did the same job for the local kiosk-owner. Used a 5″ rotary disc, carefully, and called the few remaining lines “beauty marks”.
    hey, the picture with the shorts, the sawdust, and of course the beer, that’s me, 24/7

    • I thought you had sworn off beer a couple of years back. And didn’t you used to have an X in your screen name?

      I have one of those table sanders with a huge belt and a rotary disk, but it would be awkward to have to maneuver these beams along the disk, and the belt doesn’t work for anything longer than two feet. So I’ll keep going with the plane and the belt sander.

      It’s amazingly satisfying to use the plane! Cool to have a hand tool that’s as efficient as a power tool. I once tried an electric hand plane, but it felt like it would be hard to control.

      • yes, the perfect plan is to have a choice of tools, since there will be something problematic with most of them.
        By the way, this post, up in the ‘Reader’ still says “0 comments” Another WP bug, like having to re-scroll all the way up to the *top* of a read post to click to see the comments, then retrace your way back to the bottom and remember to talk to the correct ‘reply’ box of the two there. Don’t programmers think, ever, about stuff like this? I’d be embarrassed to take the money.

  2. Sorry you don’t feel good, but glad you had fun fun FUN!!! 🙂
    Ah! Duct tape!!! 🙂
    I didn’t know cedar’s natural color is white! Wow! 🙂
    At least you didn’t have to make 5 trips to Home Depot to get the job done! 😉
    Women like when their carpenter is happy! 🙂
    I got the sinus crud…I should sniff some sawdust!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  3. Whatever you’re doing in the gym is working. From the style of the shirt, I’d guess you are fitting in your old college clothes again.

    I knew that at least some cedar is white due to shopping for unfinished cedar playsets a few years back. Great work. I’m sure it will look fantastic.

    • I got the shirt for giving blood a few years ago. They had a retro theme for their campaign at the time. I’m only 60 lbs away from my college weight, though! Should get there with a few more weeks in the gym.

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