Sandflex Hand Blocks
Cheap and effective for cleaning tools and metal surfaces
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 10-10-2011
I was first made aware of the Sandflex Hand Blocks by a friend at JET & Powermatic when I was doing a story on cleaning the cast iron tables on woodworking table saws and other equipment. Just days after that story went up on my site the email started from folks who had ordered the Sandflex Hand Blocks and were amazed at how easily and well they worked. While that was happening I was trying the Sandflex Hand Blocks on my metalworking equipment that needed a bit of spiffing up. Sure enough, the Sandflex Hand Blocks worked just as good on my metalworking tools and machines.
What They Are
The Sandflex Hand Blocks are essentially a block of rubber-like material that has abrasive mixed in throughout. As you wear the outer abrasives down new, sharp abrasives are exposed beneath them. This is not a block of foam rubber with a layer of grit on just the outside surface. I expect that the abrasives everywhere concept was much easier to conjure up than it was getting into manufacturing reliably. However they did it, I’m glad because the Sandflex Hand Blocks work great.
The Sandflex Hand Blocks are available in fine, medium and coarse grits but I have yet to come across a job that needed the coarse block. I probably use the fine grit most followed closely by the medium grit. I’ll often use the
medium for starting out if there is more than a little corrosion or staining of the metal to deal with. On cast iron that has a noticeable “grain” or grinding direction you simply rub the Sandflex Hand Blocks in that same direction and you can revive the finish without showing that you have been doing anything.
In the Shop
I bought a medium and fine Sandflex Hand Block and started looking for cast iron and such to freshen up. What continues to surprise me most is how quickly the Sandflex Hand Blocks clean up a metal surface whether it is iron or steel. The downside is that I am also frequently surprised by just how much crud/corrosion there is on my tools. But then I am happily surprised at how quickly I can make that all go away.
Most times I will start with the medium block to knock down the surface contamination. Soon afterwards I can switch to the fine Sandflex Hand Block and even out the surface. The result is a nice, smooth shine on the metal for which I paid a bunch of money.
In addition to looking good, many table surfaces are meant to have materials sliding across them. If the surface is getting corroded materials can drag as you try to slide them along and that can lead to compromised performance and safety issues. Whether you are working with wood or metal, having a smooth slick surface allows the material slide easily and predictably which in turn lets you work safer and more accurately.
If you have metal and it needs to be cleaned up from time to time the Sandflex Hand Blocks are for you. At just $4.50 each (all grits - 10-9-2011) you can equip yourself on the cheap while still maintaining the surfaces of your high-buck-for-us machines and equipment. With all of the money we spend on our machines and equipment, less than $10 to keep them looking nice and helping them work better is about as good of a bargain as we are going to find anytime soon.
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