Abranet is a fantastic revolutionary abrasive that sands quickly, and beautifully. It comes in all shapes and sizes and grades, and keeps the air almost clear of dust when hooked up to a vacuum extractor. But it isn’t perfect when used on a random orbital sander to sand down very dusty / powdery surfaces. This week Abranet evolved on our work site!
Abranet and CEROS sander have been reliable while working on standard residential properties, but all changed recently, when working on a large scale job with cheap and nasty powdery emulsioned walls and ceilings.
We were sanding really chalky painted walls with a CEROS orbital sander and 80 grade Abranet, connected to a triple filter industrial Numatic H-type vac. In theory, this set up is as good as it gets.
After sanding down 15 litres of fine paint dust in 3.5 hours, the idea of “best kit” was as as tattered as the air was filled with dust! Within an hour or so, sander man was wearing a mask, covered in dust, and the vacuum started cutting out every 45 minutes. The bag was filling really fast, and the primary filter was getting dusty, so the motor ran hot and the Numatic safety feature was kicking in and turning the motor off. Not exactly efficient sanding.
I went the usual route of cleaning the filter and changing the bag, but it still wasn’t the luxury work tool it should have been / has been thus far.
From discomfort and relative disaster, we quickly learnt a lot about abranet and vacuum extraction.
Abranet is too efficient for most vacuums
Having seen a £500 industrial Numatic vacuum brought to its knees by abranet, and seen the fine layer of dust covering the painter and the room… trouble-shooting from the top, what was wrong?
Would we need a more powerful vacuum, say a Festools?
Would we need to dump Mirka / Abranet and go for Festools / Festools abrasives?
Would we need to restrict our working time to nurse the vacuum along?
1 – After much discussion with Mirka, it is fair to say that Abranet is a sanding phenomena that has no equal in terms of efficiency and capacity to sand down surfaces and create dust!
2 – After discussing the realities of sanding with the industry-leading Festools extractors, we concluded :
– Festools extractors work tirelessly because they are specced in line with the capabilities of their paper abrasive. Festools abrasives are not as efficient as Abranet. So if we used Festools only kit on this job, there would be little dust in the air, the vac would go on and on, but progress would be slower than an Abranet-based system working properly. Also, you would get through a lot of Festool abrasive paper.
– What if my industrial vacuum was the weak link? If you use Abranet on a bomb-proof Festools extraction unit and hammer it for hours on end, what happens? We haven’t done it, but in theory, even the Festools will be working beyond its normal capacity and will likely crap out in our present work environment – unless you changed the way you work with a Festools, ie keep a very vigilant eye on levels of dust collection.
To check my theory that Abranet is almost too good at creating dust, I asked for input from anyone who had used abranet on a Random Orbital Sander with an industry leader Festools CTR 26 litre extraction machine. Master decorator, David “Aggie” Agnew stepped in.
Aggie has used Abranet with festools and observed a build up of dust underneath the abranet mesh around the holes in the Festools sanding head. It seems that lots of dust is dragged through the mesh directly above the extractor holes in the sander, as expected. But the mesh eventually clogs in those hole areas. Then there is nowhere for more dust to go, except back into the atmosphere. With the holes blocked, the vacuum also works harder than ever. Abranet in its current form in a heavy sanding situation, ain’t that much better than steady eddy paper abrasive.
Evolution of the species
So, flying in the face of all Mirka’s marketing to date ie that the “secret of Abranet” is its mesh construction, we followed Aggie’s tips, and punched holes in the Abranet to line up with the outer ring of holes in the Mirka random orbital sander. Even with our ham-fisted holes punched with a pair of scissors, it was a transformation extraordinaire.
Little to no dust escaping in to the air, the abrasive lasted longer and sanded quicker than ever before. Because the vacuum was working less hard to grab the dust, it went nearly 2 hours before we had to stop to go home. Result.
Conclusion about Abranet
Efficient – Abranet in its current form is so efficient at creating dust that it pushed the capacity of my very high spec vacuum extraction unit beyond the limit. If Mirka talk to drywall guys they might need to emphasise what happens over prolonged use, not just during a 10 minute demo.
Works with many hook & loop sanders– Abranet in its original out-the-box format will radically improve the usefulness of any compatible hook and loop sander – until the vacuum fails to keep up with the dust being created.
Modified Abranet If you add holes in Abranet to correspond with the dust holes in your sander, the performance of the sander will improve and the vacuum extractor will extract more, and work less hard!
I swapped standard paper abrasive on a Bosch detail sander for Abranet, and added holes coinciding with the Bosch’s extraction holes. There was a massive improvement in performance, (Abranet went literally 8 times longer between changes of paper).
Maybe these findings will see the light of day at Mirka, who I have found to be a very professional company that really looks out for its customers if things go wrong. Meanwhile, the walls on our site look like they have been replastered – testament to just how good Abranet is when it is working with you, not against you!
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