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Tools for sanding filler

Listed under abranet, Blog, Equipment, preparation Posted Dec 19 2010

When dealing with cracks, you have to prepare the cracks, double fill, sand smooth then paint! Here are some tools for sanding filler.

Filling cracks

I rake out the joint with a knife to create a “V”.

I then force the filler in the crack, working across the crack left, then right. Run a layer of filler along the length of the crack, and leave to dry hard. When it has dried, overfill the crack, making sure the filler is slightly proud.

This double-fill technique comes from the days when you expected filler to sink at the drop of a hat and it may sound a very old-fashioned and inappropriate approach if you are a modern minded decorator, the reason being:

Since I were a lad, manufacturers have stiffened up the fillers and everywhere you see “Won’t sink” on the label, or “one fill wonder”. So if you pick your filler, (a list of fillers) you are supposed to be able to eliminate the second fill, save time and still achieve a perfect finish.

One swipe to fill small dings in plaster or blemishes in door frames is feasible, but general filling on walls… I am still dreaming-on with that one fill wonder. I think that by the time you have been ultra careful with a single fill, you get a better finish sticking with 2-stages, using a rapid belt-and-braces filling process.

For instance, Polycell Deep Hole (used in the above pictures) is one such filler that dries like bullets, will genuinely fill a hole 1″ deep – in one – and won’t shrink, but it still needs a double fill – I think – if you want a blemish free painted surface. And that second fill is so quick to apply, quick to dry and guarantees such a good result, it seems silly to skip on it.

Sanding filler

Back in the day, you expected to be covered head to toe in dust after sanding for hours with the sand paper that seemed to be made of sand. And on the slightest exposure to moisture, it fell apart after two swipes and stunk the place out as it disintegrated into pulp. Any tricks to reduce sanding were therefore most welcome.

The easiest way to smooth out filler quickly without creating dust, was and still is, wiping with a damp sponge before it dries hard.

There was a minor revolution when decorators discovered Aluminium Oxide abrasive, the stuff used by joiners for years beforehand! On the plus side, 60 grade certainly abrades fillers quickly. On the downside, to get a smooth finish you need to go down through the grades ie graduate from rough to smooth. This requires a lot of discipline and is time consuming – 2 elements that annoy! And if you take a close look at a lot of work, the scratches are often visible where decorators have skipped a grade. And dust? Plenty of it, guaranteed.

Silicone carbide paper came on rolls and improved the general quality of sanding dramatically. However, it too fills the air with dust, and works out expensive too, compared to what I use now. See below about Abranet which addresses all those negatives.

Sanding blocks used to be taped to extension poles, but evolved into a reliable pole sander, useful for ceilings and high walls. A couple of insights into pole sanders have been reviewed here from Jack Pauhk, but the sanding process still create loads of dust.

Nowadays, there are two killer pieces of kit that rip down filler in no time, create almost no dust, and leave a surface perfectly flat, scratch free and ready for painting. Both tools come from Mirka.

The CEROS on the left is a 5″ Random Orbital palm sander that uses the Abranet abrasive disc and connects direct to a vacuum dust extractor. (It has since been replaced by the * Mirka DEROS which is superior even to this brilliant sander.)

On the right is the 70 x 198mm sanding block that uses the same Abranet abrasive and also connects to a vacuum extractor. (This has a bigger brother, the Handy which works on the same principle as the starter kit sander. Also * available from MyPaintBrush.co.uk

This may sound bizarre, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed to find this out – but in certain circumstances, the manual sanding block is faster than the CEROS at sanding down filler, and is the most effective tool to smooth down previously emulsioned surfaces that, for sake of politeness, could have been painted better. 80 grade on the manual block used in a circular motion quickly brings everything down level and does not seem to leave unsightly scratch marks on emulsion and super hard fillers like Polyfilla Deep Hole. Working with it for any amount of time will tire you out or turn you into Charles Atlas.

However, apart from that particular scenario, the CEROS is a marvellous tool. ie once you have painted a first coat on the walls, if you want a baby smooth finish over the walls, step into luxury speed working mode and sand between coats with the CEROS and 180 grade Abranet. This generates fantastic results. (I think with super fine Abranet, the polishing possibilities are very exciting! And for sanding down varnish to bare wood and reviving timber, again the CEROS is a marvel.)

I haven’t tried it yet, but there is also a Deco Sander extension pole attachment for this system.

Abranet system: The abrasive is a sophisticated cloth net, similar to dry wall grid mesh, but not! Without a vacuum attached, you can see the sand forming into grains. Attached to the vacuum, the dust is continuously sucked away from the sanding strip through the thousands of extremely small holes in the abrasive into the tube and the vacuum cleaner.

So one product now eliminates about 90% of dust, with so many grades from 80 to 1000 you can get the same scratch free finishes quickly, and from a cost point of view, it lasts and lasts. Abranet is the only abrasive I use now for dry sanding- and it is so gentle on your hands!


To repair and make good a badly painted wall or ceiling that has cracks in it:

Rake out cracks

Double fill with Polyfilla Deep hole

Sand filler with the Abranet system.

Painting – If there were only a few cracks, sand the whole wall, spot the filler with a mini roller & matt emulsion, then paint whole wall once with a full coat of emulsion. If there is extensive repaired cracking, just paint the whole wall twice, sanding between coats – a lovely finish either way.

Conscientious painters should be sanding walls prior to painting as a matter of course.

Lining paper covers a multitude of sins and in many situations, filling cracks and lining prior to painting is a more efficient approach.

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