After my blog post about how to restore teak outdoor furniture, I mentioned that I was going to work on my acacia wood bench next. That bench was a bit trickier because it has a carved floral design and spindle legs. So now weeks later, I can finally share the newly refinished bench with you and also how to sand spindles of any size. Most people always prefer to grab a power tool to do the work for you but in this case, if you don’t have a super steady hand, you can actually do a lot of damage to the wood with a power tool and it might be better just to sand those spindles by hand. Let me show you what I mean.
How to sand spindles without power tools
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My favorite power tool to grab for detail sanding will always be a Dremel. On my bench, I did use it in certain areas like the carved flower to remove the old stain. It just wouldn’t have been doable without it. But… I did try it with a sanding drum attachment on the spindles. In one area it accidentally removed one of the delicate contours of the spindle details. So I figured it would be best to sand the spindle legs without power tools. Or some of you want to maybe refinish an old piece of furniture but don’t feel like buying an expensive power sander just for spindles. So don’t worry if you don’t have the right tools, you can do this by hand too. Let me show you what methods I tested.
On another note, if you are wondering about other power tools besides a Dremel to use for the spindle sanding process. A belt sander is about the worst option for these types of delicate spindles and I do not recommend it. There are different types of electric sanders like a small palm sander, sheet sander, or an oscillating spindle sander that work a bit better but are still quite hard to use for detail sanding. You can also try a power drill and attach different types of rotary tools like abrasive flap wheels/brush wheels which are also manufactured in small for your Dremel.
To make your sanding a bit easier, you can also add some chemical stripper to your spindles first to remove the old finish (old paint, old varnish, or old stain). You can use an old toothbrush or steel wool while wearing chemical gloves and safety goggles to remove some of the old varnish or layers of paint. But regardless you will have to sand eventually.
NOTE: You get the best results if you use a combination of all three methods to successfully sand your spindles. If I’d have to pick one method out of all three, then I’d choose the flexible sandpaper because it kind of is a mix of all three methods together. It really works great and gets good results.
Also, check out my blog posts about how to mix and match patio furniture, my favorite blue and white French woven bistro chairs, how to measure a patio umbrella replacement canopy, and how to DIY a stock tank swimming pool with pool liner.
Whether you have chair spindles, stair spindles, bench spindles, banisters, balusters, or spindle leg tables, these methods work for all of them. So give them a try next time you try to refinish an ornate piece of wood furniture. Good luck!
- various sheets of sandpaper from finer grits to coarse and duck tape
- abrasive cord
- 3M stretchable/ultra-flexible sanding sheets
- Method 1: Duct tape-backed sheets of sandpaper for larger spindle areas
This is a great hack for sanding rounded edges and spindles and is so simple. Whether prepping for painting or removing an existing finish, you only need sheets of sandpaper (in different grits), duct tape, and sharp scissors. Cut strips of duct tape that are longer than your sheet of sand paper. Stick those duct tape strips to the back of the sheet of sandpaper. I also like adding duct tape to the sticky part that overlaps the sandpaper on the front so I can grip it better with my hands while sanding.Now cut the sandpaper into strips that are different widths. The duct tape strengthens the sandpaper and makes it easier to grip while wrapping around the spindles. Pull the strip of sandpaper from both ends to sand around the round areas of the spindles.
- Method 2: Using an abrasive cord to sand in tight grooves
When it comes to sanding tight grooves and details, using an abrasive cord can be a game-changer. It is perfect for sanding rounded intricate details like spindles. Simply wrap the cord around the spindle and pull it back and forth to sand away any finish, rough spots, or imperfections. With a little patience and practice, you’ll be amazed at the smooth, even finish you can achieve with an abrasive cord. I find a coarse grit abrasive cord more effective.
- Method 3: Using ultra-flexible sanding sheets to conform to spindle shape
Ultra-flexible sanding sheets are a versatile and effective tool for sanding larger intricate areas of the spindles. Made from a special blend of materials, these sheets are designed to be extra flexible, allowing you to sand around curves and corners with ease. They come in a variety of grits, so you can choose the right one for your particular project. You can cut the sheets into strips to fit your needs.
- You get the best results if you use a combination of all three methods to successfully sand your spindles. If I’d have to pick one method out of all three, then I’d choose the flexible sandpaper because it kind of is a mix of all three methods together. It really works great and gets good results.
- To make your sanding a bit easier, you can also add some chemical stripper to your spindles first to remove the old finish (old paint, old varnish, or old stain). You can use an old toothbrush or steel wool while wearing chemical gloves and safety goggles to remove some of the old varnish or layers of paint. But regardless you will have to sand eventually.