Review By Dean Bielanowski  Renrut Website - http://www.renrut.com.au


Renrut Sanding Block
 Mini-Review

By Dean Bielanowski

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Some of the best ideas are also some of the simplest! And that saying seems to hold true for the Renrut sanding block. For those who prefer hand sanding instead of power sanding, and I guess there are some benefits to the traditional ways, the Renrut sanding block may well interest you...

The Renrut Sanding Block
Sanding is probably not every woodworker's favorite past time, in fact, it probably isn't any woodworker's favorite task! The advent of power sanders made this task much quicker and easier, but along with that came clouds and plumes of dust in the working area and associated health hazards that come along with it. Hand sanding is not immune to this either, but there is generally less airborne dust from hand sanding then there is from a ROS or belt sander.

With power sanders of all shapes and sizes designed for just about any sanding task, and sanding pads/discs being very affordable through mass production, there are very few reasons to hand sand anything it would seem.

But, what you do lose going the power sanding route is that "direct" feeling of working on wooden material with your hands. It probably the same reason many prefer hand planes over power planers, or drill and chisel over powered mortise machines. In fact, there can be much joy to hand sanding a woodworking project.

I, like most of you, probably don't like hand sanding because it can be quite uncomfortable, if not painful, working away material using a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a cork sanding block, or using those foam sanders which are costly and don't last terribly long. Most hand sanding devices are not terribly comfortable, or easy to use.

So along comes the Renrut Sanding Block. And indeed, when I first looked at it I thought it would probably be the most uncomfortable sanding block I had used to date! But after picking it up and grasping it in the use position, my first thoughts seemed like they would be invalid quite quickly.

The Renrut looks a little like your normal block of wood you might rap a sanding sheet around, but with some major differences. It is made of what appears to be pine wood, produced from renewable resource farms and also features an adjustable "tension" system comprising of a hardwood block and screw assembly. So what's this for? Well, unlike ordinary cork sanding blocks which use sheet sandpaper, the Renrut Sanding Block uses sanding belts made for powered belt sanders. The main advantage of using sanding belts is that they are designed and produced for use on powered sanders and are generally much tougher and hold their surface a lot longer than normal sanding sheets. Using a sanding belt designed for a power tool in a hand-use application, you can expect to get a lot more use out of one belt than you can with several sheets of regular sandpaper.

The "tension" mechanism I mentioned above works in a similar way to a powered belt sander tension system, but without the spring. Basically, you fit a cloth-backed 457mm (18") sanding belt (commonly available from hardware stores) over the Renrut block, then you turn the screws on either side of the block clockwise to force the hardwood block on the end of the Renrut to move outwards from the block. This essentially "clamps" the belt onto the sanding block and keeps it there. No need to hold the sandpaper against the block with this hand tool. To release the belt, just remove the tension by loosening the screws. Simple and easy. The two screws are recessed into the side of the block on an angle, so there is no screws protruding from the block. In addition, the recessed section of the block that houses the screw also provides a place for thumbs and forefingers to sit on the side of the block.

The block itself has a rectangular prism shape with rounded front and rear ends, although the long sides remain square to ensure flat surface sanding. The top and bottom faces are machined flat and the width of the block is sufficiently wide to comfortably fit in the hand with stretching of fingers or "pinching" of fingers, like you might do with smaller, narrow sanding blocks.

In Use
The Renrut is marketed as a sanding block for many different trades, and indeed it could be used effectively across many specialist trades. The manufacturer lists the following applications as suitable uses for the Renrut. I'll list them (in bold) then discuss the result based on my use of the sanding block for these functions.

  • Woodworkers - Great for shaping with a course belt, and for those with arthritis or other problems of the hand

    Yes, true. I quite enjoy using the Renrut for most sanding tasks on the larger scale. Because of its size, it is not suitable for all sanding tasks, especially where tight corners or sanding block access is an issue, but for boards, table tops, rails, panels and anything else that requires sanding a flat surface with good access for tools, the Renrut is ideal. The Renrut is becoming an almost overused accessory in my shop come sanding time. I probably never thought I would say it, but I prefer using it over power sanders in many instances. On the flip side, you wont see me tossing out my power sanders anytime soon however *grins*
     

  • Builders - Fitting doors by breaking the edge, final quick finish

    I can't say I have used it much for door work yet, but the application and results can be easily predicted.
     

  • Shapers - Shape your work quickly and easily

    True for finer shaping and sanding. A specialized power sander/shaper will be even easier and quicker, but if its just a small job then the Renrut is probably easier, given that you probably have to pull out the power sander, plug it in, set it up etc etc. You can take the Renrut straight off the shelf and be sanding immediately.
     
  • Tilers - Remove the sharp edge of tiles

    I never really thought of using the Renrut for this task until I read it on the manufacturers site, and given that I am right in the middle of some major home tiling jobs, I tried it out. Yes it works for removing sharp tile edges, but it honestly didn't get a whole lot of use in this application for me.
     
  • Painters - finish sand before repainting without making copious dust

    Yes this will work for this with the proper sanding paper for painters. I find very little need to sand between coats of paint of most things, except maybe boat hulls, but the paint should stick to itself well enough to avoid sanding if it is of decent quality. I quess if you painted unevenly somewhere or have blemishes of some kind after the first coat then it would be useful to have a comfortable sanding block.
     
  • Cabinet Makers - Excellent for MDF and plywood

    Personally, I try to avoid using MDF full stop. Cutting it is bad enough! Sanding it... hmmm, pass. But of course, no matter the material, the Renrut sanding block works in pretty much the same manner anyway so it should be fine. I found it useful on CD grade plywood to knock off any rough surfaces and definitely useful for removing furring or chipping of cut plywood edges to clean them up. It works well for that.
     
  • Joiners - accurate sanding of rebates, doors, sills

    Because of the Renrut block's hard, flat wooden faces, you can accurately and cleanly sand most flat surfaces quickly. Where it particularly shines is in combination use with a hand plane and a shooting board for mitered or angle joints. Once you have planed the joint smooth, the Renrut can be used with a shooting board or jig for final fine-tuning to ensure a perfect joint fit.
     
  • Plasterers - works great for small plastering jobs

    Yes it does indeed work fine for small jobs, but I would probably choose another method for anything larger. Sanding plasterboard compound or joints creates a massive amount of fine dust. This generally clogs most sandpapers quite quickly. I have found the mesh sandpaper designed for plasterboard sanding to be much more effective, but this only comes in small strip sheets and not in belt form for use on the Renrut, although you probably wouldn't use it on this tool anyway even if it was available in belt form. Also, for larger plastering tasks, you really want to get yourself a powered sander with excellent dust collection to remove as much fine plaster dust directly at the source before it can get airborne. So yes, ok for very small plaster repairs, but there are better tools around for larger jobs.
     
  • Plastics, Craft Workers, Handyman and more . . .

    I can tell you it comes in handy for very fine shaping of acrylic sheets, because I used it for that just the other day to knock off a sharp edge following a cut. The benefits are also easily evident for handypersons engaging in hand sanding work.

Conclusion
The Renrut Sanding Block is a simple, but effective tool for sanding large surfaces or in any sanding task where you do not need to get into tight places. It's ability to use cloth backed power sanding belts means you can get a lot more sanding out of one belt than you can with many sheets of sandpaper because power sanding belts are generally much more durable and longer lasting. And when one section of the sanding belt becomes worn, either flip the Renrut block over and use the other side, or you can rotate the belt around the block to expose a clean section of the belt.

Priced at a little over $20 each, any tradesperson, woodworker or DIY enthusiast would probably recover the cost of it in excess use of sheet sandpaper quite easily. Sure, sanding belts cost perhaps 4-5x more per unit but my guesstimate is that the belts last at least 10x longer, perhaps more like 15x longer than a single sheet of sandpaper in hand sanding tasks.
 

Available to Order through these Companies...
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In Australia


http://www.toolco.com.au/shopexd.asp?id=379

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Renrut Sanding Block Photos
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The Renrut Sanding Block


The "tension" mechanism. Tightening the screw forces the hardwood block at the end outwards to "clamp" the sanding belt onto the block.


Use durable power sanding belts 18" in length.


Securing a sanding belt onto the
Renrut Sanding Block.


Great for flat face sanding of virtually anything.


Ok for small plaster jobs but there are better options for larger plastering tasks.

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