Micro-Mesh Cushioned Abrasives are an indispensable part of my craft tool set. Micro-Mesh is like sandpaper but it is much more precise and the grits are much finer. It is more expensive than sandpaper but a typical small 3″ x 4″ piece will last longer then 4 equivalent full-size sandpaper sheets. The cut is a lot more uniform and much less to gouge the surface. For example, I typically use a single 3x4 piece for several months before the grit becomes no longer useful.
You can stop anywhere along the numbered sequence of grits to arrive at any level of gloss from a dull satin to a high gloss.
Micro-Mesh Family of Products
This is what most hobbyists will use. This is what I use on wood, plastic, fiberglass, putty, primer, lacquer, polyurethane, etc.
Solid Surface Applications. Aluminum Oxide grits suitable for polishing aluminum. You also can use regular for polishing aluminum but it gets dirty and more-or-less ruins it for the other materials you would use regular for.
Metal Finishing Application. For other metals and hard materials. This is recommended for very hard hardwoods though I use regular with no issues.
Diamond Grit. For heat-treated steel, ceramics, granite, marble, and other very hard materials.
Many hobby stores including scale model shops, woodcraft shops, etc., carry what I would term “starter” packs which include 8 or 9 grits of 3x4″ pieces plus a firm foam rubber block. The cost of these kits ranges from $20-$30 and if you are just starting out with Micro-Mesh, it's a good way to evaluate the product.
After you have determined that you want to use these on virtually every project, you can order 12″x12″ sheets directly from Micro-Surface and cut them into your own 3x4″ pieces. This will save you right around 50%, plus you will never run out in the middle of a project.
As you work your way through to the finer grits two things happen:
- You will use each finer grit for shorter amounts of time. Most of your time is spent blocking the work with courser grits. Each subsequent grit is then used merely to erase the sanding scratches from its predecessor.
- Each successively finer grit will load up faster than the previous grit. You will spend much more time cleaning the Micro-Mesh at finer grits.
This dictates how much of each grit I buy. I buy twice as much 1500 and 1800 as the other grits.
Keep the abrasive clean. If the abrasive gets loaded up with sanding scurf, it can burn your work or gouge it. I believe I spend at least an equal amount of time (or more) keeping my abrasives clean as I do actual sanding. Sometimes just patting the Micro-Mesh against your palm is enough. I keep a scrap of denim purchased from a fabric store to rub the abrasive against; the denim has just enough tooth to clean the grit quite well. I used to just use my shop apron, but I got tired of buying new aprons when I sanded through them...
Use your ears. You can hear when the abrasive gets contaminated. The pitch will change. Stop sanding immediately and clean your abrasive. Continuing to sand after you hear the grit start to gouge will cause you much much more work down the road.
Use it wet if it won't cause trouble with your material. It will help keep the abrasive from loading up with scurf which is the leading cause of poor results.
Keep your work clean. At the same time you are cleaning your abrasive, clean your work. A simple wipe with a clean rag it good. I like to use my bare hands or even forearm as the slight amount of moisture and oil helps pull off scurf from the work. If you can feel anything on your surface — any micro grit or dust at all— this is the stuff that will gouge your work. Clean it.
One more time: clean.