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Just put them on sanding...7/26
Bit of a rant. I get a kick out of it every time someone local or someone I know comes in the shop asking to put their kid, nephew, neighbor, niece, whatever on the payroll and they say "just put them on some mindless task like sanding". I immediately have a flash back to the dozens of people Ive taken on for shop clean up and I watch them wondering if they have ever in their lives run a broom?
When I tell them I even struggle with my "trained" staff with regards to sanding and that its the farthest thing from "mindless" that I can think of, they just look at me like Im some anal retentive fussy nut.
As of late Im finding it funny that hiring people who will do a good job at sanding, and cleaning, is about as difficult. Breaking down boards, feeding material through the planer/sander, cutting parts to length, all seem to be pretty easy finds. But finding someone who REALLY cleans, runs a broom and vac' with proficiency, is willing to get down in the nooks and crannies,.. THATS a tough find. As is finding someone who will sand on a batch of hard maple doors and go through all the grits never falling into a mindless daze (skipping over areas because they just want to be done).
At the moment Im feeling like these two positions, which are usually defaulted to the "flunkies" should actually be much more highly compensated.
We just lost a girl that would clean til' the cows came home. Shop was never cleaner. She lost her daycare. We are running a batch of hard maple doors and Im having to break balls over under-sanding.
All hand machine sanding (orbital) or do you have a widebelt?
I think you had a good point when you said you had a girl that was good at that type of work. I now work with my wife who is type A. Best sander I have ever seen. She also likes a nice tidy work station. I think women bring a great dynamic to the wood shop.
Sweeping drives me nuts. I can spend 20 m8nutes with a guy showing him how and where to sweep. Start in the corners and work to the middle, dont sweep an area thats clean. You come back the next day and they are going around in circles in the middle of the shop floor thats already clean!
A good strategy is to offer a job that runs during school hours. You get stay at home moms, thrilled to have a job that caters to their hours and on average tend to be better sanders. There is some baggage with it but it increases your capacity and delivers an employee that is happy to be able to have a job.
Mark B - Good rant. I know, I have been there. The way the volunteer/unwanted employment agent states the simplistic nature of the work shows the low level of respect and understanding they have for our chosen profession. 'Video game champ' - love it.
Also, watch the terms. You may do better in future hiring if you do not refer to a young woman a "girl". It is fine if you collectively call the males "boys", but to single out one and call him a boy can be demanding. Same with girl.
I know you don't need me kicking your shins after your long day, but you can think about it when you are not so beat up.
Leo, Yes, this is all just finish/detail sanding after its gone through the sander. Crossgrain scratches, profiles, and so on. When I say all the grits I just meant 120 and 150 but when there is a pile of work you almost always see the "zombie mode" kick in where its just mindlessly run the sander up and down the board for x minutes and done. No visual, no feel, no looking all the time to catch that little flaw in your peripheral vision or the flaw you missed on the last board you put in the finished stack.
I also agree fully that hiring women can be very advantageous. We have had several "young women" in the shop and its usually great. No bravado, no machismo, usually a genuine interest in learning and doing well. Hard finds around here in rural America where many have kids in their teens.
And Kilgore, with this last one I actually got to wondering about daycare some form of it. The hard thing would be having enough staff involved to make it profitable. Im no where near that point yet but I'd bet they'd be beating the doors down if it were an option.
I like the idea of flexible school time hours and will definitely keep that in the plan.
Funny one about the sweeping the perimeter and into the center. I have a friends son working for a bit on summer break from college. The other day I watched him sweep several areas of the shop into piles. We have brooms and shovels everywhere and rolling barrels. Once he got the piles he proceeded to go get the shop vac with a large crevice tool (like to vac your automobile) and was going to proceed with vac'ing up the piles. I literally almost lost it.
I start on one side of the room and end up sweeping into a corner. Then I can use the shovel or the dust pan to pick it up.
But then again, I only sweep once a week.
Cleaning doesn't make me money, unless I've been extremely busy and the place is full of goat paths.
Im with you there Leo, When Im solo in the shop it gets out of hand real fast. Im not anal about it in any way but I really like it when the shop is clean. Its worth a 30 hour a week payroll to me to have someone to clean up and put stuff away. When they are gone (like losing this last young woman), their value is really apparent.
I work alone and I despise cleaning the shop. I feel it is a waste of my time when I could be building cabinets instead. I use a student at our high school that is participating in several sports and does not have time to have a regular job after school.These are usually very dependable people. I allow them to clean the shop anytime on the weekend after lunch on Saturday. ( I work most Saturday mornings) Sometimes they will clean it at night. I pay a set amount ($30) every week. Most weeks it takes about 1 hour and sometimes 3 hours. Averages about 1 1/2 hours. This helps these good kids to make a little money and keeps me from having to do it.
It's interesting how many people think that the last step in the prep process before finishing can or should be done by an unskilled person. It took me a long time to appreciate what it takes to achieve a consistent smooth flat or fair surface. It's not hard at all to screw up a nice piece of work with poor sanding technique.
The other day in a local custom shop I saw a just completed painted curved garden bench, nearly flawless but for the fact that the experienced woodworker had oversanded the flatsawn Accoya with a DA, resulting in a washboarded surface under the paint. I am sure the wood came out of the widebelt flat and could have remained so had a little finesse been used in finish sanding.
Thats exactly my point Kevin. We do 95% stain and clear and when someone flubs the sanding its a nightmare if its caught when the stain hits and a disaster if it doesnt rear its head til its in the booth. If its an non-super custom part, at that point it just goes in the trash and gets re-made because cutting the finish and stain back is a waste of time.
Recently had one I hadnt had before. Work goes to stain and it looks like a racoon walked all over the work. Finger prints from one end to the other. Turns out one of the guys sanding was applying lip balm (type from a tube) incessantly smearing it on his lips with his finger(s). I never saw the lip balm but Im honestly not sure I would have caught it in the moment.
Seems every new trainee in the sanding deals with something. Mainly in my world its the zombie mode. Young kid, bored to tears, looking at the walls, the ceiling, staring off into space, swaying back and forth like the middle schooler at their first high school dance with a girl/guy, mindlessly sweeping the sander across the work looking at anything and everything other than the workpiece. The constantly ask if we can play music in the shop and Im always of the mindset that you cant focus on your work when its all you have to focus on, much less when your favorite song pops on the box. But Im sure there is an argument for better work when someone is happy to hear music.
You may already be doing this, but good inspection lighting raking flat across the work can help identify sanding problems prior to stain/ finish. I have a cheap setup made up of led floodlights in clamp-on reflector housings mounted on a height adjustable stand. Carter makes some more professional setups. I don't know if you could have caught the fingerprints, but it can help spot dents, holidays, swirls, etc.
The key is someone has to be paying attention- maybe the inspector should be the finisher as he is the last guy in the chain and doesn't want to waste his time buffing turds. I know at my last gig nobody wanted the finisher to pay them a visit saying "You got a minute? I want to show you something."
With sanding, you either have it or you dont...you either get it or not. Over the years i have seen very few guys who can sand properly, consistently AND efficiently.
Kevin has a great idea about raking light across the surface. This is a trick that fashion photographers use if they want to make very smooth skin look like Ernest Hemingway.
If they want to make the model's skin perfectly smooth they set up a pillow of soft light right outside the image frame. The overhead lighting in your shop is like this pillow of soft light. The angles of illumination are so diffuse they come from every direction. This volume of light fills in every crevice so there are no shadows to show contrast.
Something I have meant to do was experiment with LED floodlights. They throw out a tremendous volume of light yet use very little electricity. More importantly they don't generate heat which would make them more comfortable to stand in front of (think about standing in front of halogen work light vs automobile headlight).
The things to evaluate with floodlights would be the actual cone of the light and the color temperature. You don't want too much color cast in the light. A bulb rated as matching day light (6000K) would probably work best.
The cone of light would be a function of how far the light is away from where you are standing with the sander in your hand. You probably want some kind of overlap but I am not sure about too much overlap would hurt. The goal is to get even lighting across the surface to be sanded.
Something called "barn doors" are used in commercial photography to focus light where you want it. It could be that some reflective surface like this would help even the light out and keep it where you want it.
Another thing to consider might be orientation of the product when it is being sanded. It could be that you're better off having the product angled like on a faceframe easel. The lights in this case would come from the top down.
When you can't see the scratches you have to carpet bomb them with sandpaper. Seems like some illumination would be much easier.
One of the best sanders I've ever had was a man in his 40s that had a masters degree and a PHD. The only thing in the shop he could do well was sanding. You can't get a good finish if the sanding isn't.
Great ideas. We have good lighting and raking light for the sanding. We also raise the grain with a damp rag often which shows a lot. But even with raking light and raising the grain with water on woods like Hard Maple the field is so white and even colored sanding scratches, either from sander, or moving through grits, can be hard to see.
For me personally, I seem to be able to sand twice as fast and four or five times as good as any of my guys and thats always using the sander they frequently try to avoid using.
Honestly, to me, it just about giving a sh(t. You have to be engaged in the process, period. No matter how boring, how monotonous, or how miserable, you still have to do your job and give a sh(t.
I can often times get through a project much faster and with fewer grits, but I, looking, feeling, listening, to the the sander at all times. My focus doesnt waiver. My peripheral vision is seeing cross grain scratches, hard/knots, that need more attention, and I am never rocking/edging the sander to focus on a given spot very much. I take the entire area down to keep it flat.
Getting guys to do all of that can be tough. They realize they are missing trouble areas and the next thing you know they are seeing a defect, and focusing on it, and either cutting it more deeply than the surrounding area (no feathering) or focusing so much on the defect that they miss things in the surrounding area. It just goes on an on.
Of course having 150k worth of 3-4 head orbitals, rotary sanders, etc. would make it all easier but we are not there.
Been a good conversation. Lots learned.
I'll add a few things to this.
We have all been down this road with trying to teach people how to sand. Unfortunately, it takes everyone including ourselves a long time to understand what shows and what doesn't. It's a necessary evil.
It may be worth your time to make a couple of sample boards. Take a couple of pieces of maple ply. Maybe 6" x 24". Layout the typical bad sanding mistakes in 6" x 6" squares. Cross grain scratches from the wide belt, pinholes(made with an awl), scratches, sanding only with 150 grit paper, and the rest. Write at the bottom with a marker. Mask over the writing. Do one stain grade the other white paint. Leave one of the squares perfect. It will show them what is expected and what to not do.
These boards should be shown to the new person on their first day sanding. Make it very clear that he/she is responsible for making the final product look good or bad. Show them how to use the sanders, sand paper sponges, everything. Don't wait until after they do a poor job.
Make it abundantly clear that missing one spot on a door or panel requires it to be redone. They can permanently damage the wood by excessively rounding over corners.
Write down the prep steps on the wall. Whatever schedule you use(grits, putty, etc). There are no questions about what to do next.