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under construction 8-5-09

Paper with a layer of fine sand has been fixed on one side by means of an adhesive. In woodworking -- using an abrasive motion -- used to smooth and/or polish surfaces.

An abrasive material prepared by coating stout paper with glue and sifting fine sand over its surface before the glue sets. Abrasive paper sold as "sandpaper" is sometimes actually glass-paper made of powdered glass. The cutting property of glass-paper is relatively low. Quartz-paper, also sold as sandpaper, has a higher cutting property but not so high as garnet.

Source: Home Craftsman 4 September October  1935 page 44.

Sandpaper was patented in the United States on June 14, 1834 by Isaac Fischer, Jr., of Springfield, Vermont. His invention was covered by four different patents, in box below, #14-17:

14. For an improvement in the Making of Glass or Sand Paper; Isaac Fisher, jr., Springfield, Windsor county, Vermont, June 14.

The machinery described is for the purpose of sizing and distributing the glass upon the paper; the main things claimed are the steaming the paper on the unsized side, which prevents its curling; and the manner of distributing the glass upon the sized surface, which is done by laying the paper upon an endless feeding apron, and passing it under a sieve constructed for the purpose, which sieve vibrates in a close box over the paper.

15. For Softening Glass Paper, after the grains have been applied thereto; Isaac Fisher, jr., Springfield, Windsor county, Vermont, June 14.

In the machine by which the softening is to be effected, the paper is made to pass between steel rollers, of which there are five ; three of them stand horizontally, and in the same plane, and two others beneath them, with their gudgeons intermediate between the upper rollers. The glass paper is laid upon a cloth, which passes between the upper and the lower rollers, and traverses once backward and forward, which completes the process. The machine is ingeniously contrived, and well represented.

16. For an improvement in making Glass or Sand Paper; Isaac Fisher, jr., Springfield, Windsor county, Vermont, June 14.

The improvement here made consists in taking quartz rock, and grinding and bolting it in any convenient manner, without first calcining it, and using the same as a substitute for pulverized glass, or natural sand, in the manufacture of paper; a better article being thereby produced, from the greater hardness of the material, and the consequent durability of the angles.

17. For an improvement in Making Glass, or Sand, Papers Isaac Fisher, Jun., Springfield, Windsor county, Vermont, June 14.

This patent is taken for an apparatus used for sizing the paper after it has received the glass, or sand. A wooden roller, covered with felt, is to revolve over a pan containing heated size, its lower side wadding therein ; the superfluous quantity which it thus receives is pressed out by a metallic roller, as the felt rises from it. The paper, placed upon a sizing board, is then passed between another metallic, and the felted roller, the grained side of the paper being placed in contact with the felt.

We have given but a very general description of the several machines for which the foregoing patents have been obtained, more not being required. There are claims made to each of the contrivances, but we do not think the specifications in this part,sufficiently explicit. Respecting the machine last described, it is said that "The said Fisher does not claim the invention of the above pans, or the manner of setting the same, or the separate parts of said machine, but claims the invention of the manner of applying the same to the purpose of making glass, or sand, paper," which, it seems to us, is not claiming the machine in any form; and it has been decided that the mere application of an old machine to a new purpose, will not sustain a patent.

There is a strong resemblance between this machine, and those used for sizing in the manufacture of wadding, but still we think them sufficiently distinct from each other, in the arrangement of the parts, to admit of pointing out the alterations by which the former is adapted to the purpose of sizing sand, or glass, paper.

Source: Journal of the Franklin Institute, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa.,1835 , page. 415; Joseph Nathan Kane, Famous First Facts: a Record of First Happenings, Discoveries and Inventions New York: H W Wilson, 1950, page 397.


From Oxford English Dictionary:


John Nicholson, The Operative Mechanic And British Machinist 1825 page 641:

In preparing a project to be painted,

"[t]he surface of the work [must] be carefully rubbed down with sand-paper."

Eagerly I examined this passage in Nicholson's book, but found that he gives no additional info about sandpaper's origin.


Charles & John J. Holtzapffel, Turning And Mechanical Manipulation 1843 50 III. 1091

Sand Paper is made with the common house sand, and only of one degree of coarseness, but in other respects exactly like glass paper.

(For more on this important 19th century source, click here)


Scientific American: [get url]

[patent for] Sandpaper: To Joseph G. Isham, of New York, N. Y., for improvement in Sand Paper. Patented 26th April. 1848. 39. For an Improvement in Sand Paper; Joseph G. Isham, City of New York, April 25.

The patentee says,

"The nature of my invention consists in coating both sides of sheets of paper with sand, glass, emery, or other reducing and polishing substance, cemented thereto, and extending around the sides thereof."

Claim.—"What I claim as my invention, and desire to secure by letters patent, is glueing, or otherwise cementing, sand, glass, emery, or other reducing or polishing surface, on to both sides of sheets of paper, substantially as set forth, whereby the coating on both sides will unite and form well-rounded edges, and thus produce what may be termed a reducing or polishing tool, presenting the advantages of greater cheapness and durability, and better adaptation to the various kinds of work to be done, and at the same time economizing the time of the operator."

from Michael Ettema:

Sanders. Powered sanding machines probably appeared in furniture manufactories simultaneously with power transmission systems. In their most basic form, sanders consisted of sandpaper sheets attached to a rotating disk or drum, or a sandpaper belt rotated between two cylinders

cross-section for four-sided post.

These simple devices generally required that the workpiece be hand held or placed on a table and advanced to the sandpaper by hand. Gauging the amount of wood to be removed depended on the judgment of the operator. More complex variations of the machine included a rotating sandpaper disk or belt mounted on a flexible frame moved by hand across a large, flat workpiece such as a table top. Machines that automatically fed the work to sanding drums appeared in trade literature by the 1880s.

Source:Michael Ettema, "Technological Innovation and Design Economics in Furniture Manufacture", Winterthur Portfolio 16 1981, pages 197-223

This is from wikpedia entry on sandpaper:

The first recorded instance of sandpaper was in 13th century China when crushed shells, seeds, and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Shark skin was used as a sandpaper. Sandpaper was originally known as glass paper, as it used particles of glass.

Sandpaper has occasionally been used as a surface for painting, as by Joan Miro. Sandpaper was even used as a musical instrument, in Leroy Anderson's Sandpaper Ballet.

In 1916 3M [Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corp.] invented the waterproof sandpaper, know as Wet-or-dry, with its first application:-- automotive paint refinishing.

Ad for 3m's new Aluminum oxide sandpaper in sept-oct issue of the Home Craftsman, page 5:


New! Woodworking sandpaper tough enough to sharpen steel!

Sand home projects twice as fast, twice as easy with 3M Home Workshop Sandpaper! It's coated with aluminum-oxide mineral that's so tough it actually sharpens chisels and knives. And it lasts 10 times longer than ordinary sand-paper because it stays sharp. That's why professional woodworkers have used it for years.

Now, for the first time, this super-tough "Production" Sandpaper is pre-cut to fit most home power tools, plus the popular 3M Sanding Block. Packaged in fine, medium and coarse grits for easy selection, too.

Look for this completely new home workshop sandpaper the next time you're in your hardware store. Bright yellow packs identify it. Stock up now and be ready to handle any sanding job right with 3M Home Workshop Sandpaper!

Source:  Home Craftsman September-October page 5

Sandpaper 101 webpage

(created on Woodzone website) good on sandpaper basics

Sandpaper 101

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sandpaper but were afraid to ask.

How Does Sandpaper Work?

Sandpaper works a lot like a saw, chisel, or any other cutting tool in your shop. The particles on sandpaper are made up from a number of sharp edges that cut the wood the same way a saw blade does. The only real difference is that sandpaper, unlike your saw, can’t be sharpened.

Sandpaper is Sandpaper, Right?

Not exactly. There are two different grades of sandpaper on the market; Commercial and Industrial. ... Read More

Museum: Minnesota Mining and Manufucturing/Dwan Museum, Two Harbors, MN, chronicles the history of 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company)", and in particular, the history of sandpaper.

Source: Michael Dresdner (1992). The Woodfinishing Book. Taunton Press. ISBN 1-56158-037-6

Sandpaper Grades

Garnet: An excellent abrasive for wood. Comes with a paper back. Considered better than sandpaper.

Emery: An abrasive available in wheel form, in sticks, in powder, on cloth and on paper. Emery has a higher cutting property, that is, it cuts faster—than garnet.

Carborundum: One of the hardest abrasives, it comes in the form of grinding stones and hones. Stich stones are prepared by binding powdered carborundum with porcelain or shellac. Carborundum has a higher cutting property than emery.

Source: Home craftsman 4 September October  1935 page 44.

Sources: Journal of the Franklin Institute, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa.,1835 , page. 415; Charles & John J. Holtzapffel, Turning And Mechanical Manipulation 1843 50 III. 1091; Joseph Nathan Kane, Famous First Facts: a Record of First Happenings, Discoveries and Inventions New York: H W Wilson, 1950, page 397; Michael Ettema, "Technological Innovation and Design Economics in Furniture Manufacture", Winterthur Portfolio 16 1981, pages 197-223 Sandor Nagyszalanczy The Wood Sanding Book 1997 [book's introduction and table of contents online]