Monday June 14, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Sandpaper

On this Day:

In 1834, sandpaper was patented by Isaac Fischer Jr, of Springfield, Vermont.  However, rubbing beneath the surface reveals that sandpaper has been around for a very long time before this.

Sandpaper and glasspaper are names used for a type of coated abrasive that consists of sheets of paper or cloth with abrasive material glued to one face.

Despite the use of the names neither sand nor glass are used in the modern manufacture of these products as they have been replaced by other abrasives such as aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. Sandpaper is produced in a range of grit sizes and is used to remove material from surfaces, either to make them smoother (for example, in painting and wood finishing), to remove a layer of material (such as old paint), or sometimes to make the surface rougher (for example, as a preparation for gluing). It is common to use the name of the abrasive when describing the paper, e.g. “aluminium oxide paper”, or “silicon carbide paper”.

The grit size of sandpaper is usually stated as a number that is inversely related to the particle size. A small number such as 20 or 40 indicates a coarse grit, while a large number such as 1500 indicates a fine grit.

The first recorded instance of sandpaper was in 13th-century China when crushed shells, seeds, and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. In the Bible, King Solomon is mentioned to have used a mysterious abrasive called shamir allowing the king to build his temple (e.g. cut huge blocks of stone) without using iron tools, since the temple was meant to be a place of peace and iron was used in war. Shamir was also held in Hebrew lore as being a magical worm capable of cracking glass when resting on it.

Shark skin (placoid scales) has also been used as an abrasive and the rough scales of the living fossil, Coelacanth are used for the same purpose by the natives of Comoros. Boiled and dried, the rough horsetail plant is used in Japan as a traditional polishing material, finer than sandpaper.

Glass paper was manufactured in London in 1833 by John Oakey, whose company had developed new adhesive techniques and processes, enabling mass production. Glass frit has sharp-edged particles and cuts well whereas sand grains are smoothed down and do not work well as an abrasive. Cheap sandpaper was often passed off as glass paper; Stalker and Parker cautioned against it in A Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing published in 1688.

In 1921, 3M invented a sandpaper with silicon carbide grit and a waterproof adhesive and backing, known as Wet and dry. This allowed use with water, which would serve as a lubricant to carry away particles that would otherwise clog the grit. Its first application was in automotive paint refinishing.

There are many varieties of sandpaper, with variations in the paper or backing, the material used for the grit, grit size, and the bond.

In addition to paper, backing for sandpaper includes cloth (cotton, polyester, rayon), PET film, and “fibre”, or rubber. Cloth backing is used for sandpaper discs and belts, while mylar is used as backing for extremely fine grits. Fibre or vulcanized fibre is a strong backing material consisting of many layers of polymer impregnated paper. The weight of the backing is usually designated by a letter. For paper backings, the weight ratings range from “A” to “F”, with A designating the lightest and F the heaviest. Letter nomenclature follows a different system for cloth backings, with the weight of the backing rated J, X, Y, T, and M, from lightest to heaviest. A flexible backing allows sandpaper to follow irregular contours of a workpiece; relatively inflexible backing is optimal for regular rounded or flat surfaces. Sandpaper backings may be glued to the paper or form a separate support structure for moving sandpaper, such as used in sanding belts and discs. Stronger paper or backing increases the ease of sanding wood. The harder the backing material, the faster the sanding, the faster the wear of the paper and the rougher the sanded surface.

Types of abrasive materials include:

  • glass: no longer commonly used
  • flint: no longer commonly used
  • garnet: commonly used in woodworking
  • emery: commonly used to abrade or polish metals
  • aluminium oxide: The most common in modern use, with the widest variety of grits, lowest unit cost; can be used on metal (i.e. body shops) or wood
  • silicon carbide: available in very coarse grits all the way through to microgrits, common in wet applications
  • alumina-zirconia: (an aluminium oxide–zirconium oxide alloy), used for machine grinding applications
  • chromium(III) oxide: used in extremely fine micron grit (micrometre level) papers
  • diamond: used for finishing and polishing hard metals, ceramics and glass
  • ceramic aluminum oxide: used in high pressure applications, used in both coated abrasives, as well as in bonded abrasives.

Sandpaper may be “stearated” where a dry lubricant is loaded to the abrasive. Stearated papers are useful in sanding coats of finish and paint as the stearate “soap” prevents clogging and increases the useful life of the sandpaper.

The harder the grit material, the easier the sanding of harder surfaces like hardwoods such as hickory, pecan, or wenge. The grit material for polishing granite must be harder than granite.

Different adhesives are used to bond the abrasive to the paper. Hide glue is still used, but this glue often cannot withstand the heat generated during machine sanding and is not waterproof. Waterproof sandpapers or wet/dry sandpapers use a resin bond and a waterproof backing.

Sandpaper can be either closed coat or open coat. Approximately 90% to 95% of the surface is covered with abrasive grains with a closed coat. Closed coat sandpaper is good for hand sanding or working with harder materials. In comparison, 50% to 70% of the surface is covered with abrasive grains with open coat sandpaper. The separation between particles makes the sandpaper more flexible, which prevents the sandpaper from clogging. However, the gaps in grit coverage limits the sandpaper’s ability to perform even polishing jobs. Open coat sandpaper is better for softer materials.

Wet and dry sandpaper is more effective used wet because clogging is reduced by particles washing away from the grinding surface. Arguably there are also benefits due to lubrication and cooling.

Sandpaper comes in a number of different shapes and sizes:

  • sheet: usually 9 by 11 inches (23 by 28 cm), but other sizes may be available
  • belt: usually cloth backed, comes in different sizes to fit different belt sanders.
  • disk: made to fit different models of disc and random orbit sanders. May be perforated for some models of sanders. Attachment includes pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) and “hook-and-loop” (similar to Velcro).
  • rolls: known as “shag rolls” by many contractors
  • sponge: for tight places

Grit sizes

Grit size refers to the size of the particles of abrading materials embedded in the sandpaper. These measurements are determined by the amount of the abrasive material that can fit through a square inch filter. Several standards have been established for grit size. These standards establish not only the average grit size, but also the allowable variation from the average. The two most common are the United States CAMI (Coated Abrasive Manufacturers Institute, now part of the Unified Abrasives Manufacturer’s Association) and the European FEPA (Federation of European Producers of Abrasives) “P” grade. The FEPA system is the same as the ISO 6344 standard. Other systems used in sandpaper include the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JIS), the micron grade (generally used for very fine grits). Cheaper sandpapers may sometimes only use descriptive nomenclature such as “coarse”, “medium” and “fine” without referring to any standard (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

The fellow who stole some sandpaper was arrested and taken before a judge.

It wasn’t a serious crime, so the judge imposed a medium fine, payable in due coarse.

Second, a Song:

Leroy Anderson (June 29, 1908 – May 18, 1975) was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, of which many were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler. John Williams described him as “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Swedish parents, Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, who was a church organist. He continued studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard College, where he studied musical harmony with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, canon and fugue with William C. Heilman, orchestration with Edward B. Hill and Walter Piston, composition, also with Piston, and double bass with Gaston Dufresne. He also studied organ with Henry Gideon. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude in 1929 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In Harvard University Graduate School, he studied composition with Walter Piston and George Enescu and received a Master of Arts in Music in 1930.

Anderson continued studying at Harvard, working towards a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages; Anderson spoke English and Swedish during his youth, and eventually became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

At the time he was working as organist and choir director at the East Milton Congregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arranging for dance bands around Boston. In 1936 his arrangements came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler, who asked to see any original compositions that he could use in his concerts as the 18th conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall. Anderson’s first work was the 1938 Jazz Pizzicato, but at just over ninety seconds the piece was too short for a three-minute 78 rpm single of the period. Fiedler suggested writing a companion piece, and Anderson wrote Jazz Legato later that same year. The combined recording went on to become one of Anderson’s signature compositions.

In 1942 Anderson joined the United States Army, and was assigned in Iceland with the U.S. Counterintelligence Corps as a translator and interpreter; in 1945 he was reassigned to the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. His duties did not, however, prevent him from composing, and in 1945 he wrote “The Syncopated Clock” and “Promenade”. Anderson became a reserve officer and was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. He wrote his first hit, “Blue Tango”, in 1951, earning a Golden Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.

His pieces and his recordings during the 1950s conducting a studio orchestra were immense commercial successes. “Blue Tango” was the first instrumental recording ever to sell one million copies. His most famous pieces are probably “Sleigh Ride” and “The Syncopated Clock”. In February 1951, WCBS-TV in New York City selected “The Syncopated Clock” as the theme song for The Late Show, the WCBS late-night movie, using Percy Faith’s recording. Mitchell Parish added words to “The Syncopated Clock”, and later wrote lyrics for other Anderson tunes, including “Sleigh Ride”, which was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946. The Boston Pops’ recording of it was the first pure orchestral piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart. From 1952 to 1961, Anderson’s composition “Plink, Plank, Plunk!” was used as the theme for the CBS panel show I’ve Got a Secret.

Anderson’s musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally makes use of sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper.

Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it had weak spots. The Anderson family decided to publish the work in 1988. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this work; four other recordings, including one for piano and organ, have since been released.

In 1958, Anderson composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks did not achieve commercial success. Anderson never wrote another musical, preferring instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including “The Typewriter”, “Bugler’s Holiday”, and “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby” are performed by orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations.

Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For “The Typewriter” Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played. American film comedian Jerry Lewis recorded a sketch in black and white using the stage name Pietro Del Canto using a real typewriter and an even cleverer sketch in colour miming with an imaginary typewriter, both to the sound of this tune.

Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omega chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969.

In 1975, Anderson died of cancer in Woodbury, Connecticut and was buried there.

For his contribution to the recording industry, Leroy Anderson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1620 Vine Street. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988, and his music continues to be a staple of “pops” orchestra repertoire. In 1995 the new headquarters of the Harvard University Band was named the Anderson Band Center in honor of Leroy Anderson. The Leroy Anderson House in Woodbury, Connecticut has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2006, one of his piano works, “Forgotten Dreams”, written in 1954, became the background for a British TV advertisement for mobile phone company “3”. Previously, Los Angeles station KABC-TV used the song as its sign-off theme at the end of broadcast days in the 1980s, and Mantovani’s recording of the song had been the closing theme for WABC-TV’s Eyewitness News for much of the 1970s. “Forgotten Dreams” was used as a recurring theme in the French film Populaire (2012).

The Typewriter was used as the theme song for Esto no tiene nombre, a Puerto Rican television comedy program – loosely based on the TV series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In – produced by Tommy Muñiz between the late 1960s and late 1970s. It is also the signature tune for the BBC Radio 4 series The News Quiz, running since 1977.

Honors and awards:

  • Phi Beta Kappa, elected June 17, 1929.
  • Music Director, Harvard University Band 1929, 1931–1935
  • Gold Record, Blue Tango, 1952
  • Member, Board of Directors, ASCAP, New York, New York 1960–1964
  • Member, Music Department Committee, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1962–1968
  • Goldman Citation, American Bandmasters Association, March 10, 1966
  • Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Gamma Omega Chapter (honorary member), Indiana State University, 1969
  • Member of Board of Directors of symphony orchestras:
  • New Haven, Connecticut 1969–1975
  • Hartford, Connecticut 1971–1975
  • Honorary Doctorate (Ph.D), Portia Law School, Boston, Massachusetts June 1971
  • Honorary Doctorate (Ph.D), Western New England College, Springfield, Massachusetts May 1974
  • Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1976
  • Named to Songwriters Hall of Fame, April 18, 1988
  • Anderson Band Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University, dedicated October 26, 1995
  • Leroy Anderson Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated May 31, 2003.

The Sandpaper Ballet is a ballet choreographed by Mark Morris to music by Leroy Anderson. It was created for the San Francisco Ballet, and premiered on April 27, 1999, at the War Memorial Opera House.
Tina Fehlandt, a frequent collaborator of Morris who had staged the ballet, said Morris “loves ballet, and he uses ballet vocabulary […] But he likes to use it in a different way.” She noted that this ballet is “very classical.” The ballet is performed by sixteen women and nine men. Fehlandt said Morris deliberately used an odd number of dancers as a challenge as he “loves spacial patterns and moving large groups of people around” and “wanted to challenge himself.” She also said Morris wants the dancers to be individualistic, “so there’s not a sense they’re performing at you. Although, that said, if you didn’t feel good on a particular day he’d want you to pretend.”
The ballet is set to music by Leroy Anderson, who was associated with the Boston Pops Orchestra. All eleven scores used by Anderson are three to four minutes long, though “Sleigh Ride” is used as an overture. and “Sandpaper Ballet”, from which the title of the ballet is taken, is surprisingly, not featured. It was Morris’ first piece with a full orchestra, and he called the music “little gems; one-liners that really show off the band.”
The Brandenburger Symphoniker is a symphonic orchestra in Brandenburg an der Havel. Its home venue is the CulturCongressCentrum  there. It is affiliated to the Brandenburger Theater.

It was founded in 1810 by high-ranking Prussian military musicians from the fusiliers and grenadiers regiments. From 1866, the successful music ensemble called itself the Orchestra of the Brandenburg Theatre. After the German reunification the orchestra got the name “Brandenburger Symphoniker”.
As the oldest existing orchestra it belongs to the outstanding cultural institutions of the Brandenburg Land. The orchestra is not only active as a symphony orchestra, but also in opera performances and for several years has been playing in productions for the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg festival. The Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra regularly performs in Berlin (Konzerthaus Berlin, Berliner Philharmonie), Potsdam (Nikolaisaal [de]), Frankfurt (Oder) (concert hall) and other cities in the Land of Brandenburg, but also gives guest performances throughout Germany and abroad. Guest performances have taken the orchestra through Europe, to the US, Japan, South Africa and China. The Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra is a regular guest at the Festival MúsicaMallorca [de] in Palma (per Wikipedia).

So here is the Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra performing the “Sandpaper Ballet” being the signature song from the ballet “Sandpaper Ballet” that was erased from the final ballet. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.” – Travis Bradberry


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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