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Christian McArdle
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Various professionals to do our front room are charging from around
350 to 450 to sand, varnish and then an extra 50 to 150 to stain.

I found it relatively easy in terms of skill, but hard physical work. I
managed to do almost the entire house before I broke a sheet of the coarse
stuff. The real skill is in moving the machine forward whilst lowering so
that you start sanding near the beginning of the run without leaving an
indent (or even breaking the sheet). Always sand at 45 degrees to the
boards. Get everything flat with the coarsest grain before moving up the
grades. NEVER stop the machine in contact with the boards, especially on
coarse grain. Always still be moving when lowering or raising the machine.
Use the sandpaper until it really stops working, or a large bit of grit is
gauging out the boards. Buy loads of paper on sale or return, the hire shop
will be closed on Sunday.

Also, there is much more work if the house has the Victorian black muck on
it. Boards that are just a bit old, grey and manky are an absolute delight
compared to that black muck, which clogs the paper. However, there are
various tricks to removing it. Firstly, there are ways of unclogging the
paper if it has plenty of abrasive, but is contaminated. Secondly, you can
use the edge rotary sander using a "flicking" action. Rather than have it
flat on the floor, swing it from side to side, only making contact with the
edge at the bottom of your arc. The black filth then picks itself up and
throws itself across the room as dust, rather than liquifying onto the disc.

Don't skimp on the varnish. If using varnish (and I did, as I have
children), use a top quality type with "diamond" in the name. Ronseal
Diamond Hard, or the Dulux equivalent. Close your eyes when looking at the
price tag. I got best results by rollering it on and then brushing it out.
Do loads of coats. The wood absorbs less and less each time. The first coat
will be absolutely drunk silly by the boards and the thought of going back
for more tins to do the required number of coats will make you cry. However,
by the 3rd and 4th coat, it hardly takes any at all. When this happens, this
is the time to finish.



Don't even think about staining the boards. It looks simply appalling.
Absolutely horrible. The sanded boards will darken with time, which looks
much better than some manky watered down paint with obvious variation and
brush marks. Use only clear satin varnish (or various oils instead if
appearance is more important than protection).