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National Abrasives - Mini Fill - Review

I do enough decorating jobs to know that filling and making good is the most important part of getting a good final result. Clients will often be surprised at how long careful preparation can take, especially if they think that it is simply a case of rolling on some emulsion once the wallpaper has been stripped….. 

Good preparation usually involves a lot of filling and sanding which is tedious and dusty work. Any way of making these jobs easier warrants a closer look in my view.

I also know that there is a huge range of plaster-based fillers out there, and I have used many of them. Choosing the right one for the job can be important for speed, efficiency, and getting the right sanded finish. So, when I saw the Mini Fill I was keen to find out if this all-in-one hole and crack filler would be effective and, more to the point, save me time and hassle.

Think of Sausages

The Mini Fill looks like a small wrapped salami sausage. Roughly 23cm long and 3cm in diameter, it has a sealing cap on one end with a built-in stopper and filler/spreader tool.  For the necessary long shelf-life the Mini Fill has a seal on the business end of the sausage that needs to be broken before use. This is done by simply pulling off the plastic strip and screwing in the cap to pierce the ‘sausage’.  Then just pull off the sealing cap and a gentle squeeze on the tube will get the filler flowing.

Texture and Look

Because it is gypsum based, the filler inside the Mini Fill is a greyish white when it is unset, drying to a plaster white when set. The texture is pretty well spot-on for most filling jobs – wet enough to spread easily, but with enough body not to slump when it is used to fill slightly bigger holes – say those about 15 to 20 mm wide.

It also feels as though it has had a plasticiser added because it feels a bit sticky and is easy to finish smoothly. It certainly feels a bit more like applying a well-mixed skim plaster rather than a hand mixed proprietary filler. The standard gypsum based fillers for the usual DIY or professional use can feel a bit lumpy and dry in comparison, depending on the expertise of the mixer. Either way, I found that the texture of the Mini Fill was a definite plus point and added to its ability to get a smooth finish with minimal sanding. 

The end of the sausage includes a white plastic spreader onto which the filler is ejected when the tube is squeezed. When filling small cracks and holes left by plastic plugs this spreader is perfectly adequate and indeed leaves a smooth surface that is easy to sand flush when the filler has set. I tried to stretch the parameters a bit by using the Mini Fill to fill in 6 to 10mm wide cracks left when replacing a window frame. Although application straight from the tube using the spreader was easy enough, I think the idea of a corner applicator that National are introducing in the coming months will make this job a breeze.

Usable working time was very respectable too, because it is often easier to fill bigger holes and cracks by applying the filler, and then waiting ten minutes for the filler to set a little before spreading it further and then applying the final filler coat.

Setting time can vary according to warmth and humidity, but I found that by the time I got around the room I was preparing, and back to the start point (a couple of hours) the filler was ready to sand. Sanding is easy enough, and you shouldn’t have to use anything rougher than 120 grit abrasive paper to get a smooth finish.

Cleaning up the Mini Fill is simply a matter of re-inserting the stopper to seal the tube and washing the spreader under the cold tap. I kept a half-used tube for a week to test the seal before I finished it off and the contents were still usable, so the seal is good.

Looking at the Economics

With 80ml of filler per tube, the Mini Fill, as the name indicates, is best used where the filling needs are not too drastic. The cost of the Mini Fill retailing at up to £2.98 inc Vat would be easily balanced by the ease of use, and hassle free application and preparation of the finished surface. It would also solve the problem of half a box of filler powder, slowly getting hard in the cupboard under the stairs waiting for the next decorating job to come up. The same can be said of ready mixed fillers in tubes and tubs, which generally go hard. The Mini Fill has a 5-year plus shelf life.

Like other fillers, Mini Fill can be painted, sealed, sanded, drilled and plugged, so it is a genuine replacement for the usual market offers – but I still point out that its biggest selling points are its ease of use and the good clean finish with minimal effort, the brilliant built in scraper and long shelf life.

For Retailers

The Mini Fill comes in a handy counter display box for easy display and explanation. I think customers will like that fact that they only need to buy the Mini Fill to do the job – no need for unexpected extra bits and pieces like scrapers - and then the tubes are easy to dispose of too when they are used up. It all translates into time and convenience that are on the side of Mini Fill. 

 

 

Multi-Purpose Rectangular Sanding Plates from National Abrasives

Take Your Pick for a Job Well Done!

Piece by piece in the last few months, we at ToolBUSINESS+HIRE Magazine have been revealing the sanding system developed in partnership with and marketed by National Abrasives. Starting with the round and rectangular pole sanders, each new component has added to the versatility of the system. So, this month we have the rectangular sanders to look at.

I was sent four samples and a variety of sanding sheets so that I could explore just how versatile the extra components added to the system are. 

As I have come to expect, the quality of the sanding plates is very high. Made from yellow nylon plastic they are rigid and will not distort even under the pressure of pole sanding. As is common with the round and corner sanders we looked at earlier, the handles are interchangeable. It takes just a few seconds to swap from the nicely grippy D handle to a universal joint into which the professional (and excellently rigid) glass fibre pole can be screwed.

There is also currently a choice between methods of holding the abrasive to the plates – hook-and-loop or clips. I am not such a fan of clips, and hook-and-loop has come on so well that it seems like a no-brainer to me. However, when I was working with some decorators last week they said they preferred clips. I guess choice is the name of the game.

On the clip versions of the sanding plates there is a thin sheet of padded, hard foam rubber on the base of the plate, to provide a bit of ‘give’ needed in some sanding situations where the sanded surface is a bit more sensitive. The clips are also a much better design than the tedious spring clips I am used to on some sanders. The plate has a series of six small spikes that pierce the sanding sheet as it is pulled over – and then, before your fingers get spiked, the clip is brought down until it engages. My experience was that these clips didn’t fail and the sanding sheet stayed firmly in place however hard you pressed them to the sanding surface.

The other option on the sole plate was a simple sheet of hook-and-loop straight onto the rigid base of the sander. Again, the handle/universal joints were interchangeable in seconds, but this rigid base is good for sanding stubborn lumps of filler into submission when trying to get a flat surface to the wall. Or indeed, it is equally at home sanding a flat sheet of timber/ply or whatever.

Having used some of the other accessories on the round wall sander, I am pleased to see that the washable sponge and cloths have been catered for with these sanding plates. I am converted to the use of the hook-and-loop-backed sponge for wiping down after initial sanding, and the microfibre cloth is a must for every serious decorator and builder. The sponge is also used for tiling and grout removal, making this a great multi-purpose tool.

These rectangular plates all add up to valuable additions to the Multi-Purpose Sander System. The good thing is it won’t cost a fortune to add these to a set – and all the bits are compatible!

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

It may come as a surprise to end-users that there are relatively few manufacturers of abrasives in the world. What they generally produce for mass consumer markets are so-called ‘jumbo rolls’ some of which are sold to other companies who in turn convert the jumbo rolls into various forms of abrasive that can be used by consumers. So, that 5 metre roll of abrasive for decorators, flat sheets, delta shapes or various round discs with fancy hole patterns to aid dust extraction, are all made from huge rolls of abrasive that are as tall as a person and weigh much more.

National Abrasives, based in Reigate in Surrey, is a major player in the UK in converting Jumbo rolls into ‘end-usable’ formats of ‘sandpaper’ for consumers. National Abrasives has recently launched its range of mesh-backed abrasive sheets that covers pretty well all the available formats of hook-and-loop based sanding machines. Until recently, there has been little competition in the mesh-backed abrasives market for general users, but the decision of National Abrasives to source mesh-backed abrasives from one of the most famous names in ‘sandpaper’, Sia, has immediately added another dimension to the competition.

Sia Abrasives is a Swiss company with a long history. Founded in 1867 it has been making abrasives and innovating for over a hundred years and is renowned for the quality of its abrasives. The abrasive grits used on the sianet mesh-backed abrasives is blue-fired aluminium oxide that is extremely hard, and therefore long lasting, with a high resistant fabric backing.

The abrasive grains are applied using a special coating method that coats the mesh parts of the backing, but also leaves the gaps between the mesh open for easy transition of the sanding dust through it.

The sianet mesh uses a hook-and-loop fixing that, in my view, is the best way of attaching an abrasive to a sanding machine because it keeps the abrasive sheets flat and firmly fixed. The old-fashioned method of using spring-loaded clips is clumsy and very often ineffective, to say the least. Sianet’s method of attaching the abrasive grains to the mesh keeps them free of the fastening loops and this makes for a secure and long-lasting fixing to the sander platen.

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

I was sent a huge variety of National Abrasive’s range of mesh-backed abrasive sheets to try out. These included half, quarter and third sheet formats for platen sanders, large and small delta formats, including the delta shapes that look more like the base of an ordinary steam iron. There was also a selection of discs to fit my favourite 125mm and 150mm diameter random orbit sanders. I use these regularly and they are the mainstay of my sanding operations, be it on painted walls or fine furniture.

If I am not mistaken, there will soon be mesh-backed belt sander belts available from National Abrasives as well.

There is a good range of grits available in the above formats too - typically from P80 to P400 – so there should be enough to cover everything from first coat sanding and paintwork to the fine finishing required for an oil or polished finish.

What is very noticeable when handling the abrasives is that the abrasive surfaces are so sharp that they tend to cling to your fingers – surely an indication of how the abrasive grains will perform when they finally get to work – and of course a good thing that they are!

However, there was a little surprise in each pack of abrasives – the blue Dust Director Pad. This is a millimetre thin pad that has a multitude of holes in the surface. They are not random – they are designed to fit the various dust collection holes in the myriad of makes of sanders on the market. The pad has a set of hooks on one surface and a set of loops on the other and is attached to the sandpaper by the hooks and to the sander by the loops. The Dust Director Pad is therefore an interface between the disc and the sander platen and the object of it is to create a small gap through which dust particles can travel more quickly when the sander is connected to a vacuum extractor.

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

To be honest, all of my regularly used sanders have been chosen because of their sanding performance and their ability to collect dust well, using either a dust bag or extractor. It keeps customers happy and my lungs healthy.

I tried using the mesh-backed sianet pads on my sanders and it was clear that more dust was being extracted to the vacuum machine. The usual puff of dust occurred as you sand over an edge for example, but that seems to be unavoidable using traditional sanders. So, when I attached the Dust Director Pads I was interested to see whether they made a difference as to how much dust was collected. It is clear that the pads create just enough of a gap to increase the effective ‘pull’ from the vacuum extractor and clear the path to the various dust extraction holes for more efficient extraction. Even sanding up to the edges seemed to be an improvement, with the puff of dust as the telltale sign virtually eliminated. The result is the multi-hole Dust Director pad with the sianet without doubt collects more dust than any other product seen on the market.

Whatever format of sanding machine you use, they will give quick results and a smooth finish. In fact the sianet abrasive has out performed any other mesh abrasive I have used, with the edges of the sheets performing very well and the harder grit making for a much longer lasting product. 
With the extra dust extraction provided by the Dust Director Pads, users can feel that they are maximising the possibilities of collecting most dust safely. The dangers of exposure to dust are now becoming fully understood and it makes no sense for anyone exposed to dust to ignore the possible effects. The National Abrasive sianet abrasives, linked with the Dust Director Pads and a quality M or H class vacuum extractor should provide some confidence to users that the dangers of dust exposure are being minimised.

Aimed at: Pros and discerning amateurs who want effective and almost completely free sanding with machines.

Pros: Long lasting Sianet abrasive, dust director pads give excellent dust collection and all the formats you need for all machines.

The MudGun from National Abrasives No Fuss Drywall Taping and Repairs

National Abrasives has taken on the agency of the MudGun from Canada. In North America, filling plaster used in drywall construction is referred to as “Mud” – We have followed the trend in our building methods and it is fair to say that we now need the MudGun in the UK to help us fill the skills gaps as well as the gaps in our drylining.

The basis of the MudGun is the gun itself. It is like a larger sealant gun. This is the basic “mud delivery system”. Both kits come with two nozzles - one for flat joints and the other for inside corners. There is also a 7 inch finishing head, a T-adaptor, an inside corner smoothing tool and a cleaning brush.

The MudGun Pro differs slightly with two extra additions – a loading ring and a MudPak adaptor. This allows it to use the “sausages” of premixed Mud that are very quick to use for small repairs and filling. It is possible to mix filling plaster to the right consistency for the MudGun, but with a ready mixed bucket of Mud or MudPaks, users will always have the necessary at hand.

The loading ring is included in the Pro version so that bulk buy users can load the mud into their gun without exposing the mud to the air.  

The MudGun comes with a set of very comprehensive instructions that explain basic use and point out potential glitches.

I used the MudGun only with the MudPaks and the they are simplicity itself to use. I was impressed with the robustness and size of the trigger and handle mechanism. It is solidly made in metal and is able to resist the inevitable ravages of drying plaster and plaster dust.

The nozzles, both flat and corner, are easy to attach by simply screwing them on, and can be easily adjusted to the correct angle by just backing off the collar a bit.

The MudGun can be used for doing simple repairs of holes and cracks in plasterboard, and the instructions provide clear advice on how to proceed.

Where professionals would save time is by using the MudGun to tape and finish the joints between sections of drywalling. Using the T adaptor and the finishing head, layers of mud can be quickly applied to the edges of joints to even them out and also to fill in any slight gaps that might not have been covered first time round.

The finishing head can be adjusting via a sliding switch to vary the depth of the mud that is applied. The whole head and adjustment mechanism is made of plastic and the switch can be popped out for easy cleaning – because nothing sticks like dried plaster.

I wouldn’t say I became an expert after half an hour of using it, but I will say that I had improved enough to be able to do a good job. Keen DIYers and DIY property developers should be keen to take a look at it too.

Several Builders Merchants & DIY stores have placed orders at the recent trade shows as well as Belmore Tools, a specialist Drywall tool distributor.

WhyBuy..? 

  • Easy way to apply plaster
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Repairs, taping, and filling all possible with this
  • Robust construction
  • A good way of avoiding waste

Sanding Innovations from National Abrasives

Anything that helps to minimise effort, time and mess when sanding big areas is worth a look as far as I am concerned, and the kits from National Abrasives looked useful.

The Multi-Purpose Sander Quick Change System consists of a pole, a large, 220mm diameter sanding disc, a handle and a pole adaptor. Each of the pieces can be used in a variety of combinations according to need. The glassfibre pole can be used with both round disc and corner sander discussed below.

Because of its flexible universal joint, the adaptor allows the user to sand in every direction and follow junctions like skirtings and covings with ease.

To reach other areas, maybe lower down, simply remove the pole adaptor and attach the handle to have a big area of sanding literally at your fingertips.

Users have the option to attach wipe-down sponges or microfibre cloths to the disc (with pole or handle) for the final step.

By using either the gold aluminium oxide optional disc, you can sand fillers, wood, paint and metal quite aggressively.

The tungsten carbide disc can smooth concrete and masonry - not a job I fancy – but the small trial piece I did worked well.

All of the pieces of the kit can be replaced, including interface pads, thus making for a kit that can be added to as well as renewed as necessary.

The Multi-Use Corner Sander is a similar concept – its main part is the right-angled ABS plastic corner sander. Sanding sheets can be attached to either or both of the arms of the right-angled legs. When sanding right up to the edge of a floor for example, you can leave the abrasive off the angle facing the skirting so that it is not sanded.

For a softer touch on the sanding, there are additional foam pads with hook and loop surfaces.

There is also the option to attach either the handle or the pole adaptor. Using the handle I found it really easy to sand right up to doorframes since the abrasive reaches up to the corner and maintains its right-angled shape. Using the pole allows the reach for coving, corners or ceiling/wall junctions and it is efficient too.

There are some excellent accessories as well. A set of wipe-down sponges makes it easy to get the dust out of corners, and a made-to-measure microfibre cloth gives a good final wipe down in preparation for painting etc.

I found these kits a lot easier to use than I thought. The pole sanding options were actually much more efficient and easier to control because the backing discs are rigid and the hook and loop fixings are secure. The universal joint on the adaptor allows really flexible movement of the pad and discs, without losing control or accuracy.

WhyBuy..?

  • Very versatile – used on a pole or by hand
  • Reaches to ceiling height without a ladder
  • Sands right up to edges
  • Quick
  • Easy to control
  • Different surfaces sanded with different discs
  • Easy to swop abrasives via hook and loop
  • Economical way to sand big areas.

 

Sanding Innovations from National Abrasives

Walls, Floors, Ceilings and Corners Get the Treatment

Most of the time I hate sanding – especially when faced with a large wall (or sometimes more than one) that needs to be pristinely smooth before rolling on the paint. It is the dust, the effort, the reaching up and the odd angles your arms have to get into that makes sanding a chore.

On the other hand, sanding pieces of furniture I have made, usually involves a random orbit sander and vacuum extractor. This is quicker, less dusty and it makes for a much more pleasant experience. So, anything that helps to minimise effort, time and mess when sanding big areas is worth a look as far as I am concerned, and the box of goodies that I got from National Abrasives looked very interesting in that regard.

The first set I looked at was the Multi-Purpose Sander Quick Change System. It consists of a pole, a large 220mm diameter sanding disc, a handle and a pole adaptor. Each of the pieces is able to be used in a variety of combinations according to need and circumstance. I started by attaching the pole via the strong acme screw thread to the pole adaptor. This in turn is clicked onto the back of the circular disc and with a 220mm diameter sanding sheet attached it will tackle quite large areas. It is actually amazing how quickly the disc will sand down quite large areas of rough paintwork or plaster. If you need a softer backing for more sensitive areas of plaster, and a must for Drywall, a 15mm thick foam disc can be hook and looped to the backing disc and the abrasive attached on top of that.

A quick word about the pole – it is made of a quality glassfibre and is very strong and rigid. Apparently, the aluminium pole on the prototype split because of the amount of effort that could be applied to the target sanding area! The pole means that even a short mortal like myself can reach up to a standard height ceiling without strain. Because of its flexible universal joint, the adaptor allows the user to sand in every direction and follow junctions like skirtings and covings with ease.

Should you then need to reach other areas maybe lower down, simply remove the pole adaptor and attach the handle – complete with comfy rubber overmould – to have a big area of sanding literally at your fingertips.

Of course, the job is not done until all the dust is wiped off the prepared surfaces, and users have the option to attach wipe down sponges or microfibre cloths to the disc (with pole or handle) for the final step.

But it doesn’t end there, by using either the gold aluminium oxide optional disc, you can sand fillers, wood, paint and metal quite aggressively. I tried it on a wood floor around an edge where the big belt sander doesn’t reach and it worked amazingly well because the disc allows you to get right up against the skirting.

By attaching the tungsten carbide disc, concrete and masonry can be smoothed – not a job I fancy – but the small trial piece I did worked well. I think doing a large masonry area by hand might be very tiring!

All of the pieces of the kit can be replaced, including interface pads, thus making for a kit that can be added to as well as renewed as necessary.

The Multi Use Corner Sander is a similar concept and development of the disc sander and they complement each other very well.

The main part of the kit is the right-angled ABS plastic corner sander. Sanding sheets can be attached to either or both of the arms of the right-angled legs so you can have the choice of what bits you need to sand. When sanding right up to the edge of a floor for example, you can leave the abrasive off the angle facing the skirting so that it is not sanded.

For a softer touch on the sanding, again a must for Drywall, there are additional foam pads with hook and loop surfaces that can be easily stuck on.

Of course, there is also the ingenious option to attach either the handle or the pole adaptor. Using the handle I found it really easy to sand right up to doorframes for example since the abrasive reaches right up to the corner and maintains its right- angled shape. Using the pole allows easy reaching into coving, corners or ceiling/wall junctions. Again, I was surprised by how much sanding action I was able to apply where I needed it and how quickly the sanding proceeded.

Just like the sanding disc set, there are some excellent accessories that are worth considering. A set of wipe down sponges makes it easy to get the dust out of corners and attaching a made-to-measure microfibre cloth gives a good final wipedown in preparation for painting etc. Obviously, these will wear out with use, but these too are available as “spares” to keep the system in good-as-new nick.

Having used powered wall sanders with built-in dust collection I was fully prepared to find that these two sanding kits would be a lot like hard work, but I found them a lot easier to use than I thought. The pole sanding options were actually much more efficient and easier to control than I thought because the backing discs are rigid and the hook and loop fixings are secure. The universal joint on the adaptor allows really flexible movement of the pad and discs, without losing control or accuracy.

Also, it really helps to have several thicknesses of disc backing to enable you to get the right finish on various materials. Highly innovative and great multi purpose tools.

If I was a professional plasterer/decorator I could easily find a place for these two kits in my tool collection – in addition to a powered wall sander. The powered sander would still be needed for very large jobs, but it could actually be quicker, simpler and cheaper to sand and prepare smaller areas by hand using the National Abrasives disc and corner sanders. Keen DIYers would also be able to get full value from them as well as improving the quality of the job. A Good Idea indeed!

Sanding Innovations from National Abrasives

Anything that helps to minimise effort, time and mess when sanding big areas is worth a look as far as I am concerned, and the kits from National Abrasives looked useful.

The Multi-Purpose Sander Quick Change System consists of a pole, a large 220mm diameter sanding disc, a handle and a pole adaptor. Each of the pieces is able to be used in a variety of combinations according to need. The glassfibre pole can be used with both round disc and corner sander.

Because of its flexible universal joint, the adaptor allows the user to sand in every direction and follow junctions like skirtings and covings with ease.

To reach other areas maybe lower down, simply remove the pole adaptor and attach the handle to have a big area of sanding literally at your fingertips.

Users have the option to attach wipe down sponges or microfibre cloths to the disc (with pole or handle) for the final step.

By using either the gold or aluminium oxide optional disc, you can sand fillers, wood, paint and metal quite aggressively.

The tungsten carbide disc can smooth concrete and masonry - not a job I fancy - but the small trial piece I did worked well.

All of the pieces of the kit can be replaced, including interface pads, thus making for a kit that can be added to as well as renewed as necessary.

The Multi Use Corner Sander is a similar concept –its main part is the right-angled ABS plastic corner sander. Sanding sheets can be attached to either or both of the arms of the right-angled legs. When sanding right up to the edge of a floor for example, you can leave the abrasive off the angle facing the skirting so that it is not sanded.

For a softer touch on the sanding, there are additional foam pads with hook and loop surfaces.

There is also the option to attach either the handle or the pole adaptor. Using the handle I found it really easy to sand right up to doorframes since the abrasive reaches up to the corner and maintains its right-angled shape. Using the pole allows the reach for coving, corners or ceiling/wall junctions and it is efficient too.

There are some excellent accessories as well. A set of wipe down sponges makes it easy to get the dust out of corners and a made-to-measure microfibre cloth gives a good final wipe down in preparation for painting etc.

I found these kits a lot easier to use than I thought. The pole sanding options were actually much more efficient and easier to control because the backing discs are rigid and the hook and loop fixings are secure. The universal joint on the adaptor allows really flexible movement of the pad and discs, without losing control or accuracy.

WhyBuy..?

  • Very versatile – used on a pole or by hand
  • Reaches to ceiling height without a ladder
  • Sands right up to edges
  • Quick
  • Easy to control
  • Different surfaces sanded with different discs
  • Easy to swop abrasives via hook and loop
  • Economical way to sand big areas.
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