The Edmund Fitzsander

The legend lives on...

So named because it evokes the look of a Great Lakes boat, I built the Edmund Fitzsander over the weekend.

Sanding ties is important when hand-laying track, to level the tops of the ties and prepare them for rail. Having done a lot of reading lately about woodworking, I realized that what we’re doing – sort of – is akin to flattening a board with a fore plane: we want to remove the high points on a length of ties without removing material from the valleys.

Fore planes do this by having a long sole that rides from peak to peak. But with a narrow point of contact with the work – the iron – planes only work on a solid surface like a panel or table top. A plane iron would rip ties right off the roadbed. For ties, we need to use a sanding block – but the same principles apply: Long is good… heavy is good… and control is good.

With just the sector plate still to do, it’s kind of late in the game for this layout but I decided to build the Edmund Fitzsander – a tie-sanding tool inspired by the fore plane.

I started with a 1″x4″ oak board I picked up from a local DIY store. Oak is nice and heavy and the surface of the board is nice and flat – important for this tool. I cut two 24″ lengths then used my bread maker to drill the top board to accept a knob and tote – replacement plane handles from Lee Valley Tools. I put the tote slightly off-centre so that when I hold it in my left (dominant) hand, my knuckles would not hang over the edge of the tool.

With the knob and tote installed, I glued and clamped the two boards. When dry, I added a slight chamfer to each top edge and the long bottom edges to make them “finger friendly”, then shaped a larger chamfer onto each end at the bottom so that the sandpaper won’t catch the edge of a tie and pull it off the roadbed.

The sandpaper is a 4″x36″ belt for a bench sander. To secure it, I marked and drilled four holes for #6 x 3/4″ wood screws and added finishing washers. To install the sandpaper, I cut the belt at the joint, trimmed it to length, screwed through it into the pre-drilled and tapped holes at one end, pulled it tight to the other end, and secured it there as well. The finishing washers grab the sanding belt by the face and press it to the body of the tool so it’s less likely to rip away from the screws during use.

Bring on the ties…

6 thoughts on “The Edmund Fitzsander

  1. I saw this post referenced on Chris Mears’ blog Trevor. I’ll be building one shortly once my next hospital visit is over. I have a lot of cork (which is what Chris is using his for) to sand, and I was not looking forward to doing it. This is going to make it a lot easier.

    Thanks for another great post.

    • Hi Andrew:
      I’m glad I could help!
      This tool was inspired by learning about woodworking planes. A small plane will follow the contours of a surface, whereas a large (long) plane will only remove material from high spots: it bridges the dips and valleys. That’s why large planes are used to smooth board surfaces for pieces like drawer fronts and table tops.
      It occurred to me that we needed the same type of tool – but with sandpaper – for leveling roadbed and ties.
      As with many other things in the hobby, it’ll take a bit of practice to determine just how much material this tool will remove in a single pass. So work up to the finished result gradually. It’s always easy to remove material – but tricky to replace it if you’ve taken off too much.
      FYI, I demonstrate how I use this tool in the track-laying segment of “The Roadshow” on TrainMasters TV.

  2. Pingback: When the Loan of the Sander Comes Early – A Model Meander

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