What is a Paper Sander?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss
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Woman with a flower

A paper sander is a scrapbooking tool that is primarily used to provide the look of distress paper. Scrapbooking is an art form in which a person arranges photos, art, stickers, paper figures, and decorations on the blank pages of a book. Generally, it is a way for the scrapbook artist to preserve memories, photos, and keepsakes in a decorated book. A paper sander can play an important role in preparing items for presentation in a scrapbook.

Paper sanders are usually hand-held rather than electric or battery-powered devices. During scrapbooking, very fine sandpaper or fine emery board nail files are used in lieu of an automated paper sander. The paper sanding process of distressing a scrapbook is often subtle and can require a delicate touch, so a paper sander is rarely more than a piece of fine sandpaper or a small sanding stick. Emery boards offer an advantage in their slim shape, thereby making it possible to sand in small areas. The coarser the sand coating on the paper sander, the rougher the sanding result will be.

A paper sander can be used to age photos, as a distressing tool, or as a smoothing and finishing tool for the scrapbook cover. The practice of significantly distressing scrapbooks using a paper sander is part of a style movement in scrapbooking called "shabby chic." Shabby chic is used in fashion and architecture as well as scrapbooking — a shabby chic scrapbook has been strategically distressed so it looks tastefully and artistically aged. Other techniques in this style include tearing paper, crinkling paper, or sewing paper. Paper sanding can also be used to distress new photos so they appear old — this type of distressing is often used on old-time themed photos or western-themed scrapbooks.

Distressing paper with sandpaper causes it to have a frayed look. When crafting a scrapbook, a paper sander may be used to smooth out other paper distressing techniques, such as crinkling or crimping. When a crafter sands the corners of a scrapbook, it can help with edge smoothing and evening out sharp corners. Sanding is most commonly used in combination with staining to give paper an aged look. When staining paper, a scrapbook artist will brew coffee or tea and strategically dip the paper until the desired color is achieved; the stained paper is then allowed to dry before it is distressed with sandpaper.

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