There’s an art to sanding wood. If you’ve ever been dissatisfied with the finish on a piece of furniture you made, it’s probably because you didn’t know how to sand wood correctly. There’s no shortcuts to sanding – just a lot of patience and a few simple steps. Now, let’s learn how to sand wood and the various types of sandpapers and grits we will use.
When you visit your local hardware store or home center, you’ll find many types of sandpaper. Which is best? We’re going to discuss that in a minute but first, a word of warning: Don’t buy glass paper. This is the low quality sandpaper you’ll find and be tempted to buy because of the cheap price. It may be cheaper but in the long run, you’ll end up spending more because glass paper breaks down very quickly. Having said that, let’s look at some better choices:
- Silicon Carbide – Unlike glass paper which is yellow in color, silicon carbide paper is black. This paper is hard enough to sand metal. If you’re wet sanding an oil finish, the wet-dry silicon carbide paper (320-600 grit) is a good choice.
- Garnet Paper – Like the name implies, this paper is made from small pieces of garnet. It’s inexpensive and better quality than glass paper but doesn’t work well with some hardwoods. Most experienced woodworkers don’t use garnet paper very much – and instead opt for the more versatile aluminum oxide paper.
- Aluminum Oxide – This paper is excellent for almost any kind of wood and is the choice of most woodworkers. Unless you’re doing a lot of metal or wet sanding, this is the best paper for your workshop. If you want to learn how to sand wood properly, aluminum oxide sandpaper is your best bet.
We’ve discussed the various papers and their applications. Now, let’s take a look at grit categories:
- Very Coarse – 40-60 grit.
- Coarse – 80-100 grit.
- Medium – 120-180 grit.
- Fine – 220-280 grit.
- Very Fine – 320-600 grit.
Now that you’ve learned a thing or two about the various papers and grits, let’s briefly cover the basics of how to sand wood:
- Full sheets of paper can be quartered or halved to make it easier to work with.
- Periodically clean the paper by taping it with your hand or blowing on it. When the paper can no longer be cleaned, replace it.
- Take your sandpaper and wrap it around a block of wood for a more solid backing. Also, your hand won’t get so tired.
- Frequently you will have to sand irregular pieces of wood such as molding. The best way to do this is with a contoured block. You can buy one or make it yourself with a wooden dowel.
- Certain finishes work better with certain sandpapers. For example, if you’re using shellac or oil, you’ll want to sand with 320-grit paper. Conversely, if you’re working with wax, you’ll want to sand with 220-grit; a varnish finish should be sanded with 150 to 220-grit.
There you have it – a crash course on sandpapers and how to sand wood. Remember, sanding wood requires a lot of patience. But, if done correctly, it can make a world of difference to the finished product. So take your time and you’ll have a project you can be proud of.