5 mins read

Bare Bones Basics of Sanding and Useful Sanding Tips

The woodworking community has grown strong, Instagram tutorials being the new mainstream form of advertisement. We know you’ve seen them, those beautiful wood tables with those perfect finishes. The one’s that have us all thinking — how did they do this? Well, I can’t say that we know all the tricks, we don’t, but here’s some direction in helping to make that wood project look a bit more silky smooth.

When it comes to sanding and saving time, a mechanical sander may be your best option; preferably a palm sander. Belt sanders could become too heavy duty for finishing projects. Personally, we own a Bosch 6 inch orbital, and in my opinion it’s a great machine. Regardless of what you do have, keep in mind to get the proper sand paper for it. It’s not a one size fit all type of deal. Because their’s a variety, if you’re unsure, bring it over to your local improvement store. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Because our sander is a 6 inch orbital, meaning the circular base is 6 inches in diameter, the sandpaper looks like this. It’s called “Hook and Loop” sand paper.

Grit is just the amount of abrasive particles on each piece of paper. Notice how the sandpaper is coarse, this is the proper type of grit to start off with. You can find the type of grit, usually, on the back of each paper.

Never start off with a fine grit sandpaper. Start off with a low grit and work your way up; we recommend starting around 60 to 80 grit.

60 grit vs 400 grit

With each grit, evenly sand across your project. Work the area slowly and don’t stay in any one area too long — staying stagnant while sanding could make your project uneven. As you work your way up through the grits, give yourself time to analyze how your sanding is going. You want each layer to end up being smoother than the last. If you start jumping from grit to grit too quickly you may see some residual scuff marks from the previous grit left behind. You don’t want that, so take your time!

Grit List Used: 60, 80, 100, 120, 180, 240, 320, 400 grit

As you work your way through the finer grits, prompt yourself to feel your project; the difference should be like night and day. The smoother you want your project to be, the finer the grit you allow.

If your project looks a bit too delicate for a mechanical sander, try hand sanding. Hand sandpaper comes in sheets; tear the sheet into quarters and fold them just big enough to hold within your first few fingers. If that’s too uncomfortable, you can use a block of wood to make for better hand fitment or use sand blocks. Sand blocks can be found at any local improvement store.

When you look closely at your piece of wood, you’ll notice that there’s a pattern going in a certain direction called woodgrain; sand in that direction. Apply even pressure when moving back and forth with the grain; this will help prevent any unwanted scratches or depressions that could be made by improper sanding.

It may not be the most glamorous part to woodworking, but it sure does change the way a project can look. Here’s a before and after, no finish, sanded to 400 grit. Pictures don’t do it justice, but you can sure feel the difference and after applying Walrus Oil Furniture Butter, you really start to see how all the sanding pays off.

Now, let’s see your finishing job! Happy sanding, my friends.

Dylan Hoffmann

Dylan is the co-owner of the small woodworking business No Big Deal Woodworks. He is also a professional welder with a passion for finance. From shop to office, if not creating a project you'll usually find him at the computer trading equities and cryptocurrencies.

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