Why sand anything? Just spray paint it all! Ha. Joking…
Sanding is the first step when you want to preserve the natural wood and show off the beautiful grain. Doing a half-hearted sand job can result in less than stellar finish work.
If you only somewhat sand the wood, some areas will absorb stain darker than other spots. Or, what about slivers. Nothing worse than running your hand over your handiwork and getting a sliver…
Let’s look at some sanding techniques.
With the Grain
If you sand perpendicular to the grain you’re not going to get a smooth finished surface. Follow the grain of the wood for the best sand.
I know it is tempting when using the orbital sander to tip it up on it’s edge and really press down in a specific problem spot. Don’t do it! #1 it’s bad for the sander. But #2 Your wood or piece of furniture will show a divit there from then on. Believe me, I’ve done it more than once and I end up having to sand, sand, sand to make my divit less noticeable. One of the reasons we are sanding in the first place is to remove mill work marks or other dents. Don’t create more!
Sandpaper is used to smooth out wood. To determine how abrasive the sandpaper is, we look at the “grit.”
Most packaged sandpaper also have a big label that say, “FINE”, “MEDIUM”, or “COARSE”. Or, you could run your fingers over it and quickly tell how abrasive it is!
The finer the sandpaper, the smaller the grit is. But, the BIGGER the number.
400 grit is pretty smooth, fine.
60 grit is very coarse and rough.
Let’s say you had a bunch of paint on an old dresser you wanted to remove. You would start with an, oh, 80 grit sandpaper. Once the paint is off, work your way down to the higher # grit until your wood is nice and smooth.
Sandpaper comes in all shapes and sizes. Some made to fit on specific power sanders, other to fit on hand sanding tools.
* Sometimes it can be hard to know which grit to use. Using the real abrasives like 80 and 60, you can remove a lot of surface. You have to be careful on veneers as you’ll go right through the veneer. (example here)
* Once you don’t feel joints, or see big divits it’s time to move on to a 120 grit. From here on out, this should be quick and painless. The finish sanding shouldn’t require a lot of muscle work.
* If your surface is nice and even, move on to the 220 grit to finish off your work.
* For most general sanding, 220 is a good finishing grit. Then a fast hand sand with a 400 grit is more than adequate. If you are doing real detailed projects on the lathe, like making pens, there are special sanding pads that go up to 12,000…but no reason to do that on a kitchen table you are refinishing.
* If you find yourself pushing really hard on the sander, tipping it on it’s edge, or sanding for a long time with not much result, it would be wise to stop and either:
A. Change out the sanding pad or
B. Use a more course grit sandpaper.
Wear Protective Gear
I know you think I am joking. In all seriousness, the dust particles from sanding go airborne. I suffer from asthma. It’s easy for me to provoke an asthma attack sanding and not being in a well ventilated area or not wearing a mask. Obviously depends on the size of your project. In the photo here, I was sanding down our back deck – for hours. Well, for days. Multiple hours each day. The amount of saw-sand caked on me was disgusting. Made me understand the reason a mask is so important when sanding. I don’t want all the gunk in my lungs.
Right Tools for the Job
If it’s a delicate, thin piece of wood, hand sand. If you really need to tear through some heavy polyurethane, a belt sander might be a better tool. Learn what to use when. Power tools have their place, but so do hand tools – like a simple sheet of sandpaper.
Power Tools – Sanders