Tips and tricks for sanding

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Forum topic by Nick posted 04-19-2016 01:43 AM 558 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 186 days

04-19-2016 01:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip trick resource sanding finishing

I’m completely baffled by sanding… I know it’s an important piece of any wood working project, but I don’t even know where to begin…

Random orbit sander, finish sander, drum sander, sanding blocks, hand sanding…

Small papers, rolled paper, large sheets…

80 grit, 100, 120, 180, 220…

Any tips, tricks, good books/websites or videos I can check out?

Many thanks in advance. :-)

6 replies so far

View BurlyBob's profile


3446 posts in 1682 days

#1 posted 04-19-2016 02:38 AM

One trick I came upon years ago was to do a real good sanding on say, a table top. I’ve to a ROS and discs to 320 grit. I’ll do a course, medium and fine grit. After the medium stage I wet down the piece to swell the fibers and reveal the imperfections. Let it dry and give it another going over. I do the same at the fine grit stage and depending on how serious I’m feeling, again at the 320 stage. It may be overkill but it makes me feel good and that’s all that matters.

View JBrow's profile


738 posts in 336 days

#2 posted 04-19-2016 03:34 AM


There is a lot to cover regarding sanding. A search of YouTube using the keywords “how to sand wood furniture” returned over 50,000 hits. After viewing some of these videos, in the end, just sanding is the best teacher.

If just starting out, a random orbital sander with a hook and look system for attaching sand paper is probably the best place to start. The hook and loop system allows sandpaper to be changed quickly and easily and reused. This style of sander is easy to control and best used to prepare a surface for finish. It will flush up joints on a glued-up panel, but takes a really long time. If the sander is kept flat on the surface and in constant motion with consistent speed across the surface, good results can be achieved. I like Mirka Gold Bull Dog paper but there are other good random orbital papers available.

A simple wood block and sheet sandpaper work well for places the random orbital sander cannot reach. I bought a commercial hand sanding block that works well, but seems to rarely see any use. I just prefer the wood block. Dowel rods and foam backers are good for profile sanding, but I mostly use my fingers to get into these places. I like 3M Sandblaster 9” x 11” sheets that I cut with scissors to the size I need. Hand sanding is best done with a sanding motion that is parallel to the grain of the wood. Scratches left by the sand paper are more difficult to see when sanding with the grain of the wood.

The belt sander is a great tool for removing a lot of material fast. This speed is handy when making the joints of a glued-up panel flush. However, the belt sander can be tricky to use. Tilt the belt sander or fail to keep it moving across the wood will create divots that can be difficult to remove. A drum sander excels at this task. However, these machines are expensive.

I have a detail sander, but it sees little use. It sounded like a good idea when I bought it and has come in handy once in a great while, but not a tool I find particularly useful.

I like to sand stock that has been milled smooth starting with 100 or 120 grit paper and whenever possible, before assembly (leaving areas near joints that must be flushed up after assembly until after assembly). I then sand the surface through the grits to the final grit, which depends on the type of finish that will be applied to the project. Through the grits means sanding with 100, then 120, then 150, then 180, then 220 which ensures scratches left by the last grit are replaced with smaller and harder to see scratches. I find 180 grit as the last grit is sufficient for polyurethane finishes, however I take end grain to 220 grit. For oil finishes I like to stop at 220 grit. Where to stop is a matter of personal preference based on experience. Stopping at a finer grit will probably yield a nicer finish. Whenever I knock back a finish between coats, I tend to sand with 220 grit paper, though 320 would probably be better. I also believe that keeping the surface free of sanding dust yields better and faster results. Removing dust between grits before sanding at the next grit is a good idea. I try to do this but admit sometimes to do not brush off the dust.

I own cabinet scrapers (sometimes called card scrapers). I use them sometimes, but mostly prefer sanding. I like to use a small roundover (maybe a 1/16” radius not sure) plane to break the sharp 90 degree corners, but sand paper works fine for this job. I have never done an accurate study, but estimate that I spend maybe up to 30 – 40% of a project’s build time sanding; but then I sand all surfaces including those that will never see the light of day.

View a1Jim's profile


115166 posts in 2993 days

#3 posted 04-19-2016 03:44 AM

Hopefully this will help

-- Custom furniture

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1733 days

#4 posted 04-19-2016 03:58 AM

For a beginner, I’d recommend a simple random orbit sander and some sheets of paper in 80, 100, 120, 150, 220. That will be enough to learn with. Eventually you’ll modify that based upon personal preference and the types of projects you work on.

The most important thing you can do is to get yourself a strong light source that can be used to back-light your work at a low angle. That will show up any flaws instantly.

-- See my work at and

View Aidan1211's profile


188 posts in 242 days

#5 posted 04-19-2016 04:08 AM

Get a card scraper! You can eliminate sand paper almost completely and its cheaper in the long run. And you end up with a beautiful surface if the scraper is set up right. Paul Sellers has an awesome video on how to sharpen one and lie Nielsen sells them pretty darn cheap (excellent quality as well) you’ll never look back. I haven’t! Good luck!

-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

View realcowtown_eric's profile


551 posts in 1353 days

#6 posted 04-19-2016 04:53 AM

What then other guys said…..

Good flexible task lighting, Random orbital sander, step through the grits, Card scrapers and good solid sanding blocks.

They left off at 220 grit, but for sanding between coats of finish, 280/320 is common.

And don’t rush on the fihinshing, you got too much effort in producing the item, why rush the finish and make it turn to sh*t.


-- Real_cowtown_eric

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