Hand Sanding

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 02-23-2012 04:13 PM 1764 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3100 days

02-23-2012 04:13 PM

Many of us, myself, included, have a wide range of power sanders in various styles. I have 8 different types of power sanders (stationary belt, disk, strip, OSS, drum, ROS, handheld belt and finishing) with 3 variations of the ROS and 3 variations of the finishing sander.

I think we buy all these sanders in the hopes of minimizing the effort required to sand and, hopefully, avoid hand sanding.

Yet, if I am working on an important piece, I almost always end up doing some hand sanding. At the end of the project, I like to go over my work with some sandpaper in my hand to get the final (pre-finish) feel just right. I actually enjoy this hand sanding. It is sort of like caressing the wood. I usually only sand with a power sander to 150 or 180 grit. My final hand sanding is usually with 220 grit.

I find that my interest in hand sanding varies by wood type. At the moment I am working in walnut and I really feel a desire and need to hand sand this wood. It’s less of an issue with a courser wood like red oak.

How much hand sanding do you do and do you find it necessary to get the final feel that you want?

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

18 replies so far

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3506 days

#1 posted 02-23-2012 04:24 PM

Rich…I do hand sanding about 40% of the time on projects. I like to power sand, but I am carefull around edges and on details so I choose to hand sand. I hate sanding and find it a pain, but necessary. LOL.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2979 days

#2 posted 02-23-2012 04:30 PM

Provocative question. For the past couple years, I have mostly made boxes. I have a similar array of sanders, but almost never use power to finish sand for smoothness. I do, however, find my little 10-20 drum sander essential equipment. With an 80 grit roll, I use it all the time for dimensioning and thicknessing. My 6-48 belt sander also has an 80 on it and sees a lot of use. All my mitering of lines, banding, and edging is done on a 10 inch disk sander with an 180 disk. When cutting box miters, I always do the finish miter on a 12 inch disk with an 80 grit. Abrasives are just much more precise than cutting tools.

For finishing, it’s almost always all hand sanding, in several steps. I do use scrapers a lot. Once in a great while, on a solid wood box, I may grab the 5” ROS to quickly level a small spot or the like, but never for bringing the box to final smoothness prior to finish. The finishing process is all very careful hand sanding.

Now, if I’m making furniture, that’s a different situation, and the finishing sanders will find more use. But, the hand sanding is always there too. I don’t hate sanding any more. I’ve come to accept it as an essential part of the building and finishing process. Sort of look forward to it…

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2940 days

#3 posted 02-23-2012 04:44 PM

I like final hand sanding as well, but had a minor screw-up on a Mission Style mirror frame I am working on and finishing. I did most of my final sanding with my 1/4 sheet power sander, outside. That is until the weather started misting, just a bit, but enough to water spot the piece. I went back inside the shop and decided to hand sand the water spots out and that is where I goofed up. I was sanding with the grain but inadvertently sanded across one of the 90-degree M&T joints. This went unnoticed until I started staining and applying my Tung Oil Finish. The fine scratches started showing up and it has taken me 6 coats and buffing with 0000 steel wool to hide.

Even with final hand sanding, I have to keep reminding myself, ” your technique… watch your technique… watch your technique…”


-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3421 days

#4 posted 02-23-2012 04:53 PM

I would rather my projects would come to the finish stage without sanding, but that’s not going to happen.

For me, there’s different kinds of sanding. Sanding wood and sanding finishes, for example.
With bare wood, I employ power sanding wherever it works, but there’s always some hand sanding necessary. Depending on the project, I might stop sanding at 200, but for a top I want to finish like glass, I go much further, trying to get the best surface possible. Scrapers are dandy for that.
Then, depending on the finishing materials, I might sand lightly between coats and finish off with a super fine paper like 1000. I’ve gone as far as 4000 and followed that with wax and 0000 steel wool. Then the softest cloth I can find (I used to use clean cotton diapers, but those days are gone forever) and some good ol’ elbow grease.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our tools produced cuts that were ready for the finish?

Best regards,

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View oldretiredjim's profile


206 posts in 2411 days

#5 posted 02-23-2012 05:06 PM

i don’t make fancy stuff like most here but the sanding I do is by hand. I like the feel of the smooth wood. I sometimes use electric sanders when I want to take off a lot of material however I also like to use a rasp and a couple hand planes to remove material.

View ChuckV's profile


3124 posts in 3553 days

#6 posted 02-23-2012 05:57 PM

I guess I am a real Neanderthal. I have no power sanders. I enjoy sanding by hand but at the same time try to minimize it as much as possible to get the better finish left by planes and scrapers.

I am working on my first end-grain cutting board. This took some serious sanding, but was very satisfying. It is also a good incentive to get the pieces as well aligned as possible when doing the glue-up.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4948 posts in 3986 days

#7 posted 02-23-2012 06:02 PM

I always hand sand at the end. Just a habit and that’s the way I was tought in the piano shop.


View tom427cid's profile


294 posts in 2496 days

#8 posted 02-23-2012 06:12 PM

When it comes to hand sanding I always remember advice/wisdom from an old timer. “Sand one stroke across the grain-it will take twenty strokes with the grain to erase it”—good advice

-- "certified sawdust maker"

View ETwoodworks's profile


92 posts in 2719 days

#9 posted 02-23-2012 06:33 PM

All I have for power sanders are a 1/4 sheet palm sander, a dremel multi-max, and a stationary belt/spindle sander. I do most all sanding by hand. I use the 1/4 sheet sander when I have an edge joint that needs to lay down but after 120grit I go back to hand sanding with 150-180 for the final surface. I do feel the need to caress the project and get that “right feel” for the finish.


-- Building quality in a throw away world.

View Mosquito's profile


9354 posts in 2318 days

#10 posted 02-23-2012 06:53 PM

All I own for a power sander is a dremel rotary tool, and a ROS. Otherwise I have probably 10-12 different sanding implements, and things to wrap in sandpaper. I typically use the ROS to level things out if it’s minor, and then finish by hand sanding. I prefer the precise control that I have by hand as opposed to the ROS.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3334 days

#11 posted 02-23-2012 07:01 PM

Most of my work involves sculpting and shaping wood with curves and concave designs…so using any power sanding equipment is very minimal. I use my drum sander for the initial flattening, sizing and sanding of the lumber before I cut the miters for gluing my boxes. After that I do nothing but hand sanding after my initial rough sanding with my random orbit sander. I find the hand sanding to be relaxing and a quiet process.

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 2863 days

#12 posted 02-23-2012 07:14 PM

And for the odd ball answer, I also have a variety of sanders and planes and scrapers. I do use my power sanders, mostly a PC330 (quarter sheet). Once I’m done cutting, scraping etc, I take out my PC330, slap a sheet of 100 grit on it, scribble all over my surfaces with a pencil and sand those out. When finished, I slap on 120 paper and do it all over again and once more with 150 paper (+ 180 with pine). Then I dust it off with a clean paint brush and get real weird. I take a damp cloth and wet all surfaces one at a time. I call this “whisking” because it lifts all the lose fibers left in the wood and after it’s dry, I can pass my hand over the surface and fee the fury fibers. I sand these off by hand using a 180 grit paper. This process will also lift any dents left by clamps of tools, even the ones you didn’t see. You can feel the bumps. I learned this from a master cabinet maker and it works fine for me. He also told me any sanding above 180 grit on a hardwood will close up the pores although I’ll admit that I have seen glass like finishes using the 400+ grits, but I don’t care for that look. I prefer the look of wood.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2513 days

#13 posted 02-23-2012 07:35 PM

Thanks everybody.

I’m learning a lot here. I use to use my electric and pneumatic sanders as much as possible, but lately I find that I have at least 10 boxes of different grades of sheet sand paper that I use to hand sand.

I even went to the extreme of exploring different methods of power sanding but I kept coming up a bit short in the finish I wanted.
Now I power sand as much as I can, but like others have said. hand sanding takes out all those other little defects you either get with using power tools or the ones that escaped your notice when using a power tool.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10535 posts in 3454 days

#14 posted 02-23-2012 08:01 PM

I do quite a bit of curved work and find it absolutely necessary to hand sand after using the oscillating drum.
I don’t like it much!
But, sanding finishes seems to be less onerous.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4179 posts in 3190 days

#15 posted 02-23-2012 10:56 PM

I can’t say much with authority since I am early into woodworking as a hobby, but I rely mostly on machines. Partly it has to do with my wrists, since I do like some handsanding. On my current project I picked up the sanding block for about 30 seconds, and then put it down and went to my detail sander. My wrist was already starting to complain.

So sometimes it is preference, sometimes it is what you are doing, and sometimes it problems with the human machine that dictates what we do, I guess. I would estimate I do about 1% to 3% by hand, usually final sanding or difficult surfaces…....

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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