As a craftsman or woman, you want the furniture you make to be strong, durable, and beautiful. The best place to start is with a good, solid foundation, and that includes knowing how to properly sand wood to bring out its luster and reduce unsightly imperfections.
Where to Begin
Begin with a good, coarse grit, starting around #80, to remove marks left behind at the mill from woodworking machines, in addition to gouges and dents.
Not Working with Solid Wood?
If your materials start with something other than solid wood, something like veneered plywood, you might want to start a little lighter, with a # 120-grade sandpaper.
Sandpaper grit is graded upon the number of abrasive particles per square inch, with lower numbers meaning bigger particles to scratch away more imperfections.
The finest sandpaper, to be used for finishing a piece, will have a grade above #220, which is very fine, all the way up to #360 or more.
Some projects will require special tools to help move the process along. Belt sanders provide extra power to remove paint, varnish, or stain and can be useful for bigger projects. Finishing Sanders, on the other end of the spectrum, can help get into tight, small spaces and provide the final buff needed to complete a piece before varnish or a finish is applied.
In the middle, there are quarter and half sheet sanders and random orbital disc sanders.
It’s also important to know, in advance, what type of wood you’ll be working with, as hardwoods require a coarser grit to start while softwoods can be handled with a lighter grit.
All sanding creates dust, which will need to be removed before the item is finished. Vacuums are the best method for this, as it sucks up the dust instead of blowing it around. Tack rags can help, but they become coated with the dust; however, they work fine for wiping away small amounts of sand between finishing coats.
When preparing to apply a stain or finishing coat onto the project, it’s essential not to over-sand a piece of wood in order for it to accept and soak in the coatings. Softwood projects should start with a #120 grade abrasive and finish no higher than #220 grade for water-based stains or #180 grade for oil-based stains. Hardwoods should start with a # 120-grade sandpaper and finish no higher than #180 grade for water-based stains or #150 grade for oil-based stains.
The best teacher for learning what works for which type of project is experience. Watch closely and observe how the different grades of sandpaper work and make a note of which grades and techniques work best.
Start Your Woodworking Career
If you’re looking to start a career in woodworking, call Debbie’s Staffing today. We’re standing by to help you polish up on your job skills and show off your grit to employers looking for your grade of employee — that’s a little woodworking humor!