Sanding is one of the things you’ll have to do before/during/after any project and most importantly in preparation for paint, stain, or finish. We’ve put together our best tips to help you start sanding like a pro!
1. Safety First
When anything involves dust, it’s best to start with protecting yourself. If you are working indoors, make sure it is well ventilated (our shop has a full dust collection system!) or if you can, going outside is great as well. Depending on how much sanding you need to do, a dust mask is good and a respirator is even better. Eye protection is equally important, make sure to grab a pair of safety glasses! If you are going to be sanding for a longer period of time, it can be a great idea to grab some foam earbuds or larger over the head hearing protection.
2. Back to Basics: Grit Numbers
When you walk into a home supply store, it can be overwhelming looking at all of the options for sandpaper. From words like coarse, medium and fine to numbers ranging from 60 to 3000(!), we’re here to help you unpack what it all means.
Sandpaper is graded by how coarse it is, meaning how aggressively it removes the material. ‘Coarse’ will remove a lot of material quickly but will still leave the surface rough whereas a ‘fine’ grit will remove less material more slowly but the surface has a smoother or more ‘fine’ surface. The lower the number on sandpaper, such as 60, will be more coarse, while higher numbers like 220 or 320 will be much more smooth. Sanding grits can go as high as into the thousands, but those are generally for glass-like finishes such as on a piano.
3. Where to start?
It all depends on the type of wood that you are working on! Start with more aggressive sandpaper if you are trying to remove a lot of material, removing another finish, or has some gouges and scratches. If the wood doesn’t already have a lot of dents or scratches start with a medium grit like 100 or 120.
4. Don’t skip a Grit
It’s important when moving up in grit not to make too big a jump. You don’t want to start with 60 and then move into 320. Generally moving up by 50-100 can be okay, but you can always stick them being closer together. Most often disc packs can be sold with 80, 120, 180, 220, and 320 and you can stick to that order.
5. Sand with the grain
When you are hand sanding, it is best to stick to sanding with the grain. When you sand against the grain, also known as cross-grain, it tears the wood fibers so that scratches are much more visible. They become especially apparent when you add a stain. Any scratching that does occur when you sand with the grain will be disguised.
6. Hand sanding vs. Machine sanding
Hand sanding is great for some of the final finishing as you can make sure that there are not any scratches and get a nicer end result. Machine sanding is particularly beneficial if you have a large project or when trying to remove a lot of material with a coarser grit. There are two types of machine hand sanders:
- Palm Sanders: These only move in one direction and can cause ‘figure 8’ circles in your wood. You will need to do more sanding with higher grits to make sure there are no scratches in your finish.
- Random Orbit Sanders: These are great because they move in random directions, meaning you do not have to focus on sanding with the grain!
7. Make sure to put sandpaper on your sander!
This tip might seem pretty obvious, but especially with electric sanders, velcro sandpaper can potentially fly off when you first start it up. Sandpaper can also easily tear if it catches a splinter in the wood and you might have half of your piece missing before you realize it. It doesn’t hurt to double-check!
8. Sand as you go
An easy mistake can be to only sand your wood once you have your project fully assembled and right before you put a finish on it! You will actually get tighter joints, have an easier time putting on the finish, and it is less time consuming if you sand parts as you go with a project.
9. Don’t chase your wood
No matter the size of wood you are trying to sand, clamp it down! You’ll thank us later when you don’t have a piece constantly slipping out of your hand when you are sanding.