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How to Sand Wood Properly

Posted by Laurence Lok on

Whether you are a professional cabinetmaker making antique reproductions or a hobbyist wanting to refinish an old piece of furniture proper sanding technique is vital to your success. So how should you go about it?

First, it’s important to understand why furniture needs to be sanded. Sanding is vital to the refinishing process in that it removes a top thin layer of the wood, which in turn allows the new finishing product to penetrate and stick. Without sanding the area first, the new product will simply sit on the surface and not adhere to the wood properly. Second, the sanding process smooths out the wood and gives it a soft, professional finish. After all, who wants to run their hands against a beautiful Chippendale table and end up with a splinter as a result?

Sand Paper Types

In terms of the sanding process, the most important step is to choose the right type of sandpaper. There are different grits that can be used, ranging anywhere from 50 through 280. The general rule to follow is that a lower grit number refers to a coarser piece of sandpaper. For most wood furniture, you will want to choose a medium grit (anywhere between 100-140). If you have a piece that has parts made of soft wood carvings, a finer piece of paper (anywhere between 150-180) is required. Using the wrong type of sandpaper can mean the difference between a botched job and a professional one (a sanding block is a great alternative to traditional sandpaper and is simply a piece of wood or hard foam with sandpaper around it. It allows for a better grip on the sandpaper itself and helps to keep you level while sanding). 

The Sanding Process

  1. Turn the furniture so that the wood grains are facing vertically away from you
  2. Begin sanding the wood in the direction of the grain using small, firm strokes
  3. Once the surface is smooth, go over your work with a piece of finer grit sandpaper to finish it off. 
  4. For rounded edges, using a sanding block works the best and helps to restore the edges to their original condition. 
  5. Once finely sanded make sure you blow off all the sawdust so that you can proceed on to the finishing process without any hiccups down the line.