Resources for Beginner Woodworkers: Sandpaper 101

sandingSanding seems like a straightforward part of woodworking, but many beginner woodworkers are not very familiar with choosing sandpaper and its proper use. Conscientious sanding is paramount to a quality end result for any piece of woodwork. Skipping or rushing through this important step will compromise the integrity of the final piece.

Sandpaper is most notably classified by the size of its grit, which refers to the number of particles per square inch. Sandpaper with a lower grit (such as 120-grit) will have a coarser texture, with larger particles fitting within a one inch area. Likewise, sandpaper with a higher grit value has a smoother texture, with smaller particles that can help achieve a smooth finish.

Sandpaper is available in a variety of grits, ranging from coarse to super fine. Coarse grit sandpaper is suitable for roughing surfaces or removing finishes. A coarse grit sandpaper may be used in the early phases of stripping and refinishing a piece of furniture. Very fine or high grit sandpaper is often used between coats of stain or finish to remove minor imperfections. This may be done as a final step to finish the piece, or to create as smooth foundation prior to adding an additional coat of finish.

In many cases, a woodworker will start out smoothing a piece of wood by sanding with a coarse or medium grit sandpaper to shape the piece, followed by sanding with progressively finer grit sandpapers to achieve a smooth surface in the end. A gradual progression is important because skipping from a coarse to a fine grit sandpaper can result in unsightly scratches to the wood. If wood is being prepared for the application of a water based stain, the final step should be sanding it with a very fine grit sandpaper. This will prevent or minimize the appearance of imperfections that tend to be magnified by water based stains.

When sanding, always sand in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Sanding across the grain will scratch the wood unnaturally and result in an undesirable appearance. Also, be sure to read the packaging of sandpaper when purchasing it for a particular application. In addition to different grit levels, some sandpapers are designed for use on plastics or metals, for instance. Sandpapers will also be available with different types of backings depending on whether you will be using them with power sanders or sanding by hand.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., provider of the best hardwood dowel on the market. Good Wood, Inc. offers a large selection of wood products including wood balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts and more. Please visit for all of your wood product needs.

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