I don’t know about you, but I really dislike sanding. Building is engaging and energizing. Sanding is a drag. But after you invest all that time and care in a project you want to be sure the finish is perfect.
Sanding is the key to a beautiful finish. If there are scratches or imperfections when you’re done sanding, the finish won’t hide them – it will highlight them. So if you are going to have to sand, it would be good to be able to do it well.
Here are a few tips to help your sanding go better:
Start Early – Plan ahead. Do as much sanding as possible before you assemble your project. It is often easier to reach inner surfaces and you don’t have deal with getting into tight corners.
Shed Some Light – If you can’t see the surface you are sanding you may miss flaws or scratches until it is too late – after the finish is on. Besides having good general lighting, set up a light at a low angle that will make shadows. That will highlight any scratches or ridges.
Choose your Weapons – Power sanders take a lot of the drudgery out of sanding. Just be sure to pick the sander that is appropriate for the task. Hand sanding is harder work, but it keeps you in touch with your project. Use a sanding block to ensure you get a good, flat surface. One advantage is that you can even make customized sanding blocks to match curved surfaces.
Whether you are power sanding or hand sanding, be sure to keep the sanding pad flat on the sanding surface to avoid divots. Always sand with the grain. Even when using random orbital sanders, stroke with the grain to minimize scratches and speed the process. Be extra careful when working near the edges to avoid rounding over the edge inadvertently.
True Grit – You will want to start with rough sandpaper and gradually work your way up to finer grits. Sandpaper is numbered; the larger the number the finer the grit. So where do you start? If the surface the very rough you may want to start with 60 grit or lower paper. The key is – whatever grit you start with, be sure to advance gradually through every grit available. If you skip levels you will find scratches that the finer grits can’t remove.
Are We There Yet? Sanding is hard work so the temptation is to quit too soon. Be thorough at each grit level and check carefully for scratches before moving up a level. Generally, sanding to 180 or 220 grit is as far as you need to go. That level will yield a smooth finish and still leave the grain open to accepting stain. One exception would be end-grain – go up to 320 or 400 grit so it will absorb less stain and match better.
Don’t rush sanding – the ultimate look and feel of your project will depend on how well you prepare the surface.