What Sand Paper Should I use? A Complete Sanding Guide

What Sanding Paper Should I Use For Wood?

The curved sanding block is suitable for guiding sandpaper on curved work such as a chair seat.
The abrasive-free nylon pad is ideal for fine work often done with steel wool.

A crucial step in wood finishing is surface preparation.
Scratches, dents, and roughness in the surface will show up clearly and even be magnified once a finish has been laid down especially if any stain is applied.

The only time when you will probably not care about the smoothness of your finish is when producing a “faux-antique” finish.
In this case, the darker dents, for example, will look artful, because this is the way a naturally “distressed” piece of furniture looks after decades of use.

Surface smoothing is most commonly done by sanding using flexible sandpaper with various grades of small-particle abrasives glued to it.

There are many different types of sandpaper manufactured: aluminum oxide-, silicon carbide, and garnet coated papers and even ceramic and diamond coated papers.

Although these various types of abrasives applied to paper make the traditional term “sandpaper” a misnomer, it is still in popular use.

The most common abrasive used in woodworking is aluminum oxide. It can be easily obtained in good quality at a reasonable price.

Always start with the coarsest grit you need to remove the deepest scratches or dents and move as quickly as possible to finer grades.
If in doubt about how coarse a grit you need to start with, lean in the direction of a finer grade and switch if it is not doing the job.


Stop sanding when you get a decently smooth surface (usually 150-grit paper will do the trick). If you use sandpaper that is “super-fine,” you can, depending on the type of wood, clog the pores with fine particles and prevent the subsequent stain or topcoats of finish from soaking in or adhering to the surface properly.

When sanding flat surfaces, it’s good practice to wrap the piece of sandpaper around a flat sanding block (you can buy these, but any scrap piece of wood can work just as well).
This keeps the pressure even. But never use such a stiff block when sanding curved or rounded parts, because you will quickly ruin the detail instead, simply hold the sandpaper
in your fingers or your palm.

Abrasive papers have the following features:

• Paper backing is available from “D” to “A” weight. “D,” the stiffest, is rarely used in a woodworking shop. “A” is the most flexible and most common.
• Aluminum oxide has man-made particles available from 50- to 320-grit paper. Garnet is made with natural particles and comes Abrasive papers and wools 211 in 120- to 320-grit paper. Some woodworkers prefer garnet papers to aluminum oxide paper.

What Should I Use to Sand Metal?

Silicon carbide is typically used with waterproof papers in grits from 220 to 600. It can also be used to polish metals, using oil or water as a lubricant.

Diamond- and ceramic-coated papers are industrial alternatives used on metals. Metal wools
These are very fine strands of metal that are formed into pads or rolls. Very coarse steel wool can be used to smooth raw wood surfaces prior to finishing, but far more common use of steel wool (000- or 0000-grade) is in “rubbing down” a finish between coats. This removes the specks of dust that will have clung to the surface before the finish has dried completely, and it also prepares the surface for the next coat of finish. Wools are available as follows:

• 00-grade steel
• 000-grade steel
• 0000-grade steel
• Bronze, which is softer than steel and roughly
equivalent to 0000-grade steel wool.

Sanding is the Most Important Part of Restoring Wood

Before the final job of applying a finish. Sanding prepares the surface for the finish and also removes any rough areas or nicks.
The better you are at sharpening the blades and teeth of your hand tools and using them, the less sanding you will have to do before finishing. When moving the wood, in gluing, and during assembly, you should always pay special attention to what you are doing so that you avoid damaging the surface, causing yourself additional work.

The corners are especially susceptible to damage.

Giving the entire piece a final hand sanding with a fine-grit paper to create a uniform surface will always be the final stage of surface preparation. But before you reach this stage, you can use power sanders to do the bulk of the surface preparation.

Important Sanding Safety

Always wear a dust mask whilst sanding as the small particles expelled into the air whilst you are sanding is very fine and easily enter your respiration system and don’t come out. Some woods are known to cause serious health effects if breathed in for an extended period of time.


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