Skip to main content

Whether you're refinishing furniture, touching up moldings or embarking on a craft project, make sure to brush up on your sanding technique.

sanding tipsGetty Images

The goal of sanding in any woodworking project is to acheive the smoothest finish possible -- a process that's not always as polished as it sounds. You want to work carefully so that you end up with a seamless, even surface that's free of waves and dips. Let's explore the tricks to a perfect sanding job.

It's important to stock up on the right tools for any sanding job. Here's how to choose:

sandpaper grades, sandingCorbis

Sandpaper: Not all sandpaper is the same. Each sheet of sandpaper is assigned a grade according to its coarseness. The range of sandpaper grades extends from a coarse 40-60 (for heavy sanding and stripping a finish) to a super fine 360-600 (for buffing out scratches and other light touch-ups). Refer to this chart of sandpaper grades to choose the right one for your project. You can use sandpaper manually, but for best results, load the sheets into a belt sander (see "power sanders" below).

Sanding blocks: These are a great alternative to sandpaper for manual sanding, and are great for shaping and detailing. Like sandpaper, sanding blocks vary by grade. Here's a guide to using block sanders.

Power sanders: Sometimes, your project needs a little power. Belt sanders or random orbital sanders are best for big jobs, as they sand more aggressively and remove a lot of material at once. A random orbital sander works best for lighter jobs. And a belt sander is variable; depending on the grade of sandpaper you outfit it with, it can deliver on both lightweight and heavy-duty jobs.

If you're using sandpaper, you'll probably use several different grades over the course of one job. Work from the lowest number grit to the highest, and try not to skip any. For example, go from a 60 grit to an 80 grit rather than skipping straight to a finer 120 grit. Before you get to work, take a close look at the woos and the direction of its grain; you want to sand wood with the grain, not against it. It's important to wipe down the surface of the project with a tack
cloth in between sandings.


To check the smoothness of your finish, pull a knee high nylon stocking over your hand and run it across the surface. The nylon will snag on any rough spots, so you'll know right where you need more work. Plus, the nylons will do double duty as a tack cloth removing dust from the surface as you're working!

To sand an item that's too small to hold on to, tack a piece of sandpaper to a flat surface, grit side up. Once it's in place, move the object over the sandpaper and you'll have more control, giving you a better finish.

To store your sandpaper cleverly, put it in yellow craft envelopes and label the front of each envelope with the sandpaper's grit. This type of storage will help keep your sandpaper from curling over time. If you don't like the idea of all of those envelopes, try a Pendaflex file folder. Put the different grits in different compartments and store the whole thing right on a shelf!

For more household tips and tricks, head over to my website, Mrs. FIXIT.

Sanding 101 (Design*Sponge)
Sanding Tips (Video)

Check out this video for more sanding tips!


Follow Us

  • No features currently available.

  • More Hot Topics The Daily Fix  •  DIY Warrior  •  Home Ec  •  Handmade
    DIY Disaster Doctor  •  In the Workshop  •  Product Picks

    Home Improvement Videos