The Art of Sanding

A Touch of Refinement: The Art of Sanding

Have you ever wondered what makes your wooden furniture so smooth that running your fingers on it won’t cause any splinters? If yes, then you have not yet heard of the importance that sanding brings to a finished woodworking project.

Sanding is one of the final processes a woodworking project goes through before it is done. After a crafter finishes cutting and shaping the wood and attaching them together, he is left with a rough furniture or item that has not been refined. There are still mill marks in the wood caused by machines, maybe some gauges or uneven rough surfaces. So the most efficient way of removing all of these impurities is through sanding.

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Types of Sanding Tools

Sanding tools can be classified into two types, portable power sanders, and hand sanders.

As the name implies, power sanders use electricity, either through a power cord or battery operated ones, to operate and it relies on the tool’s rapid motion together with attached sanders to get the job done. Among the power tools, the most versatile power sander is the random orbit sander. The irregular sanding action of this tool conceals any sanding marks almost making it invisible to the naked eye and is suitable for both rough sanding and fine finish sanding. However, if you plan on reshaping or resurfacing a rough area, it is better to use belt sanders since they can pull out a lot of the material than other power sanders.

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If you want optimum control while sanding, it would be best to employ hand sanders and manually refine your woodworking project. In order to have a comfortable grip on hand sanders, you would need to employ the use of sanding blocks, specifically the fabricated sanding blocks. A fabricated sanding block is designed to have comfortable grips that allow the crafter to be able to use it for long hours at a time without acquiring any blisters afterward. However, if you need to remove a lot of material from the wood and quickly conform to irregular surfaces, then it would be better to use Sanding sponges.

Sanding Safety Tips

As with any of the woodworking processes, wearing safety goggles and keeping a face mask on will protect your eyes from irritation and your lungs from inhaling any foreign debris or small wood particles. Sanding wood would create smaller and more numerous wood particles in the air. Thus, when choosing goggles and a face mask when sanding, make sure to get the ones that really follow the same shape of your face to reduce the possibility of any wood dust entering from the openings of the safety equipment.  

During sanding, you might experience having your vision impaired even with goggles. This could happen when wood dust would stick to your goggles. To prevent this from happening, before you start sanding, rub a dryer sheet or a fabric on your safety goggles. This would lessen the number of small wood particles from sticking to your goggles.

It is an essential safety measure to always have an operational and accessible wood vacuum in your workshop when you are sanding. This will keep your workshop clean to prevent your other power tools from accumulating lumps of wood dust that may cause them to break or stop functioning.

When sanding, always keep your hands and face away from the power sander’s moving parts because sanding burns hurt. Furthermore, always make sure to keep the sander turned off and away from the reach of children.

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 Knowing Your Grits

In order to know the right kind of sandpaper to use for your woodworking project, you have to know the different grits used for wood and how they function.

Sandpaper Grit Chart

Number

Description

Use

12

Extra Coarse

When using this grit, high powered sanding machinery is usually needed. Used for unplanned woods, old paints and finishes, bumps in the wood, uneven wood floors, and rough lumber.

16

20

24

30

Coarse

Rough carpentry.

36

40

50

60

Medium

General carpentry. This is used for shallow scratches and is an initial grit for sanding hardwoods.

80

100

120

Fine

This is the initial grit used for refining softwoods. This is also a prep for polyurethane and enamel paints. This is also used if there are slight irregularities in the surface of the wood.

150

180

220

Very Fine

Used after fine grits. Start of surface finishing.

240

280

320

Extra Fine

Sanding between finish coats and wet sanding paints and varnishes.

360

400

500

Super Fine

Sanding metal, plastics, 2nd level of wet sanding.

600

 

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Aside from the grit number that indicates the coarseness of the sandpaper, sandpaper can be made from different kinds of materials. The sandpaper can be made from alumina-zirconia which is used for coarse grits up to 120. This material is used on sandpapers that attach on belts and disks of power sanding units. The second material for creating sandpaper is Aluminum Oxide. This material is the most versatile of all the sandpaper material. It is a material that can be used in different courses of grits. The third material is Silicon Carbide which is self-sharpening and great for beautiful end finishes. And lastly, there is Ceramic Alumina. Ceramic Alumina is a long-lasting natural mineral and is used for fine grits that are great for metal finishing and wet sanding.

Fun Fact

In the Philippines, there are rural villages that do not have any access to hardware stores and factory-made sandpapers. Instead, they use a certain kind of organic and natural sandpaper, a leaf growing freely in many parts of the country. This leaf is from the tree called Sandpaper Figs or Ficus Coronata. 

The natives of La Union, or the Ilocanos, as among other natives that use this leaf, call the leaves ‘Oplas’ and they use it for their general carpentry and refining softwoods. It is even inexpensive and is great for teaching children the basics of hand sanding when woodworking.

 

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