How to Sand Wood? 7 Effective Wood Sanding Tips YOU NEED TO KNOW!

A necessary task when working on a woodworking project is to sand wood.
Whether it’s a quick touch-up after cutting or finishing your workpiece all the way to the end, you’ll need to work with a piece of sandpaper.

Many see sanding wood as a difficult and tedious task.
But in fact, if done correctly, wood sanding is a fairly quick action.
It will make your projects look so much better.
After finishing sanding and seeing the nice finished result, you can be proud of what you have made.

With this article, I want to help you to make sanding go easier.

Discover the only 7 effective wood sanding tips below and learn how to sand wood easier. 
In short, the 7 tips for sanding wood that you can discover in this article are:

  • Practice With Grits to See their result
  • Check The Surface
  • Look For Defects
  • Don’t Start Too Fine / Too Coarse
  • Look At The Grain Of The Wood
  • Understand When To Change Grit
  • Know When To Change Sandpaper

I will go more in-depth to each one of these wood sanding tips in this article.

Apply these powerful tips the next time you get started with sandpaper. You’ll see that they have a bigger impact than you might think.

Let’s dive into these tips and find out how to sand wood in a much more satisfying way!

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Why should you sand wood?

Sanding wood is an important step in woodworking and the process of making stuff.

The step of sanding wood can happen at any point in your process.
After making a cut to take away any tear-out, or at the end of making your project to finish your workpiece.

When sanding wood, you will remove scratches, cuts, or splinters that were on your wood.
By sanding wood, you will even out the wood so that minor flaws in the wood will disappear. 
Sanding wood will make the wood of your project smoother, and more pleasant to touch.

Never skip the sanding step, because this can make or break your woodworking project.

Do you really need to sand wood before staining?

YES, it is recommended to sand the wood before staining or painting. When sanding, the sandpaper will leave small scratches on the wood. By doing that, you increase the surface of the wood.
Because of the uneven and rougher structure, stain and paint adhere better to the wood.

Compare it to walking on a rough concrete floor or on slippery ice.
On which one will you have the best grip to stay upright?

Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

How to know which type of sandpaper to use?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to knowing which type of sandpaper to use.
You will have to search for the most suitable sandpaper for that specific step in your project, or the material you want to sand.
To be able to find the right sandpaper, you need to understand sandpaper.

I previously wrote an article about this topic.
I recommend that you read this before working with sandpaper.

The right sandpaper in the right place can make a big difference.

7 effective wood sanding tips you need to know

Below, I’ll give you the 7 wood sanding tips that you should know.
Besides getting better results, knowing how to sand wood, will help you to speed up your wood sanding process.

To give you more insight into these sanding tips, I have split these wood sanding tips into 2 groups.

  • One group contains wood sanding tips that you can think about, or do before you start sanding.
  • The second group of wood sanding tips can be used while sanding.

Wood sanding tips before you begin

Wood sanding tip 1: Practice With Grits to See their result.

You can gather many tips on sandpaper grits by looking up information about them.
Still, the best way to find out what sandpaper grits look like on different types of wood is to just try them out.

Do this as follows:

For all the woods you work with the most, choose a piece that you divide into different sections.
You can now try out the different sandpaper grit in each section.

On the sections on the piece of wood, mark which sandpaper grit you used.
You will quickly see that the effect of the same sandpaper will be different, depending on the type of wood.

How to sand wood_ 7 Effective wood sanding tips YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Wood Sanding Tip 2: Check The Surface.

A quick initial evaluation of the surface to be sanded will help you decide where to start and what needs to be done.

Before you get started, remove as much dust as possible.
That dust can hide small scratches and make them difficult to see.

The next step is to inspect your workpiece.
When inspecting the piece, do it in a bright spot, so the scratches will be more visible.

The best light with which to check your workpiece is sunlight. If possible, take your work outside in broad daylight.
If it is not possible to take your work outside, keep it in a place where there is a lot of light, or shine a flashlight on it.

Also, when checking the surface, make small movements with the wood. Another incidence of light can reveal hidden scratches.

Based on the scratches found, you can choose which grain to start with.
If the scratches are deep, it is best to start with a coarser grit.
If the scratches are less deep, you can start with a finer grit.

To know which grit to start with, you can now take your test board from the first tip and make a comparison.

I’ll give you an example:

If the surface looks like it has 80 grit scratches, you can continue sanding with 120 grit.
You will always have to go one step finer.
But take in mind, never take steps larger than 100 grit.
So you can go finer and finer until you have removed all scratches.

Wood Sanding Tip 3: Look For Defects.

Looking at the surface, some areas may be more damaged than others. These will therefore require more attention.
It is, therefore, better to mark these spots with a pencil.

Now, you can work on these defects one by one, so that eventually you have removed all defects.
This way of working ensures that every defect gets the right treatment.
If you try to tackle them all at once, you will make much less progress. Besides that, you will feel like you are to keep on sanding.

However, if there are many defects in the wood, you will need to use techniques other than sanding down with sandpaper.

You can touch up the wood with a hand planer or a thicknesser.

If you think that a thicknesser is only for large workshops and on the expensive side, think again.

How to sand wood_ 7 Effective wood sanding tips YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Wood sanding tips for while you are sanding wood

Wood Sanding Tip 4: Don’t Start Too Fine / Too Coarse.

The grit size you start with is extremely important!

If you start with sandpaper that is too fine, it will take you an infinite amount of time to get rid of the scratches.
Also, you will put a lot of strain on yourself, physically and mentally, by not making progress.

Sandpaper that is too fine simply does not remove those deep scratches fast.

In such a case, it is better to switch to sandpaper with a coarser grit.
Use that paper until the surface stops changing, and then move on to the next finer sandpaper.

On the other hand, it is also wrong to start with too coarse sandpaper.

By starting too coarse, you will see that instead of making the wood smoother, the surface will look worse than it did before you started.

You can resolve this by switching to finer paper.

If there is still no improvement, you can use even finer sandpaper.
You can repeat this until you see that the wood looks better.

Wood Sanding Tip 5: Look At The Grain Of The Wood.​

When you sand coarsely in the first steps, it doesn’t really matter which direction you sand in.
In the final steps, when you use finer sandpaper, the direction can make a big difference in the finished woodworking product.

Therefore, in the last steps, sand with the finer paper along with the grain. This will align the coarse sanding scratches from the previous steps with the grain.
This makes them less visible, and you get a better result in less time.

Keep in mind that the end grain on a plank is harder to sand than the long grain.
Sometimes, long-grain also is called face grain.

Because of the hardness of the end grain, it will just take you more time and energy to get the end grain sanded as well as the rest of the wood.

What you have to pay attention to, however, is that you don’t sand too aggressively at the end grain.
Due to the arrangement of the fibers, they can flake off if you sand too close to the edges.

As with finishing the edges with a router, I will always process the end grain first.
If splintering does occur, there is still a chance that I can get rid of it when I finish the rest of the wood.

How to sand wood_ 7 Effective wood sanding tips YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Wood Sanding Tip 6: Understand When To Change Grit.​

If you want to save time and make it easy on yourself, this is an important tip.
When you sand with a certain grain, after a while of sanding, nothing will change on the wood.
How much and how long you continue sanding, the scratches the sandpaper leaves will remain the same.
Also, the smoothness of the wood will not change.

That’s when you need to switch to finer grit sandpaper.

When you sand, keep checking the surface visually.
If you see that you’re not improving the surface, you’ll know when to switch to finer sandpaper.

It takes some practice knowing when to change grit.
In the beginning, this took some time to get used to for me.
But after a while, this comes naturally, and it is quickly clear when you have to move on to the next step.

Wood Sanding Tip 7: Know When To Change Sandpaper​.

In addition to the tip when to know when to replace the grit, it is also important to know when to replace sandpaper.

Nothing lasts forever, and neither does sandpaper.
Sandpaper wears out.

Depending on the type of sandpaper, this can sometimes go very quickly.
Usually, the price you paid for that sandpaper will play a big role in this.
The cheaper the sandpaper was, the bigger the chance that sandpaper will be made from lower-quality materials.

So if buying sandpaper, always check for quality.

Whatever the quality of your sandpaper, at some point it will wear out.

So you will have to experience at what point this is the case.
This is only possible by working a lot with sandpaper and build that experience.
If you go on too long with that same piece of (worn) sandpaper, you’re not only wasting your time but also your energy.

What you need to do is to stop sanding regularly and check your sandpaper.

Sometimes it is enough to clean the sandpaper from dust and dirt.
When there is too much dirt on it, just use a different and fresher part of the paper.

If you can’t clean it anymore or if you feel like the sandpaper isn’t doing what it used to do, throw it away.
Experience will teach you when to put more effort into sanding, compared to when the sandpaper was fresh.

I have to admit, in the beginning, I would have lasted longer with the same piece of sandpaper.
But the low cost of the sandpaper really does not outweigh the time and energy.

What to do after sanding wood?

Now you know the best tips on how to sand wood, you will have to think about the next step.

After sanding the wood, it is best to remove as much sanding dust as possible.
You can do this with a damp cloth or blow away with compressed air.

Then you can make the choice by painting, or treating the wood with a wood finish to protect the wood.

In the article “4 Types of wood finishes”, I go deeper into finishing wood. Don’t miss this blog, because you don’t want to lose all the hard work you put into your project.
Do you?

These will help you to sand wood easier

Finally, I want to show you these tools.
Not only will they make wood sanding easier and more ergonomic, but they will also make sanding faster.

It is recommended to have these in your woodworking workshop.

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