Assuming that your project wood has gone through the usual preparations and is reasonably smooth, sanding needs to be done in several phases. I'm going to say a few really horrid things but it works very well.
If you have saw marks, you may need to start with 80 or 100 grit. Assuming that you have removed the saw marks start sanding DIAGONAL to the grain. Make 4 passes 100 grit paper with a sanding block alternating the diagonal. Follow up in the same manner with 120, 180 grits. Finally sand with the grain and 220 grit. You are now ready to apply oil or stain.
The very coarse 60 grit is generally used for shaping rather than smoothing.
Finally on the end grain sand to about 400 grit. This will help to seal the pores of the wood and when oil or stain is applied the color will be the same as edge and face grain.
You may use a Random Orbit Sander with grits up to than 220. But always finish with 220 grit on a sanding block going with the grain. If the finish is oil (Watco or Minwax Antique Oil Finish) you may want to make 180 grit the final sanding and on a sanding block.
If you get the wood too smooth with too fine of a grit, you stain may turn out to be blotchy.
A word of caution about inexpensive sandpaper. The grit may come off the paper and when you go to the next higher grit there may be that one piece of larger grit that scratches the surface. Use a shop vac between grits.
The known brands of sandpaper are worth every penny. (3M, Norton, Klingspor) These brands are less likely to lose grit that mars the work of the next smaller grit.
Good thread. I build a lot of pens and find the fine grit sponges (12 pack) from HF do a good job in getting the sanding part started. Yes, it is said to use sandpaper like someone else is paying for it. Abranet seems to be catching on as a good brand, too. Thanks.
"It isn't finished until it is finished."
Yes good thread. Other than the end grain, are there instances when you need to sand to 400 grit or finer?
Thank you, NoThankYou.
I suggest that for hardwood surfaces, you try cabinet scrapers. I make my own = very simple.
The concept is that sand papers will always, always shred the wood surface.
Cabinet scrapers actually cut wood fiber to make microscopic curly shavings.
A cut surface is like carved surface, always smoother than any shredded surface.
Only one caution: scrapers don't work worth a darn on any kind of conifer woods.
But, you can burnish the surfaces with brown paper grocery store bag.
Very interesting, very correct. The only problem with cabinet scrapers is they are the easiest tool to sharpen, they are the most confusing to sharpen. The concept of squaring the edge up and then destroying the edge scares people away from cabinet scrapers.
I was too timid to try scrapers. I have plenty of hard steel lumber strapping to make my own.
I learned long ago to chalk up any and all of my files to get a really clean-cut, slick surface.
Find a copy of Leonard Lee's book = The Complete Guide to Sharpening. As you know, he's the grand old man (d.) of Lee Valley.
Chapter 11 will lead you through the geometry of all things scraper. That's all I needed.
I thought my first efforts were doing no more than pushing up dust on some birch,
carved for the handles of my adzes (avatar).
Then I had a look with a 10X magnifier. The most elegant little curly shavings!
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