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Stuart,
I usually stop at 400. No need to go any higher unless you have something special like acrylics or a fancy exotic that really shines. Depends on what kind of finish you use also. Higher gloss finishes will show any flaws more so than a matte or satin finish.
Mike hawkins;)
 

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Ditto 400 to 600 is as high as I usually go unless it needs to be really glossy. Most finishes are thick enough to make it look glossy at that level. Some woods like Black wood or Cocobolo might need to go a little higher to get rid of all scratches. Sometimes after 600 I'll just use 4/0 steel wool. If you want to try sanding to higher grits I highly recommend this paper from thesandingglove.com This stuff cuts really well, lasts a long time, and doesn't leave off color residue in the porous woods. Great paper.

http://thesandingglove.com/Norton-A275-Abrasive-Sheets.asp
 

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I agree with the others. I sand most items to 400. I sand pens to 600 but only because I use CA to finish and it gets polished to a very high shine. Polished CA will show every little flaw that you miss.
 

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If you want to sand the wood finer than 500 grit I don't see any reason you can't do it except it gets hot quicker. A lot depends on the finish you plan to put on the wood. With oil finishes the finer you sand the better but if you put some kind of varnish on it you are probably wasting your time. For that type finish 220 grit is fine enough.
 

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if your sandpaper is getting hot your sanding too fast. sanding too fast doesn't sand any faster, in fact it's the opposite. The paper gets clogged easier and may even leave marks from the clogged paper. Use very light pressure to keep the heat down or simply slow the lathe down.
I did a test years ago and sanded work to 1200 grit in sections. I used about 4 different woods and different finishes. These weren't exotics which do often show sanding marks unless sanding to 800 or 1200. What I learned by passing the samples around our turning club was no one could pick out the difference in the sanded sections beyond 400 grit. I have found out since then that there are some woods that will need to be sanded beyond 400 to really look good.
Sand as far as you feel comfortable. For super gloss your sanding the finish and they often need to be sanded to 1500 or so to achieve the maximum gloss.
 

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I use these sanding pads from woodturners catalog. http://www.woodturnerscatalog.com/p/1/-/3/18/-/5846/Abranet-Sanding-Screen-Sheet-Variety-Pack I am impressed with their performance. I also use the foam backing of a used 3M sanding pad as a backing this makes a cushioning effect to this mesh, and a place for the sawdust to escape the mesh. These pads can also be washed which extends the life of the pad. For spindle work I start sanding at 120 and go to 600 I figure as long as I have the pack out go all the way. I never go greater than 750 rpm for sanding. I think I am going to purchase their disk made from the same material so I can use them on bowls.
 

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For me it depends on what finish I am going to use. I assume you are talking about sanding the wood itself and not finishing the finish. The finest I go to is 600 but that is rare. I normally go to 320-400 for finishes which penetrate such as oils and I usually burnish to a low luster after application.
For surface finishes (Shellac, Poly, Lacqure, etc) I normally stop at 280 to give the finish some tooth to adhere.
 

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For a smooth finish, 400 grit is sufficient when using lacquer or varnish. However, I generally go as high as 6,000 or even 12,000 grit with Micro-Mesh with bare wood when I don't plan to apply a finish because the wood starts to take on a translucence especially with highly figured wood such as sometimes found in maple. Even darker woods will often exhibit this characteristic. Whenever I apply a spray lacquer finish, I level and polish the finish with Micro-Mesh up to 12,000 grit. It's a lot more work, but the final result is noticeably different.
 

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How do you like a lacquer finish, does it look as good as the CA finish? How des it hold up?
Lacquer is my preferred finishing method. I like Deft gloss lacquer, but I also use pre-cat lacquer in rattle cans (you will need to go to a commercial paint distributor to get it). Catalyzed lacquer (either pre or post) is more durable than the type found in hardware stores and home centers). How good a finish appears depends entirely how how good a job was done in applying it. Durability is generaly not an issue with decorative turned wood art since it mainly sits on display. There is speculation among some woodturners that CA finishes may become brittle and develop cracking over the long term, however, I have never seen evidence in support of that belief. In any event a CA finish is just as renewable as any other finish. The main downside of a CA finish on larger items is that it is very labor intensive as the surface will always require considerable work in leveling and polishing. A high gloss finish is always more demanding of perfection not only in the finishing, but also in the preparation of the wood before the finish is applied. Even the slightest faux pas will stick out like a sore thumb when a high gloss finish is applied.
 

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I noticed no one mentioned steel wool. I sand to a 220 grit sometimes a 300 then I use steel wool and then burnish the wood with chips. The only thing about steel wool is that I have to be careful as to not let it rap up on the piece. I've only had it happen a couple of times, completely my doing though, not paying attention and in a hurry.
 

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Sanding with steel wool on flatwork where you can follow the grain direction is OK, but I wouldn't use it on a turned item because it will leave tiny particles embedded in the end grain.
 

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Sanding with steel wool on flatwork where you can follow the grain direction is OK, but I wouldn't use it on a turned item because it will leave tiny particles embedded in the end grain.

Been doing it for 2yrs now, nothing like that has happened, maybe I need new glasses :eek::huh::icon_smile:
 

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Been doing it for 2yrs now, nothing like that has happened, maybe I need new glasses :eek::huh::icon_smile:
... or, more likely you are being gentle with the pressure and not using steel wool past the point where it is worn out and crumbling apart. I suspect that most of the complaints heard about rust from steel wool particles comes from over using the steel wool.
 

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@Bill Boehme; You are correct, I do use a light pressure just like with sand paper, for finishing I do believe less is more. I also keep kneading the wool back into shape it does get worn down to nothing but I don't let it get sloppy.
 
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