Awhile ago the question was asked about sandpaper grit for finish work.
Though the general consensus agreed upon the small range of grit, one
question I was wondering when sanding to stain and finish is to use a sander
or do it by hand? Is one method better than the other, other than
eliminating tired arms? If using a sander, what type is best?
When it comes to finishing, opinions are like elbows (did I say
elbows?), and everyone has at least one.
Here's my take. Sometimes ( I can hear the screams now!) hand sanding
isn't the best solution.
How can that be?
When you sand, you will not be able to completely control the bite of
the paper, nor the motion of your arm. With some stains, just a
little arc in your sanding motion, sometimes just one stroke, and you
will see the cuts in the wood.
A good sander will take care of that if used properly. I am not
talking about one of those cheap ROS guys, but a nice half sheet
sander that orbits in tiny little circles. I have also seen nice
sanding done with the Festool sanders, but they don't fall in the
To stain, I will sand to a higher grit than I would just finishing
since the stain will open the pores of the wood a bit more. I go to
Make sure that whatever grit you choose, change your paper often, and
sand every piece to 320 with the method of your choice. I personally
have had the best success staining before assembly, although that
isn't always possible or practical.
The other aspect to consider when staining soft woods such as soft
maple, pine, cherry, etc., is to use a pre-stain conditioner. These
are available pretty much everywhere, and there are even some good
homemade recipes made with white glue and distilled water.
Check it out:
If you have a chance, try a gel stain. I love those as you can tone
them easily for custom colors and they are very forgiving when you
Good luck, and remember to practice your color and timing on a piece
of scrap, not your project!
How much are you sanding? The equivalent of 2-3 sheets of 4x8' ply or of
one square foot? For the latter, I'd probably hand sand, mechanical for the
For mechanical finish sanding I like the Porter Cable half sheet sander for
the following reasons:
1. It is heavy but not tiring to use as I need only guide it
2. It has a thick felt pad which helps sand areas that may not be quite
flat; i.e., slightly depressed
3. It is well made
Regardless of *how* you sand, sand more than you think you need.
I'll add another aspect to consider to finish quality. Nailshooter made
very good comments and I totally agree.
He mentioned that Festool sanders do a good job and I agree. I use Festool
sanders which I bought to replace my "old" PC sanders, they were 20+ years
designs and did a great job.
BUT I also use the Festool vacuum which brings in the 3rd consideration of
how to sand for the best finish. Little to no dust. Dust can ruin a
finish if you are not careful with cleaning the area and work thoroughly.
These days I go straight to he finish step after sanding with no steps taken
to get rid of the sanding dust.
For furniture, I will always hand sand with the same grit that I finished
ROS sanding with. I am *very* careful to go with the grain and avoid the
'arcs' that Robert mentioned. He is right, one arc, and it will be the only
thing you notice.
Something I haven't seen mentioned is the need to meticulously clean the
surface after each grit change. Leave one piece of 180 grit on the
workpiece to get stuck between the wood and your 220 paper and you'll see
*that* scratch forever as well.
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