Sanding for finishing

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?
Thanks
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

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 "cheap" category.
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 320.
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:
http://woodworking.about.com/od/finishing/p/woodConditioner.htm
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 apply them.
Good luck, and remember to practice your color and timing on a piece of scrap, not your project!
Robert
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
SBH wrote:

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 former.
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.
--

dadiOH
____________________________
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

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.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

My $1/50.... 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.
Happy sanding!
jc
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.