Another beginner question.
My exposure to solid lumber has so far been mostly for face frames and
I've just guessed at how much I should sand and with what grits. I'd
always get up as far as 220, usually using three different grits. But I
have often wondered if that was necessary. Maybe.
I have an awful lot of small parts to sand. It occurs to me now that I
could even have sanded the stock before cutting it into a million (OK
32) 1x2x9" pieces, but I didn't. Then again I might have scratched it up
afterward during the rest of the operations.
Water under the bridge in any case.
This is all red oak from Lowe's. I sifted through just about all of the
1x2 and 1x3 they had and picked the straightest, least twisted, fewest
flaws, straightest grain. It feels pretty smooth, frankly. Given that,
what grit would you start with? If I need to do several steps that's
what I'll do, but if I'm wasting my time with coarser grits, I'd love to
Any tips for sanding lots of small parts (no, no belt or drum sander
here) would be appreciated as well. I'm thinking of making a little
3-sided (maybe even 4-sided) "corral" of 1/2" ply with an open area
exactly the width of the pieces and a stop at one (maybe both) end(s).
That way I can drop in a piece, sand it, flip it over, sand it, and move
on to the next piece. I'd either have a second corral for sanding the
edges, or see if I could make do with just one.
I have also considered gluing down the sandpaper to a flat surface and
pushing the pieces back and forth on it, but with stock this thin (3/4")
it would be hard to grip it without sanding my fingertips off as well.
These are the kinds of things a weekends-only novice thinks of during
the week, by the way. :)
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If you look very closely at the wood, do you see any ridges where the
planer knives have left scallop marks?
I seldom start any lower than 150, occasionally I start with 120.
I pretty much NEVER go beyond 180 for oak.
I would start with 120 then and make sure you cannot see those scallops
before going to 150. It should not take too long to get there. And
again 180 is as far as you need to go unless you are going to do some
grain filling and looking for a glass like surface as a result of the
finish you apply.
You can drop down a grit size if you find progress is too slow.
Once I had several small pieces (3x6) that needed to be planed to final
thickness. I stuck them on a piece of construction foam with double
sided tape and sent them through the planer. It worked perfectly.
The foam might not work well with hand sanding, but a flat board could be
Caveat: I finish pieces out of necessity and desperation, not out of
love for the process; and I know, and hire, enough "expert finishers" to
quickly realize the fact I'm way below even the worst of them in my
So the below is how I muddle through the process when forced to.
Obviously the success of my final finish is heavily dependent upon a
minimum of two main factors: preparation and application.
IME, the more attention I pay to the first, the better the results.
I generally start at 100 grit with any wood that may not have been
milled, planed, etc with the sharpest of tools and in a factory setting,
otherwise 120 grit.
On most woods, and particularly red oak, I run through 120, 150, 180
(and maybe not 180 grit, see last below) using a sander; making sure to
either vacuum, dust or blow off the pieces before going to the next grit.
(with a top of the line sander, like a Festool, and attached to a good
dust extractor, this last basically becomes an unnecessary step)
And, I most always do a final and light pass, by hand, with 220 to break
sharp edges, even if I previously stopped at 150 grit.
This last 220 pass is very light and more in the way of a "fondling" and
final, hands-on inspection of the piece by hand, the main idea being to
break sharp edges lightly, partly for imparting a finished "feel" to the
piece, and arguably to mitigate the tendency for some finishes to build
up along sharp edges during application.
I do apply a lot of "Sam Maloof" type, hand rubbed oil/poly finishes and
will often do a final last step with 240, or rarely, 320 grit when
applying this type of finish.
Keeping in mind the entire time that with stained pieces, and some
woods, if you go too high/fine with your grits you may reduce the
ability for your stain/finishes to penetrate, and thereby effect the
color, which may mean more than one application of stain ... this can
become a very dangerous circumstance when the color is everything to the
client, and the application is being done by the colorblind. DAMHIKT.
Forgot to mention, particularly if you're staining, that the one place
that you will DEFINITELY want to have higher grits (like 220/240/320,
etc) on hand, and actually use them, will be on the exposed end grain in
The end grain, normally being the tubular, crosscut section of the wood
fibers will, in most woods, soak up stain and thereby be darker in the
final product as a result.
One of the ways to mitigate this is to sand, almost burnish, with a
finer grit to decrease the stain absorption on end grain.
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