Every perfect woodworking project has undergone a process called – Sanding. Sanding is usually regarded as the beginning of a beautiful finish. There can be no wood stain or a bright finish on woodwork without preparing the surface of the wood by sanding. Sanding involves a procedural approach towards the smoothening of the surface of a wood that has undergone several processes. The main essence of sanding is to make wood finishing process impressive and attractive.

Woodworkers make use of several machines while working on woods which results in mill marks. In some other cases, misappropriate handling of woods also result in dents and gauges, thus leaving the woodworker with a wood covered in gritty and rough lines. While this is inevitable due to the use of machines like jointers, sanding has proved to be the best way to give woods a smooth surface to allow stains and other ‘finish’ procedures effective.

While cleaning wooden flooring, furniture or paneling is not as easy as it seems, an excellent finish will not be achieved by dusting or mopping but by sanding. Sanding makes the wooden item look glazed, new and smooth.

To sand a wood, woodworkers make use of sandpaper. Sandpaper is a harsh paper coated with abrasive materials used by woodworkers to polish and smoothen the surface of wooden items. Previously, sandpapers are usually coated with abrasives like sharp sand, but development has given room for the use of garnet, aluminum oxide, grit, and glass particles. Most woodworkers use sandpaper as the beginning of the finishing process for wooden items, but some use it as the finishing touch itself. Sandpaper can be used manually or with Sanders.

Sanders are powered tools used to neaten and smoothen the surface of woods with the use of sandpapers. All sanders are built to have an opening for the attachment of sandpapers. As they are mechanically controlled, they can be held or fixed to the table to perform the required operation. Sandpapers are available in different grits, and that makes it easy to choose the perfect one for a particular type of wood smoothening.

Why is Woodworking Sanding so Important?


  • To clear off splinters and mill marks: After cutting and sharpening, most woods contain jagged lines that later become splinters. They also become uneven and reflect a lot of imperfections. Not clearing off these mill marks reduces the effect of stains aimed to give a desirable result. However, sanding the wood surface clears off every flaw to provide the best outcome.
  • To smoothen the surface of wood items: Woodworking machine helps in bringing out the desired shape in woods, but the rough edges and surfaces hinder the beauty of what has been done. Smoothening by sanding protects the beauty of the wooden item, thus making it more appealing.
  • To set the wooden item for the wood staining process: Wood staining involves the use of wood stain to bring out the natural beauty of the wood. Unlike painting which covers and hides the natural beauty of woods, wood staining preserves and protects woods. Wood staining is active when it penetrates the pores of the wood, but this effect can be hindered if the surface is filled with imperfections.
  • To clear off chemical traces: Chemical traces occur as a result of chemical stripping. The stripping process leaves traces of wood finish. Although it is very effective, it does not project a total perfection. Most times, traces of paints are still found on the wood. Sanding remains the only way to clear off the smallest sight of imperfection.
  • To enable a successful wood re-finishing: Sanding is not only applicable to new wooden items. It is also used to refinish old wood projects by clearing the remnant of paint stripping seen on the surface of the woods.
  • To allow the wood stain penetrate the wooden item: Scraping a wood paint will not give the same effect as sanding. Scraping a wood paint with the use of a wood plane will destroy the fiber and close the pores of the wood. Sanding, on the other hand, will open the pores to allow the stains to penetrate evenly.


Types of Woodwork Sanding


There are three main types of woodwork sanding. Each of these can be used based on the type of wood and the type of ‘finish’ to be achieved

  • Hand Sanding
  • Machine Sanding
  • Wet Sanding


Hand Sanding: The hand sanding is the oldest and most popular form of sanding. Other than woodworkers, some people incorporate hand sanding DIY techniques to re-finish old woods in their homes. Hand sanding is done when a person uses sandpaper of the right grit to brush a piece of wood or a wooden item. As the sandpaper is rubbed on the wood, the mark lines start clearing off until the wood gives a smooth plain surface. Hand sanding is used for wooden items used in the house or furniture. Regardless, some people still prefer to sand their wooden floor using hand sanding due to the obvious effect it gives. Unlike any other model, hand sanding gives users the control over shaping as they can reach specific corners a sander cannot reach.

While electrically powered sanding has made things easier, hand sanding has a different effect on woods and wooden items. After preparing woods with power sanders, there is usually a final hand sanding activity to give a perfect effect since sanders can also cause tiny scratch marks to appear on the wooden items.

If you aim to refinish your woodwork by hand sanding, ensure you;

  • Choose the most applicable grit: If you aim to refinish your old woods or clear the imperfections off your wood, ensure you go for sandpaper with the amount of grit you need. Using sandpaper with more grit than required can make you go through more stress as you will have to work on the scratches caused by the harshness of the sandpaper. Most grit starts from 80. It is best to start with 80grit if you have to work on a plain wood or 100grit if the wood is smooth but has deep imperfections. While the starting grit size may still leave some scratches behind, move on to 120, then to 220grit to clear the tiniest mark.
  • Get Sanding blocks: Most times, sanding is done on flat surfaces, it is best to have a sanding block to help you increase your work speed while you apply the same amount of pressure on every part of the wood surface without your sandpaper slipping out of your grip. Whenever you use a sanding block, ensure you watch your sandpaper to know when to replace it. If not, you may end up with poor finishing. Do not plan to use sandpaper to remove glue but to fill holes created by nails and to smoothen visible joints.
  • Make use of good sanding pad: Flexible foam pipe insulation is a great base for your sandpaper as it gives you the ability to compress into various shapes before using. For large surfaces, scraps of swimming noodles can be used
  • Get a sanding grip: Sandpaper is harsh. You can save your hand with a contour sanding grip. Sanding grip can help you get a good grip while you work towards maintaining the shape of the wood when sanding. When using a sanding grip, it is advisable to make use of sandpapers with adhesives that are pressure sensitive.
  • Get clog resistant sandpapers: Clog resistance sandpapers are perfect for sanding surfaces that have been painted. As paints clog sandpapers almost immediately after contact, you may not get your desired result after several attempts and after spending so much time. Getting a clog resistant sandpaper will help you save time as you will achieve your desired result in minutes after application. Although it is more expensive, it is more effective.


Machine Sanding


The machine sanding involves the use of sanders to smoothen, neaten, and polish flat surfaces. Power sanders are mainly used for activities that involve larger wood pieces. Though power sanders make sanding faster, it is best to use the type that is appropriate for the type of wood you are using. For instance, heavier woodwork requires the use of belt sander, while palm sander is best for wood re-finishing. Just as manual sanding, machine sanding also requires the use of sandpaper.


Types of Power Sanders


There are two types of power sanders, and each has its unique features. They include;

  • Surface Sanders
  • Floor Sanders


Surface Sanders


  • Belt Sander: Every new wood cutting workshop has a belt sander. This power sander is used for shaping and finishing pieces of woods. It consists of a belt which is woven around two drums. This belt changes easily to work with the rear or front drum. A belt sander is perfect for removing paints and vanish on older woods. For higher efficiency, this sander can be used for gang sanding. With its capacity level, a belt sander will be very useful for large woodworking activities. It can be used as a stationary or a handheld machine.
  • Orbital sander: Orbital sander is a popular compact tool which can be handled excellently with one hand. If you need a sander that gives an exceptionally fine finish, Orbital is one of the best alternatives you have. It is known as a finishing sander as it round shapes edges, removes putty, and gives an exceptional smooth result. An orbital sander is light and may not be used for heavy duty woodwork.
  • Disc Sanders: As an exceptional sander, disc sander is mostly known as an attachment used for power drills. When attached to the drill, the disc rotates to work on the surface area. It comes as a handheld and a stationary machine, but the handheld is best for giving a perfectly smooth finish to large areas due to the rotational speed of the disc.
  • Detail sander: Detail Sander is a little bit different from other types of sanders as it uses special adhesive sandpapers. Some detail sanders come with several attachments to achieve a specific effect. This sander is used to reach angles, corners, and tight places.
  • Oscillating Spindle Sander: This sander is built on a spindle that moves and oscillates around the axis of the spindle. It is a perfect substitute for hand sanding when there is a need to work on contours and curves. They are mostly used to smoothen the edges of boards and to shapen the angle of the front of a table.
  • Random Orbital sander: Also called dual action sander. A random orbital sander is known as a handheld portable sander with a blade that gives a random orbit cut. This sander combines the speed of belt sander with the ultra-fine finish of the orbital sander to produce a long-lasting effect.
  • Table sander: The table sander is a significant and powerful stationary belt sander used mainly in large woodworking corporation. For a table sander, most people make use of the taut belt models. It can work on extensive woods but isn’t a good choice for a work that requires precision.


Floor Sanders


Floor sanders are sanders used to strip and prepare floors. There are two main types of floor sanders, and they include drum and edger.

  • Floor drum sander: Floor drum sander is a very powerful and heavy machinery used for sanding and smoothening large wooden floors. Due to its weight, it requires two or more people for successful transportation. Few woodworking companies own a floor drum sanders. Most times, it is rented. This machine requires optimal attention, and a little distraction can cause you to lose control, thus affecting the floor. It is usually used to extract stains, adhesives, and other irritating substances.
  • Floor edging sander: this is also a very powerful and heavy duty power machine which re-finishes large floors in a short period. The edging sanders can be used to reach the edges of a floor and the surface of stairs which may be difficult for the drum sander. It should also be handled with care to avoid widespread problems.


Wet Sanding


Wet Sanding refers to the use of wet sandpaper or a damp sanding sponge to clear off scratches, marks, and other imperfections. Unlike the dry sanding, the wet sanding provides a cleaner finish by reducing the amount of dust that pollutes the air. Most people engage in wet sanding after dry sanding to give their woods a glossy finish. Wet sanding is mostly done to remove the scratches that may have surfaced as a result of the use of sanders in dry sanding.

For this sanding process, the sandpaper or special sponge is usually wet and used to remove particles, thus ensuring that no material hides in the sandpaper. For this type of sanding, it is best to use liquid wash rather than ordinary water in other to reduce scuffing. To make the best use of the special sandpaper used for this method, it is best to soak the sandpaper for hours before using.




In woodworking, no step can be ignored as the effectiveness of a step leads to the efficiency of another. The effectiveness of sanding will determine the result of the wood making process. While most people focus on dry sanding, it is best to make use of both types of sanding to give a perfect result. Although woodworking is painstaking, the reward is the projection of perfect wooden products.


Get Instant Access To 16,000 Jaw-Dropping Woodworking Plans, The Hottest Tips, Plus Much, Much More!