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12 Tips for Faster, Smoother, Better Sanding Barre VT

There’s nothing worse than sanding right through a veneer. Pencils lines are a great way to gauge sanding progress. I always draw lines on plywood where it meets a solid hardwood edge. The lines will start to disappear when the hardwood edge is flush with the plywood. That’s when you know it’s time to stop.

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12 Tips for Faster, Smoother, Better Sanding

12 Tips for Faster, Smoother, Better Sanding

by Eric Smith

People give me strange looks when I tell them I don’t mind sanding. Yeah, it’s dusty and a bit tedious, but I enjoy watching the fine detail in the wood grain pop out as I go through the grit sequence. That silky smooth surface reminds me why I became a woodworker. I also look at sanding as my best opportunity to catch potential finishing problems before they blossom into complete disasters. Even so, I like to sand efficiently and get good results for my time. I’ve learned some simple techniques over the years that can keep you from spending more time at the job than necessary. Here’s a sampling.

Pencil Lines Tell You When To Stop

There’s nothing worse than sanding right through a veneer. Pencils lines are a great way to gauge sanding progress. I always draw lines on plywood where it meets a solid hardwood edge. The lines will start to disappear when the hardwood edge is flush with the plywood. That’s when you know it’s time to stop. 

Pencil lines work on glued-up boards, too. The boards aren’t even until all the lines are gone. 


Dust Collection Improves Sander Performance

Without dust collection, your sander rides on a layer of sawdust, greatly reducing its effectiveness. With a shop vacuum hooked up to your sander, excess sanding dust and grit particles are vacuumed up instantly. This ensures complete contact between the paper and the wood at all times allowing your sander to work at maximum potential. Plus, the lack of dust and grit helps keep you, your shop and your lungs clean. 


Scrapers Leave Sanders in the Dust

Scrapers have been around for centuries, and for good reason: They do the job fast! A sharp scraper leaves hardwoods with a smooth finish that only needs a little finish sanding. A scraper is faster than an orbital sander and you never have to change grits. The hard part is getting a good cutting edge on a scraper; it takes some practice. But, once you’ve used a sharp scraper, you’ll find yourself reaching for it more often than for your sander. (For more on sharpening a scraper, see AW #102, September 2003, “ Foolproof Scraper Sharpening ”.)


Keep Edges Crisp 

Lay pieces of scrap wood of equal thickness to bridge the piece you’re sanding. This will prevent the sander from tipping and rounding over the crisp edges. 

For sanding the narrow edges of doors, clamp the door between two pieces of thick stock to help steady the sander.


Skip Grits

Really, it’s OK. We checked with several major sandpaper manufacturers and each one said the same thing: Whatever grit you start with, you can skip every other grit as you progress from coarse to fine. Using each grit in sequence is almost always overkill, not to mention extremely tedious.

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