Top 3 Essential Steps for Outstanding Sanding (From James Draper!)

Sanding is hard. That’s the general reaction people give me whenever I talk to them about it. Sanding has really gotten an infamous reputation over the years due to inexperienced people diving into a complex piece (like an intricately detailed chair or cabinet) without knowing the basics and by using the wrong machine, leading to a long and difficult sanding process that yields not so great results. Learning how to sand properly is an incredible way to save money as you can turn old beaten up furniture into brand new beautiful pieces instead of buying a new set or you can even sell them for profit! The only thing stopping you is the dread of sanding due to everyone telling you it’s hard and boring.

Today is the day this misconception ends and I’ll be your guide on how to do things right!

Step 1
Safety first.

Before you start any sanding task it’s crucial to follow the necessary safety (and comfort) procedures. Most people ignore these, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why they have problems. They are quick and easy to follow so make sure to:

1. Equip a pair of safety glasses. These will protect your eyes from all the flying sawdust and debris.
2. Put on a dust mask. The most essential item in my opinion, it will allow you to avoid breathing in all of the dust and make you feel much better throughout.
3. Wear anti-vibration gloves. These are a hidden treasure of woodworkers everywhere, they heavily reduce the amount of vibration you feel from the sanding machine and believe me, they are a life-saver on longer tasks.

Step 2
Picking the right machine for the job.

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One of the most important steps to ensure an enjoyable sanding experience and good results is to choose the right sander for the task at hand and one that fits your level of expertise.
Now, there are a large variety of sander types to choose from but worry not, I’ll list the most popular ones and what they’re perfect for, you can also check out my best random orbital list at to find the right one for you, since they are the most well-rounded and easy-to-use type of sander you can get.

● Random Orbital Sander
These are the most versatile and easy to use sanders in the market and they offer the most bang for your buck out of any type of sander. They can be used on nearly any surface and their random orbital motion ensures a beautiful scratch-free finish even in the hands of a beginner.

● Palm Sander
Small, lightweight and easily maneuverable. Although they can only take on smaller jobs due to their size and power, palm sanders are extremely effective machines that are very popular among beginners due to their comfortable grip, ease of use and very cheap prices.

● Belt Sander
Belt sanders are one of the popular and widely-used sanding machines out there. They are usually powerful enough to take on harder surfaces and big enough to use on larger ones as well, making it a versatile tool in any woodworker’s shop.

● Disc/Belt Combination Sander
These are stationary machines that, as the name implies, combines both a disc and a belt sander into one. They are popular due to how handy it is to have both at the same station (saving time and effort) and also due to their great prices (you save a lot of money by getting them in a combo instead of separated). These are bigger, heavier and more powerful but they are a one-stop shop for any woodworker – beginner or expert.

● Drum Sander
Drum sanders are the biggest, heaviest and most powerful sanders in the market. Any professional woodworker will agree that they are an essential part of a bigger shop. They sand immensely large surfaces in minutes and the results are first-rate. For years these have been used exclusively by professionals due to their elevated prices and large size but these days you can get “mini” drum sanders that offer the same quality and power at a much smaller size and a much smaller price as well, making it accessible for hobbyists.

In short, for everyday sanding tasks a random orbital sander or a palm sander are excellent choices. For sanding jobs that need a bit more power, the belt sander is the perfect handheld fit and the combination sander is an equally perfect stationary fit. For the hardest and largest sanding pieces, the drum sander is the very best machine you can get.

Step 3
Using the right sandpaper grit.

The grit of the sandpaper you use can make a world of difference on the results and difficulty of your sanding experience.
The most popular picks range from 40 to 600 grit (although you can get from 12 to about 6000 grit!).
Lower grits are much coarser and they are used to remove difficult, hard stock (such as a very rusty iron or extremely rough wood). They are the first line of attack and you then climb up the grit range to get a finer and finer finish each time.
A higher finish of 600 is usually used in the more final parts of the process to achieve a really shiny, high-quality finish on the surface. This is where you can start making surfaces look like mirrors!
Remember to buy a wide variety of sandpaper with different grits so you can adapt the sheets to the piece you’ll be working on. This is extremely important as a rough grit won’t provide you with a good finish and a very fine one won’t be able to take care of those first old coats of paint or rough layers. Always start low and slowly climb up the ladder, this ensures that every layer is finished quickly and easily and that you get a perfect result.And there you have it folks, that’s all you need to have an outstanding sanding experience and as you can see, it’s not the seven headed beast that most people depict it as!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little guide and that you knock your next sanding task out of the park!

James Draper is a professional woodworker that got his passion for sanding passed down from his father. He loves to bring a new life to old, dusty furniture and to share his knowledge on sanding with other people as best as he can.

Author: Dexter Sinistri

Dexter Sinistri is a famously centrist writer who has worked as a Hollywood correspondent for a number of leading publications since 2005. Though once a photographer, Mr. Sinistri struck out as a writer on all things celebrity, and he likes to consider himself a tremendous asset to Glossy News, though by most accounts, he has fallen somewhat short of this effort.