What You Might Not Know about Sandpaper

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher

One of the problems of running a successful business is dealing with the cost of overhead and keeping things operating as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This also comes into play for those of you who are serious about your woodworking hobby as well — how to conserve resources and stretch your precious dollars to cover the cost of the tools and supplies that you need for your projects.

Way, way back, when I was in college working part time in a restoration shop so I could afford to keep eating, a lot of grief was heaped upon me for throwing out what I thought was some very useless sandpaper. After I was instructed to sort through a trash can retrieving that old sandpaper, I was made to understand the error of my ways.

What I learned was that professional wood finishers are loathe to dispose of any used sandpaper that still has some life in it, even if it's for something other than its original specific purpose.

Here are some principles that I learned:

1. Fresh sandpaper always gets the job done in the most cost efficient manner.

2. However, even very used and limp 100 grit paper is still great for hand sanding something like oak turnings and carvings. Likewise, used 150/180 grit is good for sanding softer woods such as cherry and mahogany.

3. Once the abrasive on sandpaper of a particular grit has worn down, it is typically still good for doing the same sort of work that a fresh piece of FINER grit sandpaper might be used for.

4. Wet/dry sandpaper works better and lasts longer when used with a lubricant such as soapy water or mineral spirits.

5. When using wet/dry sandpaper to sand wood, use a light touch so as not to clog the paper with wood dust too quickly. Simply allow the abrasive to do most of the work.

6. Never use sandpaper any coarser than 320 grit to sand finishing materials between coats.

7. Never wet-sand any topcoat with less than 1200 grit wet/dry paper. Paper coarser than 1200 grit will usually impart scratches that subsequent finish coats or polishing compounds cannot eliminate without disturbing previous coats.

8. Always wear a dust mask while sanding. Sanding dust can clog your lungs much like it does sandpaper.

Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood finishing seminars:

Finishing the Finish , May 5, 2010

Antique Restoration , May 22-23, 2010

Gilding and Gold Leafing , June 9, 2010

Antiques Show and Tell , June 12, 2010

Spray Finishing , June 19, 2010

French Polish Workshop , July 14, 2010

Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
Wood Finishing Supplies Department

Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at anoelfurniturere@bellsouth.net .

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