Guide written by:
Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds
Whether it’s a creative leisure project like customizing a piece of furniture or simply repainting your shutters, hand sanding is an art that a DIYer needs to have at their fingertips. Get your hands on some sandpaper and get started, just watch out for blisters.
What are the different types and grains of abrasives?
Abrasives such as sandpaper all fight the same fight, they are most commonly found in sheets or rolls and are used to scour a work surface. The specific use helps to determines the grain size (number of grains) you will need, coarse, medium, and fine grit sandpaper is widely available but it also possible to find extra-coarse or micro-grit sandpaper in very fine, extra-fine, super fine and even ultra-fine.
The number designations used with sandpaper correspond inversely with the coarseness of the grit, the larger the number finer the grain. For shaping or removing material, we opt for 80 or below. Beyond 400, you can easily smooth and polish even the most delicate materials and finishes.
Type of abrasive
There are 3 main types of abrasive and we present them to you.
Crystallized alumina oxide is used to sand hardwoods and remove old paint. It should have no trouble removing paints, varnishes, and other finishes.
There is also synthetic corundum which are more resistant and designed for the hard-working sanding.
Mixtures of minerals fixed on canvas for the sanding and polishing of metals. Emery cloth is good against rust in particular. Suitable for intensive use.
Flint and other materials such as crushed glass are difficult to find and have been largely replaced by other materials. If you happen to come across it, it will still be called "sandpaper" and is ideal for sanding varnishes, softwoods, or plaster.
The abrasive grains are bonded to different substrates. We’ll explain.
It can be found on the self-gripping sheets for sanding blocks .
The abrasive cloth is ideal for corners and reliefs because it is more resistant to bending and shaping.
The firmer the paper is the faster the sanding will go. However, paper that is too thick or rigid can crack while paper that is too thin tears and is less effective. It is used dry on new wood for easy sanding or to remove the paint from the holds of boats or wet to roughen the paint on the cars.
Work by hand or with a sanding block?
Sanding by hand requires patience and good technique, it can be practiced on flat or irregular surfaces
The sheet of abrasive paper is not always easy to keep in hand. Think of folding it in thirds or quarters to give you something to hold on to and simply switch to a new section as each begins to wear.
For better precision and long-term use, purchase a sanding block. These are blocks of wood, cork, foam, rubber, or synthetic material to which you can secure the sandpaper. They offer an easier grip and better leverage but should only be used on flat surfaces as irregular surfaces will begin to wear the surface of the block. If this happens, a good old sheet of abrasive paper will save you.
Depending on how often and how much you will be sanding, you should consider wearing protective eyewear ormasks.
How to properly use abrasive or sandpaper
- Use gloves to protect your hands.
- Sand the wood in thedirectionof the grain to avoid unsightly scratches.
- Start with the lowest grit and progress through your various grits until you finish with a finest grit.
- Remove the dust with a vacuum cleaner for dry sanding with a sponge for sanding with water .
Today, auto-body sandpaper can also be used in dry sanding.
For DIY enthusiasts interested in knowing how to choose the accessories related to hand planes, follow the advice of our editors and discover their Guides:
- How to choose a vacuum cleaner
- How to choose a circular saw
- How to choose a grinder
- How to choose grinder accessories
- How to choose a hacksaw
- How to choose floor covering
- How to choose a sander
- How to choose a stapler and nailer
- How to choose a wood saw
- How to choose a coping saw
- How to choose a hand plane
And to work safely:
Guide written by:
Pauline, Self-taught handyman, Leeds, 89 guides
With a handyman-father, I grew up with the soft sound of the sander and hammer on weekends. I am both manual and cerebral (yes, it is possible.), I learned the basics of DIY and the customization of furniture because I was passionate. The salvage mentality is a true way of life that allowed me to know how to use all the tools and products needed to give something a second life, from sander to varnish. I have two favorite activities: the transformation of old furniture and decoration tips. I am always ready to lend a helping hand to revamp a table or to restore a mirror that was intended for the trash that will become a friend’s centerpiece. I’m convinced that it’s possible to reinvent an interior by small, regular modifications, I constantly research low-cost, test ideas.