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Do It Yourself And Refinish Your Furniture: Sanding Furniture

Is your wood furniture looking a little worse for wear? Are you sick of that finish on your dining room table? Is there a large scratch on your favorite buffet? If so, don’t rush out and buy a whole new set of wood furniture. A little sanding is all that it will take to bring back that perfect surface to all of your favorite wood pieces. Sound like too much work? Well, it’s actually a lot easier then you think. Here is a step-by-step guide to sanding that will have your wood furniture back to its old self in no time.

Why Sand Wood Furniture?
Though sanding may seem like a challenging step, it is a necessary part of the wood refinishing process. It will help bring back those gleaming wood surfaces and will eliminate any scratches, cuts, or flaws in the wood. Sanding is also needed in order to ensure that a wood stain soaks in to the wood surface properly. After you strip old stain or paint off of wood furniture, the grain in the wood closes up, making it impossible for new finishes to soak in. By sanding your wood furniture, you will help to re-open the wood grain, making it easier for new finishes to be applied evenly.

Choosing Your Sandpaper
Sandpaper is the single most important tool that you will use when you are sanding. Sandpaper is simply a type of thick paper that is covered in particles that have very sharp edges. These edges work just like the teeth in a saw, removing small layers off of the top of your wood furniture. There are four main types of sandpapers, named for the types of particles that they use:


  • flint
  • garnet
  • silicon carbonide
  • aluminum oxide


When you are sanding wood furniture you want to choose aluminum oxide sandpaper. This type of sandpaper lasts longer and works faster.

Sandpaper Grit
Some sandpaper provides a much rougher finish, while other types provide a finer finish. Finish is determined according to the "grit" of the sandpaper. Common sandpaper grits are:


  • Rough (50-80): Rough sandpaper is best for removing paint and finish from your furniture.
  • Medium (100-140): Medium sandpaper is best for sanding rough woods.
  • Fine (150-180): Fine sandpaper is used for sanding soft woods or for secondary sandings.
  • Very Fine (220-280): Very fine sandpapers are used for the final sanding of wood furniture.


When you are sanding your wood furniture, you will want to select a range of sandpaper grits. Usually, you begin sanding with a medium grit paper and gradually work up to a finer grit.

Choosing Your Tools
To get the sanding job done quickly, there are a few tools that you will want to get your hands on.


  • Sanding Block: A sanding block is simply a piece of wood with sandpaper wrapped around it. A sanding block will help you to get a better grip on the sandpaper, allowing you to cover more surface area. It also allows you to keep a level surface when sanding.
  • Orbital Sander: An orbital sander is a type of sanding machine used specifically for finishing wood. It consists of a circular disc covered in sandpaper attached to a drill. Rotating at 8,400 orbits per minute, an orbital sander can make fast work of any sanding job. You can rent this from your local hardware supply store or invest in your own if you think you will get some use out of it over the years.
  • Tack Cloth: A tack cloth is a piece of material that has a sticky coating on it. This will help to pick up all of the wood dust that accumulates on your furniture during the sanding process.


Starting to Sand
When you are ready to start sanding, here are some simple tips to follow to ensure that you get the best finish possible:


  • Place your furniture so that the grain extends vertically from you.
  • Using your medium sandpaper, begin to sand the wood in the direction of the grain. Never sand across the grit as this will cause some nasty scratches to appear in the surface of the wood. While sanding, apply even, firm strokes.
  • When smooth, proceed to the finer grit sandpaper.
  • Use the sanding block to sand all furniture edges.
  • Wrap individual pieces of sandpaper around curved furniture parts, such as legs and spindles. This will make sanding easier.
  • If using a orbital sander, don’t apply pressure to the machine. Simply guide the sander in smooth, even strokes over the entire piece.
  • Between sandings, remove all wood dust using your tack cloth.


Safety Tips for Sanding
Sanding can be a dangerous job, especially if you do not take the appropriate precautions. When sanding, be sure to follow these safety guidelines:


  • Always wear safety goggles or a face shield. This will prevent wood dust from getting into your eyes. It is also a good idea to always wear a dust respirator, especially if you’re working on a heavy duty job.
  • Inspect all sanding discs before you turn on your orbital sander. Make sure that they are attached properly.
  • Keep your hands away from the disc on the orbital sander at all times.