Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Are you sanding your project efficiently? From low to high grits, sandpaper comes in a wide range of options, each having their own purpose. Prepare for your next (or first) project with the right grit to set yourself up for success!
Sanding. One of the most pivotal steps in making a Live Edge Table that can take hours upon hours to complete depending on your goals and size of live edge table (or project), but where do you start?
To answer that question, you first need to ask yourself, "what is the goal of your sanding"? Are you taking material off the surface or looking to get the surface ready for a finish application? For Live Edge slabs specifically, you may want to take bark off the edges or clean up a void that was filled with epoxy.
Keep in mind, there are several tools for sanding itself, which include: belt sander, orbital sander, hand sanding, belt sander, and more. Orbital sanding is the most common, but pick the tool that best fits your project.
Starting with the lowest group of sandpaper grits, we have: 40, 60, and 80 grit. These coarse, rough sanding paper pads are great for surface removal and shaping. They can also be beneficial in removing previous finishes and fine-tuning your starting surface to ensure it's free of any debris or imperfections.
For river tables and those with epoxy voids, we will typically start with a 40 grit to get the initial surface area prepped. Slabs that have line marks from flattening can be started at 60 grit, and those Live Edges that need to be de-barked or reshaped are great for 80 grit.
Pro Tip: Gradually work your way up the scale never going more than 2x the grit number with each jump.
The next group of sandpaper grits include 100, 120, 150, and 180 grit. These have a medium to fine coarseness and work great for preparing the surface for final sanding. They will still allow you to make measurable changes to the surface, but without taking too much surface off or making large sandpaper scuff marks.
If you have any minor holes in the wood or air bubbles in your epoxy that need to be filled with CA glue or epoxy to fine-tune, these grits work well for removing the extra material without having to go to back down to a low grit.
The 180 grit will also still allow you to get out any previous sandpaper scratches in the wood. At this stage, we like to use a little bit of wood cleaner to help see those scratches and ensure all are removed. By the time you finish sanding with 180 grit, no further touch-ups should be needed to the surface.
Ah, yes, the end is near! As you move closer to the final stages of sanding, you have the 220, 240, and 280 grits. Sandpaper in this range is fine coarse and used to either finish the project (depending on your goals) or to get it ready for the last few rounds of sanding. Depending on the sequence you are using for your project, you may not even use this range, but instead jump to the next.
Pro Tip: How do you know when your paper needs replaced? The first indication is the color. As sandpaper wears down, you will see it change color (i.e. epoxy will turn the paper white).
Another indication is if you feel like you are sanding the area for a pro-longed time but are not making any progress or if you feel like you have to push down to make any headway. The final warning sign will be that the sandpaper actually detaches from your orbital sander because the velcro has been worn down.
After hours, and we mean many hours for those larger projects, you are at the finish line. The 320 and 400 grits are your finishing grits. They have a super fine texture and are used to make the surface silky smooth. If you are applying a finish that requires sanding in between the applications, these are the two that you would most likely use (always read your manufacture instructions). They will almost "buff" the surface so there is no need to worry about making additional sandpaper scratches.
There are higher grits (800+), but these are typically used for other applications for a polishing effect. One example would be if you created a solid epoxy piece (no wood), you would venture to the high grits to polish the epoxy.
While no two projects are the same, you may find that a certain sequence works well for your process. What's ours? We generally like to stick with 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 180, 220, 240, and 320. Whatever your sequence is, just remember, sanding takes time, but if you are patient, it will be the turning point in your process that will make a great finished project.
Until next time,
Dream It. Do It. Believe In It.
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The information provided is the opinion of AgainstTheGrain Woodworking, LLC and is only intended to provide guidance and give recommendations based off of our experience. AgainstTheGrain Woodworking, LLC is not liable for any outcomes related to the information provided.