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Before we get started a good tip to help keep your sandpaper organized.  If you have more sandpaper than you know what to do with, use a filing cabinet to store it all.  This has helped to keep my sandpaper perfectly sorted and easy to access.

Just the other day while I was finishing the bench that goes along with the farmhouse table I made I said to myself a few times, “Oh, right, don’t forget to do [finishing technique]” and figured a quick writeup could serve both you and I well!  Following is my process used for sanding bare wood.

  • Identify areas where yellow glue is still visible and focus on those when sanding.  Yellow glue does not take stain and will leave a hideous yellow mark with even the thinnest layer of glue.  A tip for finding these spots is to wet glue joints or use paint thinner on the glue joints to expose them.
  • Using a power sander, start sanding using 60 grit on harder woods (anything above 850 lbf on the Janka hardness scale) and 80 grit on softer woods.  Using a finer grit on softer woods will give you more control by not removing material as quickly and is less likely to leave hard to remove swirl marks.
  • Using a power sander, move to a finer grit like 120, then 220.  Don’t stop with the previous grit until the surface is consistent in look and feel and all swirl marks have become more subtle.
  • Between each phase of sanding, use compressed air to clean the surface.  If this isn’t an option, a lint free cloth will help.
  • Now for a little known trick.  Use a spray bottle to mist the surface of the wood with water.  This step is especially effective for softer woods because it causes the wood fibers to swell a little bit raising the grain in areas.  This step it critical if you’re trying to achieve an ultra smooth surface.
  • Immediately after doing this, sand using the 220 grit again.  Let the surface dry completely.
  • Clean the surface off again with compressed air.  Be sure to blow out any knots as they’re great traps for dust.
  • Sand by hand using an eight inch long piece of 2×4 wrapped with a really fine sandpaper that’s about 300 grit.  This should hopefully remove the last evidence of marks from a power sander and create an ultra smooth finish.
  • If an even smoother finish is still desired, I wouldn’t recommend using sandpaper at this point, but a set of card scrapers like my set pictured below.
  • Before applying any finishes I like to rub the surface down with rubbing alcohol to remove any last traces of dust that have accumulated on the surface due to sanding.

scraper

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