Sanding Doesn’t Have to Suck

Abrasives 101 – Syllabus Overview

So, let’s go ahead and point out the elephant in the room. Any quick look at your social media feed will show countless makers pointing out how much they hate sanding. A Google search yields equivalent results from every possible woodworking forum. “Sanding is so boring…” Or mundane. Or miserable. Sometimes it’s even all of those at once!

While at times I commiserate with the masses – I’m here to tell you: sanding doesn’t have to suck. Here’s a few topics that I’ll cover to help provide ways to alleviate the pain. Note that this is just the syllabus overview, so I’ll dive into the actual learning in my next article!

Choose the Right Abrasive

To clarify: the “right abrasive” doesn’t mean you have to side with one brand over others. While many of us have our preferences, the beauty of woodworking is that we are free to choose what works best for us. That choice can vary depending on the specific application, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to a single brand’s catalog. 

With that said, it’s important to note that not all sandpaper is created equal. For example, when sanding construction grade pine, I don’t recommend a closed coat aluminum oxide disc. But when finish sanding a cutting board, I definitely don’t recommend a cloth backed product. And if you have a Festool RO150 in Rotex mode to hog away some material, you need a zirc disc instead of silicon carbide.

Sandpaper on a board
Those are all 80-grit sandpaper discs. Which one should I use…?!?

Now… If you got lost in some of that technical jargon – well, that’s exactly my point. Picking the right type of abrasive requires a basic understanding of certain variables. After all, different types of paper are suitable for different applications. Ultimately, your desired outcomes should dictate your choices.

In part 2 of this “Abrasives 101” series, I’ll get into more definitions and the technical side of things. Follow A Journey in the Making on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter to see when the next lesson is posted.

Practice proper sanding techniques

Just like hand-cut dovetails require practice, so too does sanding. Unfortunately, many people don’t bother learning how to properly sand because, well, sanding apparently sucks… But let’s be real: when you don’t practice, you don’t get better. And when you don’t get better, sanding continues to suck. Thus the cycle continues, and the sanding-haters grow. This is especially true these days, because so many “influencers” on the internet don’t demonstrate proper technique! 

Curious to know what proper sanding techniques are out there? Stay tuned for part 3 of this series. (You know you love the suspense!)

Mundane Tasks are the Real Money Makers

We all strive to complete our projects with excellence. You wouldn’t skip steps when cutting your joinery, and I don’t recommend that you skip steps when sanding.

Sure, there are other options out there that may “expedite” your finish prep, such as card scrapers and smooth planes, to name a couple. However, these alternatives should be used in conjunction with sanding, not instead of sanding. Whether you are doing client work or building projects for your home, you should always take pride in your work. The best way to show that pride is to perform every task properly without cutting corners. The flawless finish on this slab is what can happen when you don’t cut corners!

Even the DIY-ers out there need to focus on sanding. Why? Because your work is your name and your name is your success. Don’t be known as that guy who always leaves swirls or scratch marks in your finish. Don’t be that girl who lets your sander roam freely on your work piece without moving it in the proper motion. Instead, be known as the maker who puts a world class finish on every single piece. Your clients, friends, and family will notice that pay attention to every little detail!

I like to make the mundane fabulous whenever I can.

Rufus Wainwright

Lessons are on their way!

Check back here regularly; we’ll have updated links to the latest lessons about sanding and abrasives.

And remember… Sanding doesn’t have to suck!

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