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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Furniture Sanding 101: How to Sand Wood Furniture

The best sanding tips and common mistakes to avoid when sanding and refinishing wood furniture! 


Lately, my days have been spent painting and sanding as I prepare for a huge vintage market.

Showers have become overrated and being covered in paint and sawdust has become my new normal. 

It's a busy time for sure, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I absolutely LOVE transforming and staging furniture and sharing my favorite furniture makeover tips.

In the past, I shared how to achieve the perfect raw wood look, but I still get comments from readers telling me they are intimidated by sanding and questions asking how to sand wood furniture.

Today, I want to answer all your wood furniture sanding questions and hopefully, inspire and encourage you to transform your own furniture into beautiful raw wood pieces.

how to sand furniture to raw wood

- SUPPLIES NEEDED TO SAND FURNITURE - 

Affiliate links have been included. 

- Sanding pads for sanders (80/120/320 grit)
- Hand sanding blocks (80/120/320 grit)
- Cleaner (I like this one from Dollar Tree)
- Paper towels 
- Cerusing or Liming wax for sealing wood


- HOW TO PROPERLY SAND FURNITURE TO RAW WOOD - 


1. PICK THE RIGHT SANDER 

There are many types of sanders available, but I personally like using an orbital sander to do the majority of my sanding.  Orbital sanders are small, versatile and easy to control, which makes them great for beginners.  A Corner Cat sander is optimal for finishing the job and getting into corners and tight areas where an orbital sander can't reach.

Orbital and corner cat sander


2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT GRIT SANDPAPER 

I can't even tell you how important choosing the right grit sandpaper is for achieving a clean, professional and smooth finish.   

various types of sandpaper

SANDPAPER GRIT GUIDE 

COARSE:  40-60 grit sandpaper.  Ideal for floors, removing tough paint or stain, rounding corners and shaping wood.

MEDIUM:  80-150 grit sandpaper.  Medium grit is great for general sanding and removing old paint or stain.

FINE: 180-220 grit sandpaper.  Ideal for scuffing up furniture before painting and smoothing out a woods finish

EXTRA FINE:  320-400 grit sandpaper.  Perfect for use between coats of paint or topcoats and helps achieve a smooth clean finish.


I've worked with various grits of sandpaper and have learned a lot from stripping, refinishing and painting hundreds of furniture pieces.  My go-to combination for the perfect finish is 80-120-320 grit sandpaper. 

Orbital sanding pads
I start with 80 grit sandpaper to remove the majority of old paint or stain.  It may take a little longer to get down to bare wood as opposed to using lower grit sandpaper, but there is less risk of damage.  Coarser grit sandpaper tends to "chew" up edges and molding and can cause unwanted damage to furniture.  

Once the majority of the old stain is removed, I change the sandpaper to 120 grit to remove and blend in any remaining stain.

I finish off with 320 grit sandpaper to smooth out and polish the wood.  

***TIP*** If you are looking to achieve a scrubbed or raw wood look, don't worry about removing old stain in grooves and crevices.  The contrast adds depth, dimension and character, especially for vintage and antique furniture. 

Antique raw wood table


3. DON'T RUSH 

Sanding furniture takes time and patience and should not be rushed.  Rushing, pressing down on a sander or forcing it along can and will create swirl marks.  
How to avoid sanding swirls
HOW TO PREVENT SWIRL MARKS WHILE SANDING
Swirl marks are primarily caused by rushing, pushing the sander along or using an improper technique while sanding.   Slow down, keep the sander flat, don't press down and let the sander glide along with the furniture, don't force it.

HOW TO REMOVE SANDING SWIRLS 
If you do happen to leave sanding swirls behind, don't worry!  You can easily remove them by changing your sanding pad to one with a finer grit then slowly sanding over the swirls until they are no longer visible. 

4. ALWAYS SAND IN THE DIRECTION OF THE WOOD GRAIN 
To avoid damaging wood fibers and your furniture, always sand in the direction of the wood grain.  Sanding against the wood grain may leave unwanted scratches in the wood, especially if using coarse or medium grit sandpaper.  

Sand wood in the direction of the wood grain

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
    

CAN YOU SAND VENEER? 
Yes, you can sand wood veneer, but you have to be extra careful.  Wood veneer is a very thin piece of wood commonly layered over pressed board.  If you don't pay close attention you can easily sand right through the thin layer of veneer.  An orbital sander (stay away from using a belt sander on veneer) or hand sanding will be your best options. 

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE IF YOU WILL REFINISH, RAW WOOD OR PAINT A PIECE OF FURNITURE? 
Most of the time it depends on the age, quality and condition of a piece of furniture.   If I need to change the placement of hardware holes, if there is damage to the veneer or I have to make repairs with wood filler then I typically will update a piece of furniture with paint. 

If a piece is antique, has character, but is not necessarily in the best shape to be refinished then I will strip it down and give it a raw wood look

I typically only refinish furniture if it's a vintage card catalog or a good quality mid-century modern piece.  

WHAT DO YOU USE TO SEAL RAW WOOD FURNITURE?  
If I want to give a raw wood piece of furniture extra protection then I will seal it with either Liming or Cerusing wax.  Both products help to protect wood without darkening or changing the color and cut any orange tones that are typical of scrubbed pine. 

How to get the perfect raw wood look

Raw wood wash stand


Sanding a piece of furniture down to raw wood can be time-consuming and messy, but it's not hard and the final product is always worth the effort! 



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2 comments:

  1. Hi Katie,
    Thanks for sharing these tips. There is nothing more gorgeous than real wood brought back to life (and saved from the skip) by refinishing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You always have the best furniture makeovers. Awesome!

    ReplyDelete