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I know this is more than likely a silly question. however I am going to ask it anyways, because I am like that lol. When you sand a project how do you know when you are done. do you go from the coarsest grit to the lowest all the time or is it dependent on the wood and its softness? how do you know when it is time to go to a lower grit sandpaper? The reason I am asking is because every time I feel like I have sanded enough and I coat it there always seems to me that I should have sanded it more. Well thanks for those who take the time to answer my question.

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Lissa, not a bad question at all.  Alot depends on the wood as to the coarseness of paper I start out with.  If your project is pine, you ahve to be very careful because a coarser grit will rapidly remove material.  I work primarilly wth hardwoods like cherry, oak, walnut and maple so usually my first paper is a 120 and I work down from there.  Maple is much harder that cherry, oak and walnut so I could lightly "kiss" the surface with 80 grit and then move to 120.  I'll step from 120 to 150 to 220, then 400 and even down to 600 or 1000 depending on the finish.  Like everything else in woodworking, time and experience will give you the feel for the right paper for the job.  Great question.

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Ron thanks for the quick reply. I have one more questions, when sanding if you think you are done should you be able to see small scratches in the wood where it was sanded or is that an indicator you should go down to a smaller grit. I mean they are small and not noticeable to other but i see them. is this me being a perfectionist and i should not worry about or like above go to a smaller grit? I do always try to sand with the grain of the wood.

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Lissa, I'll sand to the grit I believe is adequate and wipe the projects down with a clean cloth damped with ineral spirits.  This will remove the dust and allow you to get a preview of what the piece will look like after it is finishes.  I personally don't like any scratches.  How fine do you normally sand

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There are a several of variables here. Type of wood, type of finish, type of project and equipment used for sanding.

For me- I HATE to sand.

Soft woods can usually be started with a finer grit than harder woods.

A film finish usually doesn't need to have the wood sanded to the finest grit compared to say a stain finish.

Primitives may not need any sanding.

As for equipment, I use a random orbital sander up thru the next to last grit. Then hand sand, with the grain on the final grit. One thing for staining, end grain takes stain quicker than flat or edge grain. If you are going to stain something, sand the end grain one grit finer than the rest of the project. The finer sanded end grain won't absorb the stain as quickly and the entire project will have a more even color.

Most folks say not to skip grits but I've heard others say that isn't necessarily true. Some sand 120, 150, 180 while others go 120, 180. I think it depends on the wood, finish and project.

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I use both a dewalt vibrating sander, a belt sander and hand sanding. Right now I am am working on making scroll work for a picture frame the piece are delicate so I am hand sanding each of them because I am afraid they will break using machines. The scroll like pattern is from popular wood

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Lissa,

With poplar, unless it is really rough, I'd start with 120 and work up from there. You may be adding scratches with the 60 thru 100 grit. Of course that depends on the surface condition of the material you are starting with. Has the surface of the poplar been planned or is it rough?

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Lew is right. On planed poplar, there's no need to start more course than 120. You might try sanding with the vibrating sander before scrolling. Take it to where you are satisfied (220 should do it) then, you'll have less hand sanding after the piece(s) have been cut.

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Thanks guys for all the input.lesson learned... I am so glad this forum is here. The input is very appreciated and I am never made to feel like I am asking anything that some may think I should already know or is a silly thing to ask about. Thanks so much for being good teachers and mentors

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Lissa


First off welcome to the PatriotWoodworkers. I do a lot of scroll work. I have found that presanding the piece to be cut is the best way. I take mine to 220 then wipe down with a damp cloth of mineral spirits. Once the project is cut, I can touch up the areas that need it using a piece of 220 by hand. For the finer areas, I use popcycle sticks with 220 on them. The easiest way is to cut the sticks to  point on one end. Take a small piece of 220 and spray the back with spray adhesive. Lay the popcycle sticks on the sprayed side of the sanding sheet and press down to mae sure it sticks. Cut the sand paper to the shape of the pointed stick. This will fit through the smaller areas that you have cut out and you can gently sand inside the cuts. Clean the project up and your rady for the finish of your choice. I'll try and grab a photo or 2 of this to make it easier to understand.

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Ok so took the Popsicle stick idea and ran with but was to lazy to glue stuff so just tried women's nail file .. Ha they are good for something, they work well on soft woods I hard to reach spots and don't tear up the wood or leave deep scratches. So guess who will be stocking up on nail files for first time in her life... Muhahaha

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