5 Tips to Using Sandpaper on a Surface

  • Beginner

Sandpaper is one of the most useful things in your workshop. Not only can it smooth and shape wood but it can remove blemishes and paint from all manner of surfaces. These days there’s no sand in sandpaper. It’s actually abrasive grit of several different types fixed on to sandpaper. Knowing how to use sandpaper properly will speed up jobs and make the work much simpler.

Use the Right Grit

To use sandpaper effectively you need to use the correct grit for the job. Sandpaper is available in many different grits. The lower the number the coarser the sandpaper will be. For rough jobs, you want to use coarser sandpaper, and you also need that for removing paint. For more delicate work choose a finer grit. If you’re sanding between coats of paint, for instance, where you just need a light sanding, choose a very fine grit, and the same for finish sanding.

Types Of Sandpaper

The type of sandpaper you choose can make a difference in how quickly and smoothly you do the job. With sandpaper made of aluminum oxide, for example, you can do everything quickly, because the grains are extremely sharp. When you’re trying to sand something down, this is the paper of choice. Silicon carbide sandpaper is much harder than aluminum oxide and is a better choice when sanding metal, but it also works well for sanding down between coats of paint. Finally, sandpaper made from garnet is what you’ll want to remove any scratches caused by other sandings.


When sanding down rough wood, begin with coarser sandpaper and gradually move through finer grits to something very fine (from 80 or 100 grit to 120 and finally 150) to give a silky finish. To remove sandpaper dust from the wood, rub it with a tack cloth. The dust will stick to this without the wood becoming sticky and the tack cloth can be discarded later.


When sanding wood you should always follow the grain to achieve the very best effect. Doing otherwise will simply leave the wood rough. If you’re removing paint from metal or other surfaces with sandpaper, move the sandpaper in a circle. Don’t press down hard. It’s not necessary and just wears out the sandpaper so much faster. The paper can do the work very well without excessive pressure. Just keep stopping and checking your work and change to a finer grit if necessary.

If the sandpaper has become clogged by dust, use a brush to clean it before continuing. This can often happen with “closed grit” sandpaper, where the entire paper is covered with grit. In “open grit” sandpaper only about 50 percent of the paper is covered with grit. Be aware, however, that sanding will go faster using closed grit paper.


When using sandpaper of any type you should wear a dust mask and safety goggles. Goggles are preferable to glass because they key the tiny particles of dust away from the eyes. Similarly, a dust mask will stop all the dust from entering your nose and mouth, leaving breathing a great deal easier.