Home Tool Guide Abrasive Sanding Tools and Sandpaper Buying Guide

Abrasive Sanding Tools and Sandpaper Buying Guide

by David Noro

Abrasive Sanding Tools and Sandpaper Buying Guide

Before painting or varnishing, you first need to prepare the surface. Even what seems to be the simplest of projects often first requires sanding.

Grains and Abrasives

Sandpaper is an abrasive that is used to make rough surfaces smooth. It comes in rolls or sheets. Before buying sandpaper, it’s important to know what grain size is best for the job. The grain size is given a number that indicates the coarseness of the grit. 

Bigger numbers represent finer grain, and smaller numbers represent coarser grain. Any number from 400 and higher is good to use for smoothing and polishing delicate items. A grain number of 80 or lower is great for removing grit and for shaping.

The types of abrasive are another important aspect of sanding. Some of the most common abrasive types include:

Corundum paper

In addition to being used as a precious gem, crystallized alumina oxide, corundum, is a useful abrasive used for grinding optical glass or for polishing metals or to sand hardwoods or removes old paint.

Additionally, there is synthetic corundum that is made to tackle difficult sanding jobs.

Emery cloth

Emery cloth is a type of coated abrasive where emery is glued to a canvas. It consists of a mixture of minerals and is used for polishing metals. It works great for intensive jobs like sanding down rust.

Flint

If you’ve ever been camping as a Boy Scout, you probably tried to start a fire by rubbing flint together to get a spark. Sandpaper coated with flint is now considered to be old-fashioned, but it was once widely used to sand almost anything, including varnishes, plaster, or softwood.

One reason it was used is that it resists dulling. It was made available with paper backing or cloth.

Corundum paper

In addition to being used as a precious gem, crystallized alumina oxide, corundum, is a useful abrasive. It is used for grinding optical glass or for polishing metals or to sand hardwoods or remove old paint. Additionally, there is a synthetic corundum that is made to tackle difficult sanding jobs.

Emery cloth

Emery cloth is a type of coated abrasive where emery is glued to a canvas. It consists of a mixture of minerals and is used for polishing metals. It works great for intensive jobs like sanding down rust.

Flint

If you’ve ever been camping as a Boy Scout, you probably tried to start a fire by rubbing flint together to get a spark. Sandpaper coated with flint is now considered to be old-fashioned, but it was once widely used to sand almost anything, including varnishes, plaster, or soft wood. One reason it was used is that it resists dulling. It was made available with paper backing or cloth.

Mounting Type

In order to use the sanding grains, they need to be bonded to something. Following are a few of the most common mounting materials.

Nylon fiber

The self-gripping sheets on sanding blocks use nylon fiber.

Canvas

Canvas is an abrasive cloth that is more resistant to bending making it perfect for sanding corners or for nooks and cranny carvings.

Paper

The more durable or stiff that the sanding paper is, the faster it will help to get the job done. IF it too thick or stiff, it could crack. If it’s too thin, it tears. Sanding paper is used dry to easily remove paint from boats or it can be used wet to make the paint on a car rough.

Sanding Block or By Hand?

While hand sanding allows you to be detailed and precise, it takes a lot of patience along with good technique. Sanding by hand can be done on flat surfaces or those that are irregular. It can be a bit tricky to keep a good grip on the sandpaper. Sometimes, moving to a new section on the sandpaper helps as does folding the sandpaper in thirds or quarters to get a better grip or leverage to keep good control of the sanding job. For better control and longer-lasting use, a sanding block is helpful. A sanding block is often made out of wood, foam, rubber, cork, or other synthetic materials that are able to secure the sandpaper. A sanding block, however, should only be used on surfaces that are flat since irregular surfaces may wear down the surface of the block.

How to use sandpaper abrasives

  • Protect your hands by wearing gloves at all times while sanding
  • Always sand in the direction of the grain, sometimes this is referred to as sanding along the grain or with the grain which will help to keep scratches from appearing
  • Always begin with the lowest grit and move from coarse to fine so that you finish up with the finest grit
  • For dry sanding, use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the dust or use a sponge when sanding with water
  • For dry sanding, use auto-body sandpaper

Safety

Whether you choose to sand by hand or use a sanding block, always wear protective eye wear or a mask.

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