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Completing the final touches with a wood carving project is a completely different process and can even take as long as actually carving it. These final touches can include adding your favorite wood polish/finish, but before you can even do that, the most important part, arguably, is sanding it down. The best sandpaper for wood often depends on what you need it for (removing a lot of wood material, fine sanding, etc.)
Low grit count coarse sandpaper for removing wood material rapidly. For first touch sanding.
Medium grit count to smoothen out rougher areas. Does not remove paint or varnish. Use as a follow up to coarse sandpaper.
Fine grit count for slowly removing wood material. Follow up to medium grit sandpaper.
Best Sandpaper For Wood
There’s several different degrees of grit that do different things. Some get rid of more material than others, so navigating the differences is important to finding the right one.
Coarse Grade: Fandeli Multipurpose 60-Grit Sandpaper
An incredibly effective coarse, highly abrasive option that I recommend using on wood before you even start carving is the Fandeli 60-Grit Multipurpose Sheets. This grade is most effective to rough out any excessive fibers immediately before and after carving. More often than not, before even making the first cut, the wood you start out with is more than likely going to have uneven sides, chips in the surface, or even potential splinters sticking, making it pretty unsafe to hold freely while carving. Even though it is best practice to wear safety gloves when using a knife, getting rid of defects on the surface makes cutting it a lot safer and easier.
For high wood removal: Top recommended 60-grit, highly abrasive sheets. Coarse surface allows for excess material removal, sheets may be used more than once.
This particular package comes with 25 sheets that are 9″ X 11″, so it offers plenty of surface area to use. Thing is with sheets like these is that they become easier to use the more often they are applied. Out of the package they are pretty stiff which makes it hard to smooth out tight corners and even concave shapes. So the best method to make the sheets more malleable is to just use them as often as you can.
Medium Grade: 3M 100 Grit SandBlaster
The workhorse of your sanding is going to be done with the 100 grade sheets, and what better choice to go with than “Amazon’s Choice”. These are also 9″ X 11″, but what’s most noticeable about it is its life expectancy. The 3M sandblaster sheets last up to 7 times longer than leading generic sandpaper sheets, which is incredibly helpful with crafts like wood carving where they are used often.
Intermediate material removal grade: not quite fine, not quite coarse. The no slip grip sandpaper lasts 7 times longer than general brands, requires less work for the same results, resistant to clogs, and removes surface flaws.
A helpful addition to the 3M is its non-slip grip because it helps the wood removal process remain consistent without having to create a makeshift method to keep it in your hand. Surprisingly enough, this is a very low maintenance sheet that does not require a lot of effort to make it work efficiently. In my experience, the sanding process is often strenuous because of the repetitive motion that’s required to get the sanding sheet to do what it does best, but the 3M’s abrasiveness and grip averages more material removal with half the effort compared to competitors.
3M sells various grade sheets individually, which is not necessarily cost effective, but their quality is unmatched. They do have an options for assorted grits which is helpful for those looking to have every grade in its spectrum between coarse and fine sanding. Even though the assortment pack only comes with 3 sheets they last longer than its competitors with a portion of amount of time used so I still recommend it.
Fine Grade: 3M 180-400 Grit SandBlaster
Tagged as one of Amazon’s top selling sandpaper choices, the 3m SandBlaster is, yet again, among our top recommendations for that extra step you need to achieve a fiber-less surface finish to complete your wooden project. It is an old fashioned paper and is not coated like other sandpaper options you might run into. That being said, the back of the paper does not have the typical sponge-like surface, but instead has a no-slip grip that helps to extend its performance life up to 7 times longer.
180 to 400 grit sandpaper is best used between coats and for fine smooth finishes. It evenly conceals surface blemishes, chips, and conceals wood frays.
The no-slip grip helps utilize all surface areas of the paper to fulfill its purpose for high abrasive performance. Less work, cuts 3 times as fast, and lasts significantly longer, that’s a lot better than most sanding sheets I’ve used. Most sheets won’t even have a no-slip grip attached to it, instead it will basically force you to wear a glove in order to maintain a decent grip.
It is best to use between coats for surface sanding and smoothing out the excess fibers for a finer finish. The alternating increasing grades (180, 220, 320, 400) provide a variety of abrasiveness that can match your preference before adding the stain to your carved wooden piece.
Fandeli has a set of professional sandpaper with multiple grit counts. The set, 80 (5); 120 (10); 220 (10), includes 25 sheets made of high-quality aluminum oxide mineral. The best sandpaper for wood should be able to last longer and reduce clogging, both of which Fandeli does flawlessly.
Although I’m exclusively recommending items that work well within the capacity of wood, Fandeli is also compatible with metal, lacquers, and paint. The assorted sandpaper can best be utilized to strip and remove, preparing surface, and create a smooth texture for finishing.
Finding The Right Sandpaper
Sanding has an immense and gradual effect on wood. Some sandpaper could have a more dramatic effect than others, but there are ways to determine the outcome without even using any.
Grit on the best sandpaper for wood refers to the size of abrasive materials on it. Fine abrasive material, that helps create a smoother surface, is associated with the higher grit numbers. The lower end grit counts are coarse and scrape of material quickly.
What is the best grit for sanding wood?
As I mentioned previously, sanding is a process that is just as important as carving, and requires the same amount of patience and attentiveness. Sandpaper is divided by its grit, and the grit determines how much material comes off. Rule of thumb here is the lower the grit count, the rougher it is.
Low grade sandpaper removes the most amount of material. For example, 60-grit sandpaper is a very rough grade and works great for wood. I recommend using it for rough surfaces when the wood has dents, gouges, splinters, or loose fibers.
I’m going to point out that it does remove wood pretty fast, so if the 60 grit sandpaper is too aggressive, then try 80 grit (it has less abrasive characteristics). You can use both papers for removing old finishes, paint, or even to shape the wood to your liking.
Being the go-to sandpaper for aggressive wood removal, I would advise against using these grades for finish work. Instead, follow up your wood carving project by using a higher grit count. The 60 and 80 grit sandpaper are not good for fine woodworking.
The Main Squeeze
Woodworkers and woodcarvers typically rely the most on 100-grit sandpaper over any other grade, it is essentially the main squeeze of the industry. Its ability to smooth out the wood with the right amount of abrasion provides a surface that becomes optimal for finishing.
Most often when a wood carving project is complete there are still left over scratches, fibers, defects, and other blemishes. Use a 100-grit sandpaper to remove the remaining defects and uneven edges for a complete smooth surface. The 100-grit paper is the best sandpaper for general use.
The Extra Mile
In order to take your follow up touches to the next level, you’ll want to grab a sandpaper grade between 120 – 180 grit. This significantly less abrasive option is great for further surface refinement, however it isn’t completely necessary and typically a 100-grit sandpaper will suffice. But if you are looking to make your clear topcoats lie flat and have that glossy look then a higher grit will be very effective.
Try not to overuse higher grit sandpaper. It’s best to use them sparingly because it has the potential to actually polish the wood instead of removing excess fibers, this can cause wood staining penetration uneven and blotchy. A good indicator of aggressive sanding is if the wood has streaks or spots, and if this happens, I recommend going back over it with a 100-grit paper to slightly rough the surface and that will help with consistent stain application.
Having access to the best sandpaper for wood means getting different grit counts. A mixture of coarse/medium/fine sandpaper will help even out all micro blemishes for those finishing touches.