Informational Series: All About Abrasives
As you may already know, sandpaper has many different uses depending on grit, material, and overall design. A few examples include a woodworker sanding a planed cut of wood to remove any inconsistencies or machine marks, and a finisher sanding between layers of a finish for adhesion, consistency, and depth. In addition to these examples there are hundreds of uses for sandpaper. In this edition of our informational series we’ll take a look at the ins and outs of sanding in the furniture, woodworking, and refinishing world.
Grit refers to the particle size that makes up the abrasive portion of each sheet of sandpaper. Specifically, it’s the number of abrasive particles per square inch, which means the higher the number, the smaller the particle, the finer the sheet. The lower the number is on the box, the greater the diameter is for each abrasive particle (resulting in fewer particles per square inch), which creates a more coarse sheet. Actual sand hasn’t been used in the manufacturing of sandpaper for many years, so “abrasive particles” seems like the most appropriate term to avoid getting too technical. Measurement standards vary over the world, but in the United States the most common is a simple numbering system. The lower grit, more coarse sandpaper will remove larger materials quickly. For example, you’d want to use a low grit for sanding thick paint off of a fence. Higher grit, finer papers can be used for tasks such as light sanding in between layers of a finish to create proper adhesion for the next coat. It’s important to remember this system when purchasing sanding supplies. The wrong grit for the job can produce catastrophic results.
Most people associate wet sanding with vehicle paint jobs, but the same concept can be applied to wood finishing. For those that are unfamiliar with the process, wet sanding is a technique where high grit waterproof sandpaper is used to achieve the smoothest finish possible. It’s typically done just before applying the final coat, and only to the finish so only slight pressure is necessary when sanding. The idea is to remove any bumps in the finish before finalizing the job. The water acts as a lubricant for the paper, reducing excess scratching to achieve maximum smoothness. It is not necessary to follow the grain of the wood since the work is only being done to the finish. Some finishers have different methods, but most prefer to sand finishes in small circles.
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