How to Sand by Hand

Hand sanding

Don't worry if you don't have an orbital sander, sanding by hand is just as effective and is better for hard-to-reach areas and produces less dust. Plus, it’s a lot quieter and offers more control!

Most woodworking or decorating projects usually require some form of hand sanding.

This article includes:

Choose the correct grit

The process of sanding involves the abrasive grains acting as a cutting tool to cut, shape and finish the surface material. The first step of the process is choosing the right grit for the application. Whether you’re sanding rough sawn wood or creating a smooth and even finish on plaster, take a look at our reference chart to find the right grit for your sanding needs.

Generally, you usually start with a coarser grit and gradually work towards using a finer grit at the end of your project. If you use a grit that’s too coarse, it could leave scratches and may result in further sanding with finer grits to remove any deep scratches and marks. By correctly using the grits in sequences, you will minimise the sanding work required on your project.

Pick the right hand sanding tools

Once you know what grits you need, you can choose either sandpaper (in sheets or rolls) or sanding sponges as your hand sanding tool. This may depend on the surface material, how large the area is and whether it has complex shapes.

Liberty GreenSanding sheets and rolls

We’ll start with the most popular, sanding sheets or rolls, available in extra coarse 40 grit, to extra fine 400 grit. Paper backed sanding sheets and rolls are easy to tear to size for hard-to-reach areas and can be used on a range of surfaces, from wood to paint. Our Superflex range has a cloth backing so it’s highly resistant to creasing and ripping, but it can easily be torn into neat strips, making it ideal for sanding contoured surfaces and crevices, such as stair spindles.

Oakey has five ranges of sanding sheets, which come in a multipack, with different grits for each stage of your project. For larger projects, Oakey sanding rolls may be more suitable as they’re available in either 5 or 10 metre rolls.

Sanding sponges

Sanding sponges are perfect for bigger projects that involve hand sanding, as they last longer than sanding sheets and they can be washed after each use and re-used. They’re also ideal for projects that have contours and complex shapes as they’re very flexible. They can be used on wood, metal, varnish and paint.

To help minimise switching between projects, try the Oakey Dual-Grit sponge as it has two different grit sizes on either side. View our sanding sponges.

How to sand

Folded sandpaperThe ultimate rule when sanding wood by hand is to always ensure you sand in the direction of the grain. Sanding across the grain leaves scratches, which become more obvious when you apply a coat of paint, stain or varnish. However; if on the rare occasion you need to remove a lot of material quickly, then you can sand across the grain, but be mindful that this will leave marks and will require more extensive sanding with finer grits to get a smooth and even surface.

If you’re folding small pieces of sandpaper during use, make sure you fold it so that the abrasive sides are not rubbing together on the folded section, aim to ensure the paper sides are touching. You can then unfold it for a fresh surface when you need one.  Alternatively, look at our tip below to minimise wastage and help make your sandpaper go further during use.

Make your sanding tools go further

To take some of the hard work out of the job, opt for a rubber block or cork block to distribute the pressure more evenly when sanding on flat surfaces. Not only does it make sanding by hand easier, but the sanding sheets last longer and you’ll see better results.  If you don’t have a rubber or cork block to hand, then you can always use a small flat block of wood instead.  However; rubber and cork blocks do provide better results and are much more comfortable to hold and handle when sanding.

When using a sanding block, make sure to check the sanding sheet frequently so you can change it when required. If it’s overused, it can leave an uneven scratch pattern, which means you may spend more time sanding and not achieve the best results. To help save you time when sanding, use a sanding product that features anti-clogging technology, such as Oakey Liberty Green or Between Coats. These products resist clogging, even when sanding plaster surfaces, so you will spend less time sanding and less money on products overall.

Finishing your project

When hand finishing metal or wood projects, prior to final polishing or applying final coats of paint, varnish or stain, try our non-woven flexible finishing pads. These pads use nylon web fibres which are bonded together with abrasive grains - find out more about non-woven pads here. Non-woven finishing pads are ideal for use after using a 280 grit and 400 grit sandpaper to achieve a satin finish. However, if you’re after a matte finish, use a 280 grit sandpaper followed by a non-woven removal pad. Finally, versatile steel wool in a fine grit is ideal for polishing chrome or brass.

If you would like more information on the right product for your project, get in touch.