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Scraping & Sanding
Removing Dust
Filling the Pores
Fixing Dents & Gouges

Tip #41
Finishing Touches
Part 1 of 6 - Preparing the Surface
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Scraping and Sanding

There are two primary methods of smoothing the wood to accept the finish: scraping and sanding. Sanding is the simplest and the one the majority of woodworkers are most familiar with. Scraping, however, takes some practice, and in many cases, a combination of both scraping and sanding is the best.

Start by going over your entire project with a hand scraper. This will level off the surface of the wood and knock off any glue beads. When scrapers are properly sharpened and used, they will remove a tissue thin layer of wood with each pass and in just a few minutes, bring your surfaces to a level of smoothness that could require hours of tedious hand-sanding. For more about sharpening and using hand scrapers properly, check out our special How-To article entitled “Use & Sharpening Instructions for Hand Scrapers.” Do be aware, however, that hand scrapers will not work on end grains, so you'll have to clean these spots up with sandpaper or a plane (a low angle block plane is the best choice for end grains).

Once you've scraped your surfaces, begin sanding your project with medium to medium fine (80 to 120-grit) sandpaper, then work your way up to a very fine (150-grit to 220-grit) paper. The finer the grit you finish with, the more prominent the grain pattern of the wood will be…and the glossier your finish. Whatever you do, do NOT use “cheapo” flint sandpaper, as the quartz dust could react (unfavorably) with the finishing material you'll be using.

As you sand, use full strokes WITH the grain of the wood. Sanding against the grain will produce scratches that will show up on your finished project as unsightly lines. Sand end grains in one direction only -- this serves to “comb” down the wood fibers. Finally, when you're finished sanding, try running a nylon stocking (or pantyhose fragment) over your sanded surfaces to help you locate any spots you may have missed.

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