Choosing The Right Sandpaper Grit for Wood Explained

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 09/01/23 • 

The key to effectively sanding your wood products is, to begin with, a coarse sandpaper that will cut through the flaws in your wood without creating larger scratches. Gradually, you can then move to finer sandpaper grits until you’ve achieved the desired smoothness.

If the problem on your wood’s surface can be fixed with a finer sandpaper, then there’s no reason to waste your time with coarser sandpaper. Beginning with the wrong sandpaper grit is not only inefficient but also a waste of time. In this article, I’ll explain the different sandpaper grits to help you sand your wood efficiently.

What is Sandpaper Grit?

Sandpaper grit refers to rating the different sizes of abrasive materials on the sandpaper. The higher the sandpaper grit, the finer the sizes of abrasive materials. A lower grit sandpaper will have coarser abrasive materials on the sandpaper.

Sandpaper Grading in the US and Europe

Sandpaper Grading in the US and Europe

The grading system of sandpaper uses CAMI, which is the traditional American grading system, or FEPA, which is the European system designated with a ‘P’ in front of the grit number. As shown in the picture above, there’s not much of a difference between the two systems. However, above 220 grit, the grading is very different.

Sandpaper Grit Ranges & Application

60-80 Grit – Coarse

This is most often the first goto sandpaper grit chosen when going through the grits to prepare wood for finishing. 60 and 80-grit sandpapers will cut through the old paint and smoothen out rough edges with ease. The grits can also take off enough wood and shape the edges of your wood products.

Coarse-grit sandpapers are not recommended if you’re looking for fine details or you want to keep your edges sharp. If you’re sanding veneer plywood, be careful when using coarse sandpaper grit because it is very easy to sand through.

100-150 Grit – Medium

The grit range is one of the most popular, and you can hardly go wrong when working with them. For any of your wood finishing projects, it is essential to have medium-grit sandpaper nearby.

Medium-grit sandpaper is good for slowly working down a piece of wood while applying pressure. It can also be used to preserve the details of a piece of wood by using less pressure when sanding. Mostly, medium grit sandpaper will be used on bare wood without any finishing.

Sanding with 150-grit sandpaper is recommended before painting or staining. This leaves behind a texture that will allow the paint to grip onto the wood or the stain to penetrate deeper into the wood fibers.

180 – 220 Grit – Fine

When used on wood, fine-grit sandpapers leave an ultra-smooth surface to the touch. In wood finishing, fine-grit sandpapers are mostly used for sanding finishes before applying another coat.

If you’re looking to stain wood, I’d advise avoiding fine-grit sandpapers because this will make it harder for a stain to penetrate the wood fibers. The finer the grit you use on wood, the less a stain will color the wood.

320 Grit Upward – Extra-Fine

From 350-grit sandpaper going upward, these are extra-fine-grit sandpaper. Most finer-grit sandpapers are used for wet sanding. With wood, extra fine-grit sandpapers can be used for sanding painted surfaces between each coat. Extra-fine-grit sandpapers can also be used for sanding wood surfaces before polishing.

Different Sandpaper Materials

Although the sandpaper grit makes a difference when sanding wood, the sandpaper’s material also matters. Some types of grit materials are good for sanding materials, such as wood, while others are good for harder surfaces like metal. Below are the different sandpaper grit materials.

MWB-Team

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