Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Finishing Question for Paul

Tagged: ,

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • Author
  • #26420
    Ron Harper

    In a couple of videos, I have seen you take 240 grit sand paper to roughen the finish. I understand that, if a guy was staining or varnishing, but I have heard that shellac will work on very slick surfaces. Am I misinformed?

    Paul Sellers

    I sand before every finish I apply. Some roundovers need sanding and feathering in from the flat face to the rounded edges.


    Hi Paul,
    I may be missing something here. I heard you say once that sanding tears the grain and clogs it with dust, and that it’s better to scrape/plane the piece to avoid tearing the grain.

    When is sanding appropriate, and is it just something that you’d generally do just before you apply finish having scraped it beforehand?

    thank you

    Ipswich, Suffolk, United Kingdom


    Hi Paul
    I am building a jewellery box and what to add a high shine. What would you recommend?.
    I saw in a magazine only way to get it is by sanding at very high grit 1500 and polishing with 15,000 grit powder and water.



    This isn’t Paul but in my opinion you never have to sand higher than 400 grit. And I only do this if I am NOT staining the wood and using an oil finish.

    If you hand plane all surfaces first with a sharp well tuned plane, My progression is: 180grit to remove any remaining plane tracks. Put light pencil marks on the surface just sanded then use 220grit and remove all the pencil marks. (when all the pencil marks are removed I know I have sanded the entire surface). Put more pencil marks on the surfaces and go to 400 grit.

    This is plenty smooth for a high gloss surface you are looking for with shellace or another finish.

    I personally do not like a high shine on any of my work. It actually hides some of the grain I am trying to accentuate. I shoot for a duller shine that you can acheive using a hardening oil like Bush Oil or you can rub out a shellace or other finish with 0000 steel wool.

    Located in Honeoye Falls NY USA. The Finger Lakes region of Western NY.

    "If you give me 6 hours to fell a tree, I will take the first 4 to sharpen my axe" Abe Lincoln

    Nejc Panic

    I am also still a bit confused- For example, the “famous” Chris Schwarz talks about the smoothing plane as the LAST thing to touch the surface, before finishing it.

    I guess there really is more to sanding than some folks wanna admit 😀

    But first, coffee! 😀


    I’m not an expert but one of my mentors told me this. Stains and finishes take to surfaces based upon the surface texture, rougher surfaces stain darker. If you sand rounded edges and other parts but not the flat surfaces the finish will look differently. Paul has repeatedly referred to sanding as roughing the surface so I think that’s what he is doing. I don’t sand beyond 320, because that’s what’s in the assortment of sandpaper I have, but I do sand all surfaces to the same grit. I think Schwarz is correct in a perfect world if all surfaces were made by smoothing plane no sanding would be required. That’s the way I learned it.


    My theory is a well planed surface is smooth because the grain has not been torn and the oil present in the wood has been pressed into the grain by the blade.

    I heard a Japanese woodworker use the term “burnished” to describe it.

    If this type of surface is stained or sealed, the inherent differences in the grain accept the finish at different rates. Some section maybe be 1000 grit, others 4000. Sometimes the stain can’t adhere at all, it’s very noticeable on pine.

    Toothing to a lower grit evens the rate of absorbtion along the surface and the finish adheres or soaks in at an even rate.

    David B

    I’m no finishing expert but what I have gathered from Paul and from my own (limited) experiences is that the first coat of anything swells/raises the grain. You wouldn’t want to plane off the finish you just applied. So after the first coat dries/cures, I sand it to smooth/clean up the swelled/rough grain that resulted. The second coat feels much smoother. Then I have rubbed with steel wool and applied a coat of wax. (To be clear that is sandpaper, shellac, sandpaper, shellac, steel wool, wax). I’m not sure if sanding prior to the first coat is necessary or not but I think it can help clean up any pencil marks, imperfections or dings that may have been left on your project prior to finishing.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.