Refinishing Furniture With a Sander 101

No matter if you are planning to sand furnishings to apply new paint, stain, or just bring new life to it, the sanding procedure should be the same. You should know right from the start that using a manual sanding technique can get you the desired result as well; however, you will need a lot more skill to get the process done manually. Instead, using the best belt sander with the right grip leads to a much more satisfying process that will give you the confidence to take on new sanding projects. So, if you want to try your luck with a DIY furniture sanding project, make sure you read this article first and get everything arranged properly.

sharpener electric tool hand sander

When Is the Right Time to Sand Furniture?

There’s no clear process to determine the right time for sanding your furniture. You can either do it when you’re no longer happy with the way it looks or if you want to change something in your house with minimum costs that will make the entire home look better. Now, with the introduction of chalk paint, sanding got a bad reputation; however, it’s not by far the complicated process. We will not go into too many details about chalk paint and waxing since this post is focused on sanding with a belt sander. However, you need to know that no matter the process you’re applying, the entire sanding for a piece of furniture shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes.

Why Sand in the First Place?

There are two possible reasons why you should sand your furniture: the first is when you’re planning on repainting. Applying paint directly over the old finishing won’t do anything because the paint won’t adhere properly. Sanding gets rid of that shiny surface so that the paint will properly stick to the surface.

The other situation is when you want to stain the wood. This is a bit more complicated. However, you should still be able to do it by yourself if you have the proper equipment and a good quality tutorial to guide you through the steps. It is important to note that every piece of furniture is unique, so the actual process may differ from one to another.

Electric Belt Sander vs. Sanding by Hand

We don’t need to tell you that sanding by hand is the worst idea you could ever have. Not only will the process take a lot of time, but there’s a big chance you won’t be able to get the same strokes so that the final result is smooth all over. Instead, you should go for a belt sander, a palm sander, or an electric mouse that will work on the vast majority of furniture pieces. With a belt sander, you are looking at a very quick operation and results as long as you know how to operate it. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a master of sanding to figure out how to sand a piece of furniture. A good belt sander will strip the paint and uncover the raw wood in a few seconds without the risk of damaging the whole thing. Even though belt sanders are quite powerful as they are heavy-duty equipment, as long as you hold a firm grip and don’t use it in one spot for too long, everything should be okay.

machinery polished sander

Belt sanders are designed to deliver high-quality sanding and get rid of any excess material in a short time. They can have various specifications, but we’ll go to that subject in a different paragraph. For smaller pieces of furniture, you can use a stationary belt sander and maneuver the piece of furniture in such a way that you cover all the sides properly.

Choosing the Right Grit for a Belt Sander

Now that we’ve established a belt sander is the best tool you can have with you when it comes to sanding furniture, it’s time to teach you which type of grit you need for an awesome job. No matter if we’re talking about sandpaper for belt sanders or manual work, the grading refers to the number of abrasive particles for every square inch of paper. According to this attribute, you have coarse, medium, fine, very fine, extra-fine, and superfine. For any sanding operation that you will perform, you will need at least two or three grits of sandpaper.

In case you are wondering why can’t you just go with super fine sandpaper for the entire project, there’s a good reason for that. You won’t want it to take a couple of hours for only using super fine grit. The rougher sandpaper has the quality of removing a lot of material. And even though it’s not exactly delicate, it gets the job done. That’s why you start with low grit sandpaper and move up towards the end when you want precision over removing as much material as possible.

Abrasives Used in Sandpaper

In case you really want to go into details when talking about sandpaper used in belt sanders, you should know that there are five types of sandpaper available. While not all can be used on wood or furniture, we’re going to present all of them just so that you have complete knowledge. You have glasspaper, sometimes referred to as flint paper, usually a pale-yellow color, which disintegrates quite rapidly.

sandpaper close up

Then, you have garnet paper. Usually, more brown-red coloring, commonly used for furniture and other woodworking projects. While it may not sand the wood as quickly as other sandpapers, it does do a great job at finishing projects. Next in line, aluminum oxide sandpaper is also great for woodworking.

This is ideal for belt sander because it is more durable for when you start your project; however, you won’t get the same finishing quality as with the other ones mentioned above.

And then there’s the silicon carbide paper that you will find in a dark gray coloring or even completely black. This sandpaper is used for metal or wet-sanding operations where you have water as a lubricant. While some advanced finishes can be done with silicon carbide, this type of sandpaper is not typically needed when working on wood or furniture.

Is It Possible to Sand Furniture Indoors?

While it’s not exactly recommended to sand furniture inside because of the dust you will be generating, it can be done. We recommend using a dust catcher or attaching a vacuum cleaner to your belt sander in case the model you own doesn’t come with a built-in vacuuming function. Quickly catching the dust right after its generated is not only good for your health, but it will also allow you to complete the project much faster. Not having to wait for the dust to settle to inspect your progress makes it possible to get the job done quickly.

And since we mentioned the vacuum function of a belt sender, you should be aware of the tools and supplies needed for the entire operation. Sanding furniture with a belt sander without wearing safety glasses is a big NO-NO, and you should never consider doing such a thing. The small dust particles and even minuscule pieces of wood that get loose in the sanding process can be hazardous for your eyes. The same goes for your lungs, that’s why we always recommend using a respirator mask to prevent these small particles from entering your lungs. Even if you may not think you need it, in most cases, the fine particles of paint get in your lungs and can cause a lot of issues if you’re doing this often.

Is Wood Filler Necessary?

When dealing with older furniture, larger cracks or dents can possibly turn up on the surface you are sanding. To make sure you get the finish you are looking for, it’s not a bad idea to have some wood filler around. You can use it to cover cracks and dents; just apply it on the surface and make sure it’s perfectly stretched. Let it dry for 48 hours – we know, this is the worst part about wood filler and the reason why most people decide to skip this step. However, if a crack is extremely visible, sanding the furniture won’t work miracles without some filler.

emery cloth sandpaper

Conclusion

After going through this guide on how to sand furniture with a belt sander, you should have the theoretical knowledge for the entire process, the tools, and supplies you’re going to need for the job, as well as things to look out for with various pieces of furniture. All that is left to do now is grab your sander and start the process. It’s ideal to be able to work outside or in a big garage; however, sanding with a belt sander is possible indoors as well, just make sure you go for a vacuum model or simply have a vacuum cleaner handy. Don’t forget to have all the types of sandpaper belts available so that you can gradually change it for the smooth finish you want.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the experiences you had with sanding furniture. Did you use a belt sander? How did the entire operation go? If you have any tips or ideas that could help our readers, we are more than eager to read them in the comments section below!

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