Sanding Too Much?

Article - April 20, 2009

This question comes from Michael who asks:

“When sanding, I usually sand down to 400 grit. I saw one of your videos where you sand to 180 grit. Am I sanding too much?”

And my response:
sandingHey Michael. In my opinion, yes. I believe that after 150-180 grit (on most woods), we have a case of diminishing returns. The whole idea with sanding the wood is not necessarily to get it as smooth as glass. Rather, its to give the wood a clean, even, and scratch-free appearance. To be more accurate, there are always going to be scratches in the surface. But by sanding with the grain, or in a completely random pattern (as with a random orbit sander), your eye will never see them. And the number that I find removes all visible scratches is 180 grit. Sometimes I am even happy with 150, but I usually go to 180 just for good measure. Sanding up to 400 really isn’t going to give you a smoother finish in the end. Because after the first coat of finish is applied, you are no longer dealing with the raw wood. You are dealing with the finish. With sanding between each coat, you’ll have ample opportunity to smooth the surface to your liking. So that’s why I say make the wood look perfect, but don’t worry about it not being glass smooth. That’s what the finish is for. And just as an FYI, I usually increase my grits between each coat of finish. So I sand the bare wood to 180. After the first coat of finish dries, I sand with 320. 400 after the second coat. And 600 between every coat thereafter. On the final coat, depending on the look I am going for, I may buff the surface with 1000 or 2000 grit soft pads. This helps to smooth out any little dust nibs.

Now this is just what works for me. How far do you guys sand your projects?