From painting baseboards to refinishing furniture, getting to know some of the secrets of good sanding can make the difference between a finished project only your mother will love or a reputation as a GQ handyman. That’s GQ for “good quality”.
1. By the Numbers
True Grit aficionados might argue over whether 1969 (the original) was better than 2010 (the remake), but they won’t argue about the numbers when it comes to sandpaper grit.
Start low and work your way up. The lower the number the bigger the scratches, so where you start will depend on how smooth the original surface is. For most jobs starting at 80 will quickly and easily remove scratches, unevenness and leftover glue or paint.
Work your way through 100-120-150-180 and finish with 220 to get a finish so smooth you’ll want to cry, just like the moment John Wayne turns and says “looking back is a bad habit”.
Some folks will say you can skip a number or two along the way but follow the numbers from low to high and you’ll never look back.
2. A Little Brush Up
When it comes to refinishing furniture, a good handyman will tell you that the devil is often in the details. Getting sand paper into little nooks and crannies can be harder than folding origami swans but if you are going to get a good finish, it is genuinely important to remove any remaining paint, varnish or stripper from those hard to reach places.
An old toothbrush makes a handy tool that will get the job done and save your knuckles. Cut off the bristles with a utility knife and use epoxy to glue on a piece of Velcro hook backing cut to the shape of your toothbrush. You can cut a dozen or more sanding pads for your toothbrush sander from a standard piece of hook and loop orbital sanding paper.
3. Secret of the Sponge
Sponge sanding blocks do a masterful job of sanding contoured surfaces like baseboards. But if you are painting baseboards, remember that it usually takes at least two coats to get good coverage with a new colour.
Use a sanding sponge between coats to get a beautiful finish.
Let the first coat dry for at least 24 hours and make sure it is completely dry before giving it a light sanding.
4. Shoeshine Boy
For round-turned surfaces like spindle back chairs or lamp bases, cut sandpaper into strips and sand with a shoeshine-like action. Damaged sanding belts are particularly useful for this application because of their sturdy and flexible cloth backing. You’ll find this technique indispensable if your amatuer handyman ways lead you astray and you find yourself neck deep in duck decoy carving or RC modeling.
5. Wet Wipe for Wood
When you think you’ve done your last pass, take a damp sponge and wipe over the wood. As it dries, loose fibres tend to stand up. You’ll also be able see any glue smears, sweat drops or tears of joy that may remain on the wood. Let the wood dry completely and then sand out the glue smears and knock off the fuzz with some 220 grit or higher. This step is particularly important if you are using a clear water-based finish.
Need A Real Pro?
If you give it a go and it fails miserably, don’t be afraid to swallow your pride and book a real pro handyman. You’ll still be able to say “I did it myself” when friends visit – just don’t tell them which bit you did yourself!