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To prepare wood, steel, or other surfaces for painting or staining, the surface needs to be sanded. Sanding can be done by hand or with a power sander, which will save you tons of time. Regardless of the project, make sure you take the proper precautions for both safety and unnecessary cleanup. If sanding wood indoors, you will quickly discover that dust will filter throughout the house. Even if working on a small project, everything will be covered with a fine dust, making cleanup long and messy. To avoid this problem, cover things within the home with plastic that is secured with tape at the bottom or move the sanding project outdoors. For safety reasons, never start any project without wearing safety glasses, dusk mask to eliminate inhalation, and check the equipment and cord, checking for exposed wires.

When sanding wood, remember that some woods are softer than other woods and if too much pressure is applied on the sander, the wood can be damaged. Additionally, be sure the belt is placed on the sander correctly since putting in on backwards will cause the seams to tear. If you are not sure what grit of sandpaper to use for your project, check with your local hardware or home improvement store. Using too fine grit will not get the job done if trying to remove a top coat of paint or varnish, and using a grit that is too course can damage softer woods.

To give you an idea of the types of sanding equipment available, reference the following:
  • Belt Sander - This sander is specially designed for working on larger areas that need heavy-duty sanding
  • Block Sander or Sanding Block - Sandpaper is wrapped around this type sander, which is then used manually for the project's surface
  • Disk Sander - When choosing a sander for removing wood quickly or smoothing uneven surfaces, this is the perfect option
  • Pad Sander - Ideal for all types of sanding projects to be used on furniture, walls, ceilings, floors, or other types of woodwork
  • Sanding Cloth - For round or curved projects, this is essential, making the job easier and the finish better
Just as there are specific types of sanders for various types of projects, choosing the appropriate grit sandpaper as mentioned earlier, is crucial. Sandpapers range coarse designed with 20 to 40 grits per inch, to extra fine, which is designed with 600 grits per inch. In addition, to the type of grit, materials also vary. Following are the various options to consider when buying sandpaper for your next project:
  • Aluminum oxide - Provides quick results, lasts a long time when using with a power sander, and can be used for materials other than wood to include bronze, fiberglass, high-carbon steel, and plastic, and perfect for polishing stainless steel
  • Emory cloth - The best choice for polishing metal
  • Flint - Best for sanding by hand any painted surfaces
  • Garnet Emory - Great for hand sanding clean or natural wood surfaces
  • Silicon carbide - Harder than aluminum oxide, and ideal for ceramics, glass, and hard plastics as well as finishing or grinding aluminum, brass, and copper
  • Steel wool - Comes in various degrees of coarseness and is great for removing and smoothing hard materials such as metal
Once you have all the proper equipment and materials, start with coarser sandpaper, working down to a fine grit. If using a power sander, allow the weight of the sander to do the sanding. To avoid gouging the wood, make sure the power sander is engaged and disengaged from the material's surface while the disk or belt is still moving. For inward curves, wrap padding material around a dowel or stick and then wrap sandpaper around the top of this. Finally, in addition to covering furniture to avoid it from being covered with dust, it is important that heating and air-conditioning ducts and electrical outlets are also covered with plastic and secured with tape. Since wood dust can ignite, you want to keep it away from any area that could spark or heat the dust, thus causing a fire.
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