DIY woodworking projects for every budget and skill level

Sanding 101

How to Sand like a pro

Sanding 101


Sanding is a necessity for virtually every woodworking project. There are many ways to skin the cat (though we at the CraftyCatsman do not condone any actual cat skinning). Knowing which method is right for your project may seem daunting – I hope this post helps you in that process.

NOTES: Sanding

Sanding is defined as the process of smoothing or polishing a surface with sandpaper or sand. We won’t be recommending and sand in this write-up but we will cover the basic options that you have available to you. There are undoubtably other options that we will not cover but this list will get you through any of my projects.

bro cat wearing a backwards hat listening to big headphones,

Sanding 101


Sheets: The most basic form of sandpaper is sandpaper sheets. You can find these in any hardware store (we love HomeDepot) or online. Sheets can be cut, rolled up or most commonly folded into squares that you can use. 


Random Orbital Sander: A random orbital sander is a handheld power-tool that oscillates a sanding disk in random patterns. This helps avoid showing sanding marks on your surface. You can go a long way with a random orbital sander and I recommend it in my scrappy cat toolbag.


Belt Sander: A belt sander is the random orbital sanders older, more jacked bar fight starting cousin. Regardless of the grit, the belt sander is designed to rip layers off your project. When used right, this is one of the best ways to shave off imperfections (like band saw marks). When used incorrectly it can cause uneven surfaces and damaged corners.


Spindle Sander: Mostly used for curved edges, a spindle sander is a great addition to a workshop, especially if you are using a scroll saw. 


Sanding Discs and Drums: More of a niche. Sanding discs can be attached to grinders and rotary tools (like a dremel) have discs and drums. This allows you to get into hard to reach places

Sanding 101


Sandpaper comes in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Some will be square and stick to a tool, some will be spongy with crevices to catch dust and some will be little tiny wheels that spin real fast. For all the variations, one thing will be consistent – they will all have a grit rating.

The higher the number, the finer the grit. You will always start with a rougher grit (a number closer to 1) and work your way up the scale. In general, I sand with 80 grit then 120 grit and then sometimes with 220. There are plenty of projects that require a tweak to this rule, but I like to start here and then decide if my project requires more or less than the standard rubbin’. 

Sanding 101


Sanding is messy. Even with dust collection its inevitable that the dust will get out. I suggest wearing a mask when sanding with power tools (like a orbital or belt sander).

DALL·E 2022-08-16 07.02.36 - realistic photograph of a tabby cat wearing a dust mask sitting at a work bench, ultra vivid 8k photography

Sanding 101

Popping The Grain

I almost always “pop the grain”. Popping the grain is a simple process, I run a moderate amount water over the wood and wipe it clean. When the wood dries tiny fibers pop up ready to be sanded. 

Why Pop?
Popping the grain opens the pores of the wood. It allows the stain to penetrate the wood and provides a deeper richer color.

Sanding 101

Go with the Flow (Grain)

When hand sanding, go with the grain. Meaning, follow the direction of the lines on the wood. In this picture you would sand up and down. 

Walnut Slab Wood floating shelf

Sanding 101

Clean Up

Cleaning up the dust from the workstation is obvious but be sure to clean the wood too. You will likely be sealing your project and if you don’t clean the dust it will be forever trapped inside the seal. 

 I use a damp rag and scrub the project, for large projects I may even hose it down and then dry with a towel.

Dalle 2 images cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses, sitting in a tub, disheveled bro cat has soap suds dripping, Bill Murray

Sanding 101


Sanding is an absolutely critical step in virtually every woodworking project. Proper sanding leads to beautiful representations of grain. Improper sanding can ruin the look of your hard work.

DALL·E 2022-08-17 13.48.55 - _scrappy bro cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses_, _sitting at a workbench with a clipboard_, _scrappy bro cat checking red boxes on

Next Up.

Speakeasy Bar Arcade

Next Up: Hiding the AC Duct

AC Duct with weathered wood

Click the picture above to learn how I hid the unsightly shiny ductwork. 


Click below to see all of my DIY Arcade Bar Projects.

TheCraftyCatsman - Speakeasy Arcade

A collection of projects explaining how I built my arcade bar for less than a contractor wanted to charge to put up studs. All free for my feline loving friends.