Sanding Basics with Chris Williams

Get ready to prep your wood surface.

Many crafters and painters are curious about sandpapers, sanding tools and why we sand a surface to begin with.  I thought I would share a little of my Sanding 101 knowledge with you. 

So, just what is sandpaper? Sandpaper as we know it today is made of these components:  paper or fabric backing, grit, and the adhesive to hold the two together. When rubbed against a surface, sandpaper will smooth rough areas. Sandpaper can be purchased as flat paper, in rolls or belts.  It can also be purchased in the form of a sanding block, disc or sponge. I found an article on which states that sandpaper can be traced back to 13th century China where it was made of crushed shells, seeds and sand. It wasn’t until 1834 that a patent was processed for the first mass-production assembly, when finely crushed glass particles were used and the product was known as glasspaper!  However in 1916, the 3M Company began developing different abrasives for different types of surfaces as well as improvements in backing.

When choosing sandpaper for your project, be sure to choose the best grit for your surface.  “What is grit?” The number of abrasive particles per inch of sandpaper is the grit. Grit is measured by how coarse or fine the material is. The higher the grit, the smoother the sandpaper.  A lower number means the sandpaper is more coarse.  “How can I tell what grit my sandpaper is?”  The grit number is usually identified on the backside of the paper and is always identified on the packaging.

Sandpaper grit can be found on the back of the paper as shown here on

Sandpaper is used on wood surfaces to either smooth your surface for painting, remove layers of old paint, or to rough up two surfaces for gluing.

“How should I sand with sandpaper?”  When sanding, always use light pressure while holding the sandpaper until you get the feel of how much pressure is needed to smooth the surface.  In most cases, I use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth and prepare my wood surface for painting and/or staining.  I always recommend sanding in the direction of the grain of the wood.  Be careful not to use paper that is too coarse as this may mar or scratch the surface.

When preparing your wooden surface before painting or stenciling, I recommend sanding your surface to smooth the rough edges.  Taking the time to properly prepare your surface will ensure a professional-looking finish. Gather your wood surface, sanding tool, a ¾” flat brush or 1” foam brush, a foam plate or palette and your FolkArt Acrylic paint.

Get ready to prep your wood surface.

For this wooden plaque demonstration, I am using a sanding sponge.  I find them easy to use, fit well in your hand and will bend around curves or routed edges.

I suggest that you sand your wood surface smooth before basecoating to remove rough areas. Once you are done sanding, wipe your surface with a rag or paper towel to remove any dust.

Wood surface ready to be sanded. Use the sanding sponge to smooth out your surface.

Next, apply a coat of FolkArt Acrylic Colors as a basecoat.  For this demonstration, I am using Titanium White as my base color.  Allow the basecoat to dry.

Basecoat your surface after sanding.

Your surface will be rough to touch when dry because the moisture of the paint has raised the grain of the wood.  Can you see the roughness in this photo?

Rough spots after sanding.

Lightly sand the surface once more using very fine grit sandpaper.

Smooth out any remaining rough spots after your basecoat dries.

Reapply the basecoat and allow drying once more. Voila!  You now have a properly prepared, smooth surface that is ready for anything… painting, stenciling, mixed media, stamping, or decoupage; the sky is the limit!

Your surface is ready for crafting!

Remember to sand with caution. While sanding a wood surface, tiny particles of wood and sandpaper will fly into the air that can be inhaled or ingested. You may wish to wear a pair of safety goggles and/or a mask for protection.

Some of my crafting buddies use an electric sander to shorten their prep time, which is awesome.  And an electric sander works well on larger items such as furniture.

Electric sanders are great for bigger projects like painting furniture.

For beginners or small, quick projects, I recommend hand sanding.  I hope that this bit of Sanding 101 has helped you and will encourage you to take the time to properly prepare your wood surface before crafting a masterpiece!  Happy Crafting!

3 Comments to “Sanding Basics with Chris Williams”

  1. Thanks, Bev and Carol. I am thrilled to know you enjoyed the article. Many of us have been crafting for a good many years and it is easy to think we are all on the same page of crafting knowledge. However, I would never want to lmake that assumption and eave my beginner crafter friends out in the cold sometimes wondering how to do a technique. So please stay tuned over the next several weeks! Many thanks, Chris Williams

  2. Excellant article! More like this….

  3. Thanks Chris for a very informative article.

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