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How Abrasives Are Important in Wood Working

How Abrasives Are Important in Wood Working

For finishing furniture, wood trim, cabinetry, and other home projects, DIYers employ abrasives in a variety of sanding and completing tasks. Sanding is essential in woodworking for a variety of reasons:

  • Saw cuts that need to be sized or removed.
  • Creating a level, flat surface.
  • Blending or covering blemishes, dents, or scars.
  • Removing splinters of wood and sharp corners.
  • Removing scuffs, tool marks, and sawing, routing, or shaping debris.
  • Preparing a fresh piece of wood so you can be finished with glue, an adhesive coating, varnish, or oil.
  • By cutting through the cellulose fibers, sanding "opens up" the surface, which enhances the adhesion of glues and coatings.
  • Removing unwanted or broken coatings or getting ready for refinishing.
  • Blending in joints on molding trim, such as scarf joints.

Every household should have a supply of abrasive belts, hook and loop or PSA abrasive discs, sandpaper sheets, and abrasive discs for completing tasks. A vibratory sander, a portable belt sander, a portable disc sander, an edge sander, and a bench belt/disc sander are crucial abrasive power tools.

If you finish or refinish complex contours and concave shapes frequently, a drum sander, abrasive sponges, and contour sanding power tools are helpful. If you have a drum sander or a sanding drum installed on a drill or drill press, you need abrasive drum sleeves. For DIY projects, pneumatic, corded, and cordless tools perform well.

Activities like dimensional adjustments, rough finishing, smoothing, flattening, delicate sanding, and polishing are made possible by various grit sizes. Although it may seem strange to some, a higher abrasive grit number corresponds to a finer abrasive substance. Grit size is determined by how sandpaper abrasive grains flow through test sieves or screens. These sieves or screens are identified by the quantity of wire per square inch. So, a screen with a 400 mesh size has a significantly narrower opening than one with a 50 mesh size. Compared to a 220-grit product, a 400-grit abrasive disc offers finer finishes. Compared to a 50-grit sleeve, a 24-grit product makes substantially deeper scratches in wood.

Compared to metal alloys, cement, or glass materials, wood is softer and more accessible to abrade or sand. However, the dust from sanding wood can pack or clog the spaces between the abrasive grain particles. This eventually slows down or stops the abrasion process. A particularly heavy or dull abrasive substance may leave dark "burn" scars on a surface and require extra operator strength to sand. On the top woodworking surface, abrasives, stearate, or wax-like anti-loading additive coatings are employed to stop or delay loading. Concerns concerning their effect after varnishing, glue, or paint adherence may exist among some woodworking professionals.

Loading may also be impacted by the distribution of the abrasive grains on the surface. More abrasive grain is present per area in a closed-coated abrasive, and the grains are also closer together. The surface finish is better and more aggressive with closed-coated products. For sanding hardwoods like oak, maple, hickory, and ash, closed-coated high quality abrasives are always the most effective option. Softwoods like pine, fir, spruce, cedar, and redwood have a stronger loading propensity. A product with an open or semi-open coat has more excellent room between grit particles, which could hold more sanding dust before loading.

When using abrasive materials, eye protection, dust masks, or respirators should always be worn. The sanding dust of some exotic hardwoods is poisonous and a constant irritation to the otorhinolaryngological and respiratory systems. Woodworking abrasive belts feature conductive and anti-static layers to lessen or eliminate triboelectric static charges and spark discharges.

How Abrasives Are Important In WoodWorking?


To keep the beauty and quality of the wood, marine teak decking and woodwork on boats need to be periodically sanded and refinished. The previous varnish and any stains or discolorations are removed in the first step using chemical strippers or abrasives. The first layer of varnish is then applied, allowed to dry, and then sanded with a fine grit (180 to 220) to eliminate any bubbles, drips, or other imperfections in the varnish coat. To build up a thick protective coat of varnish on any exposed wooden marine surfaces, this varnishing and sanding operation is repeated numerous times (8 to 10) while moving on to finer grits.

On the final layer, however, the sanding procedure is omitted. Despite being a very time-consuming operation, the finished product is stunning because the sanding steps create a smooth, homogeneous surface. Many sailboats have their marine teak woodwork refinished using sandpaper sheets, abrasive sponges, abrasive discs, and contour cleaning supplies. Avoid abrading or sanding polished stainless steel or fiberglass surfaces close to maritime woodwork.


Floor sanders or floor sanding equipment, including drum sanders, edgers, and scrubber buffers, are utilized for sanding and refinishing wood floors. Sanding sleeves, belts, covers, rolls, or sheets with grit sizes ranging from 16 to 36 are used in abrasive flooring drum sanders with paper or cloth backings. Although cloth-backed abrasives are more expensive, cloth withstands tearing better than paper. With 12 to 36-grit abrasives, an edger is used to sand close to the edge of the wall. This is where the rotary sanding drum cannot reach.

For initial rough finishing, coating removal, and blending out imperfections, mismatches in plank height, holes, discoloration, and other damage, coarse grits ranging between 12 and 36 grits are employed. The coarser grits (12 to 24) remove shellac, paint, and varnish, quickly building up an abrasive cover. You can sand fresh, untreated floors with 36-grit products. Scratches are eliminated, and the surface finish is smoothened with finer abrasive materials (60 grit to 100 grit).

Between each process, the surface should be vacuumed and dusted with loose grit. An otherwise smooth wood floor may develop an unattractive dig or scrape due to stray determination that has come away from a coarse abrasive product. To remove scratches left behind by edgers and drum sanders, large paper- or screen-backed abrasive discs are installed on rotating scrubber-buffer machines. Floor sanding discs come in 180 grit levels.

The performance life of a coated abrasive for floor sanding can also be affected by grain type. Woodworking abrasive goods include garnet, silicon carbide, fused aluminum oxide, alumina zirconia, and ceramic abrasives. Advanced alumina zirconia and ceramic abrasive compounds can significantly improve the life of the abrasive or keep it sharp longer without burning or overheating the wood surface in coarse-grit applications with abrasive power instruments like heavy-duty floor sanders.


Commercial or industrial woodworking applications, such as wood planing, trim molding, and production furniture finishing, call for even more advanced and carefully developed coated abrasive tools than consumer and contractor woodworking. Depending on the wood products produced, commercial and industrial woodworking shops may employ a wide variety of abrasive machinery such as abrasive planing machines, wide belt sanders, abrasive brush finishers, edge belt sanders, horizontal drum sanders, spindle sanders, stroke sanders, scroll sanders, flutter sanding machines, spool sanders, spindle sanders, and combination sanding machines.

Molding sanders use specialized abrasive belts for contouring or profiling molded furniture parts or trim. In molding sanders, low-friction, graphite-coated platen that follows the molding pattern is passed over by an abrasive belt. To slide over the shoe without overheating, the abrasive belt needs a low-friction backing. The belt must be strong and flexible enough to adapt to the molded shape without snapping. With profiles, abrasive brushes help polish or finish. These products must have anti-static coatings to minimize static charge creation caused by the triboelectric effect.


Although "super abrasives" may conjure images of cutting stone or concrete, super abrasives are also crucial for honing various woodworking equipment, including drills, router bits, and saw teeth. It is astounding the variety of coated abrasive materials used in woodworking. Numerous tailored abrasives are available to suit almost every woodworking application, considering the abrasive grain type, backing, grit size, coat type (open, semi-open, and closed), flex, and product form (disc, sheet, flap wheel, belt).

Next article Essential Woodworking Tools Every Woodworker Needs

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