How To Sand A Table (5 Easy Steps): Using Your Hands Or Sanders

Either you are going for a matte, chalky, or glossy finish on your table, one thing you need to do before applying the finish is to sand the table. Sanding removes gouges in the table and helps to prep the surface for finishing by increasing adhesion.

But that’s not all. What other benefits do you get by sanding a table and most importantly, how do you sand a table? Let’s find out.

The process of sanding a table is pretty basic. There are two ways to sand a table. You can either:

  • Sand manually
  • Use a sander

Both methods are great and depending on your experience with sanding, you should get the same result regardless of the method you use. However, both methods are a bit different in their application. Let’s see why.

How to Sand a Table Manually

Sanding a table manually means you sand without using a sander or any power tool. You will sand the table by yourself.

We have made a list of 5 steps that you need to do to refinish your wood tables. Each step requires you do to something else. If you follow all the steps carefully you will have an old table that will look brand new.

For this method, you will need:

  • Sandpaper – The sandpaper you buy depends on the smoothness of the wood. If you are working with rough wood, then you need coarse sandpaper like 50-grit or 60-grit sandpaper, medium-grit sandpaper like the 120-grit sandpaper, and fine-grit sandpaper. Any sandpaper from 150-grit upwards is considered fine sandpaper. If you are dealing with smooth wood or you just want to sand the table lightly, then you can go for just the fine-grit sandpaper.
  • A Pair of Gloves (to protect your hands from injuries).
  • Breathing Protection like a face mask or respirator. Sanding involves a lot of sawdust and dirt in the air. So cover your nose to avoid introducing dust into your lungs.
  • A Pair of Goggles (This is to protect your eyes)
  • A Brick or a Small Piece of Wood – This is optional but many people prefer wrapping the sandpaper around an object to sand.
  • A Plastic Sheet or a Drop Cloth to Cover the Floors – This is also optional. If you would be sanding outdoors, then you don’t need to cover the floors.
  • A Paint Stripper – This is also optional and is only advised if you have multiple coats of finish on the table that you want to strip off.

1. Put on Your Safety Gear and Use Paint Stripper if Needed

To sand manually, start by putting on a pair of gloves, a face mask, and a pair of goggles.

After putting on safety protection, you can use a paint stripper on the table before you sand. If there are multiple coats of finish on the table, it is advised to use a paint stripper to remove the finish.

This makes it easier to sand the wood. Without removing the finish, you will need to first sand off the finish before sanding the table and that will take more time. Read and follow the instructions indicated on the paint stripper’s container to apply it correctly.

If you use a paint stripper, be sure to use a pair of gloves and breathing protection because most paint thinners contain chemicals that can produce toxic fumes.

After using a paint stripper, you might need to use mineral spirits like turpentine on the table to stop the chemical reaction of the paint stripper. This helps to prevent sanding problems later.

2. Clean the Table

Use a rag to wipe the table to remove any debris, dust, or food particles. Use a drop cloth or plastic sheet to cover the floors and other objects around the workspace because sanding produces a lot of dust and wood shavings.

3. Wrap the Sandpaper Around an Object

This step is optional. You might find it convenient to sand without wrapping the sandpaper around an object. If you feel you need to, wrap the sandpaper around a brick or a piece of wood.

Make sure to expose the abrasive side of the sandpaper. Another alternative is to fold the sandpaper while exposing its abrasive side and sand with that.

4. Sand the Table

Start by using coarse sandpaper like the 60-grit sandpaper on rough wood and use medium or fine-grit sandpaper on smooth wood. To sand, rub the abrasive side of the sandpaper against the surface of the table repeatedly in a circular motion.

Make sure to keep track of where you have sanded and where you haven’t while sanding. You should also take regular breaks to wipe and check if the surface is good enough. Doing that prevents over-sanding.

If you are working on a rough table, use medium-grit sandpaper like the 120-grit sandpaper to sand the table after using coarse sandpaper like the 60-grit sandpaper.

This helps to remove smaller imperfections. After sanding with the medium-grit sandpaper, you can go ahead to use the fine-grit sandpaper. This will help to smoothen the surface and even out the grain.

If you are working on a smooth table or you just need light sanding, you can use the medium-grit sandpaper first and then move to fine-grit sandpaper or just use the fine-grit sandpaper alone.

Your choice depends on how rough the table is and the type of result you want to achieve by sanding. When you reach the level of smoothness you desire, you can stop sanding.

5. Clean the Table

After sanding, you should use a soft brush or a rag to wipe the table. Be sure not to use any rag with a loose thread as that can get stuck to the sanded surface leading to another problem. After cleaning the surface, you can go ahead to finish the table.

Pros of Sanding Manually

  • It is cheaper than sanding with a sander. Sanding manually will cost you just a pack or two of sandpaper. Overall, you shouldn’t spend more than $10 to sand manually so it’s a cheaper alternative.
  • Sanding manually is quieter. While sanding manually, you don’t have to cope with the extra noise of a power tool.
  • Sanding manually is neater. Sanding by hand doesn’t result in a dusty workspace because you don’t have to spew dust around.

 Cons of Sanding Manually

  • Sanding manually is time-consuming. Sanding by hand will take time especially if you are working on a large table. The larger the table, the more time you will use while sanding manually.
  • Sanding manually is labor-intensive. If you haven’t figured it out yet, sanding manually will rely on your strength and speed. The process can easily burn you out if you work on a large table or many tables together.
  • Sanding manually can cause injuries. If you do not protect your hands while sanding manually, you can suffer bruises.

How to Sand a Table Using a Sander?

Using a sander is another method to sand your table. Though the process is a quicker alternative, it should be used on bigger tables or if you have a large workload.

For this method, you need:

  • A drop cloth or plastic sheet
  • Breathing protection
  • A pair of gloves and a pair of goggles
  • Sandpaper or sanding discs depending on the sander you will be using
  • Rags
  • A Sander

1. Prep the Table and the Sander

Using a sander sounds a bit hard but it’s very easy. Start by using the same methods as sanding manually.

Put on your safety gear, use a paint stripper if necessary, clean the table, and get ready to sand. Before sanding, you should inspect the sander to be sure it’s in good condition to be used.

2. Attach the Sandpaper or Sanding Disc

Most Sanders can be used with sandpaper but some other models need sanding discs. A sanding disc is a circular sandpaper. Like sandpaper, the sanding discs also come in different grits.

If the sander you are using uses a sanding disc, then you should attach the right grit sanding disc to the bottom of the sander.

If the sander uses sandpaper, then you should attach the right grit sandpaper to start with. You should do this while the sander is switched off and unplugged. If it’s a battery-operated model, remove the battery.

3. Power the Sander

Plug-in the sander if it’s a corded model and if it’s a battery-operated model, you should slot in the battery and power the sander.

4. Start Sanding

Place the bottom of the sander on the table and press the trigger button to start sanding. The trigger button is usually near the handle of the sander. While sanding, you should hold the sander firmly because sanders vibrate while you work with them.

If the sandpaper or sanding disc you are using is not doing a good job anymore, you can replace it with a new one.

If you are working on a rough table, start with coarse sandpaper or sanding disc like the 60-grit and continue with medium-grit like the 120-grit sandpaper or sanding disc.

After you are done sanding with medium-grit sandpaper, you can move to fine-grit sandpaper. If you working on a smooth or finished table, you can start with the medium-grit sandpaper or just use the fine-grit sandpaper.

Related Read — How to Sand Metal?

5. Clean Up

After sanding, you should clean the table and the equipment used. When you are done cleaning, you can go ahead to finish the table.

Pros of Using a Sander

  • Using a sander is more effective than sanding manually. You are guaranteed better sanding results with a sander.
  • Using a sander is more comfortable than sanding manually. With a sander, you don’t need to rely on your strength or speed. The sander will do the work for you.
  • Using a sander is faster than sanding manually. Regardless of if you want to sand a table or a dozen tables, a sander would do the work in no time.

Cons of Using a Sander

  • A sander is a more expensive method. While sanding manually will cost you about $10, using a sander will cost you more than that.
  • A sander will take some time to learn how to operate. You need to learn how to use a sander before you operate one.
  • A sander spews dust around the workplace
  • Using a sander can be noisy

Pro Tips to Follow While Sanding a Table

  • Always use breathing and eye protection while sanding
  • Always start with coarse sandpaper before moving to a fine-grit sandpaper
  • Always inspect the table while sanding so you don’t over-sand
  • Do not press down on the sander. Just hold it firmly so it doesn’t vibrate out of place.
  • If it’s a large table, you should use a pencil to mark the surface so you can take note of where you have sanded and where you haven’t.

So there you have it. If you have any questions or comments about the topic, you can leave them below and I’ll attend to them as soon as possible. Have a nice sanding experience.

Related Read — How to Sand Your Car?

Why Should You Sand a Table?

There are different reasons to sand a table. Sanding the table helps:

1. To Improve the Finish of the Table

Regardless of the type of finish, you are going for, you need the finish to be smooth and clean and you can only arrive at a smooth and clean finish if the surface is such.

If the table is riddled with bumps and rough edges, then the finish will be bad too. Sanding helps to smoothen the table and by extension, it helps to improve the finish too.

2. To Remove Gouges and Imperfections

Most times the table will have gouges and bumps. Sanding the surface will get rid of the bumps and gouges on the surface of the table. If there are any rough edges on the table, sanding will also remove them as long as you use the correct sandpaper.

3. To Smoothen the Surface After Making Repairs

Usually, the table to be finished will have holes, lines, and dents. This means you need to make repairs. This involves using wood filler to seal the holes and lines in the wood.

After the wood filler dries, you will need to sand the spot so you can have a smooth surface to work on. If you don’t sand after repairs, the finish will have stripes and lines when it gets dry and that’s not what we want.

Related Read — How to Sand Your Doors?

4. To Increase Adhesion

Sanding helps to improve the adhesion of the surface, so the paint can better stick to the surface. Some paints like milk paint and urethane paint don’t have good adhesive properties.

This means it’s harder to make these paints stick to the surface. Most times painters use a bonder to allow the paint to stick without experiencing runs and drips.

Though sanding will not automatically make the paint stick. It still gives it a better chance than when you paint without sanding.

So now that you know why you should sand, how do you sand the table? Let’s take a closer look at that.

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