How to sand a solid surface top and what type of paper to use are probably the most controversial subjects in this industry. Every one seems to have an approach that works for them. What works for someone else may not work for you. However, there are probably a few readers who might like to know the proper steps in sanding a top, so we’ll cover the basics. It’s important to understand that proper execution is only part of the picture. Knowing how to manage your sanding jobs well can actually save you money — both on sandpaper and on labor.
Did you ever wonder where sandpaper came from? According to Wikipedia.com, “The first documentation of sandpaper came from 13th century China when crushed shells, seeds and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Sharkskin was also used as sandpaper. Sandpaper was originally known as glass paper, as it used particles of glass.”
Today we have such a large selection of sandpaper to work with that the varieties of sandpaper are almost as many as there are grains of sand on the seashore. That can make managing your sanding job pretty “abrasive.”
The big challenge with sanding a top is making money. If you go too fast, the top looks lousy. Then, you just have to do it all over again anyway. If you go too slow, perhaps with endless steps included, then your labor costs are too high and you lose again. It is important to be able to sand your tops as quickly as possible and also end up with a nice finished product. So the question is this: How many steps do you need?
To understand this, let’s look at the basic science behind sanding. Sandpaper is similar to a saw. You’re using the abrasives to bring down a surface. Each step becomes finer until you achieve the look you desire. The most basic steps in sanding for our shop are in the order as follows:
• Matte Finish: 120 grit, 240 grit and Scotch bright Maroon
• Semigloss Finish: 120 grit, 240 grit, Green Trizact, Blue