When working with wood, it is amazing to see a raw piece of grainy, coarse, uneven wood transform into a smoothly shaped piece of work with even lines and a surface that begs to be touched. If you have ever worked with raw, uneven wood stock as opposed to milled factory cut stock, it takes a lot more effort and time to shape the wood into a final workable piece. Here are some of the basics to sanding a raw piece of wood by hand that can be applied toward finishing any raw wood project.
Brush off all of the natural elements, such as dirt, insects, rough pieces of bark, and any machining dust from the chainsaw, with a soft nylon brush.
A good finish starts with sanding the bare wood with 80-100 grit sandpaper. This step is crucial for achieving a uniform wood surface that’ll absorb stain or a finish evenly. It also smoothes out surface imperfections, which might show through the clear coat. As you can see in the photo of the raw wood I provided, I have a nice piece of Red Oak that was cut with a chainsaw. There are numerous chainsaw grooves in the wood that I need to sand out. I am actually going to leave a number of these in this piece as part of the finished look, but if you want a very flat uniform surface, you need to really sand it with rough sandpaper at first. I still need to smooth out each chain saw groove and clean up the wood fibers using 80 grit sandpaper.
After you have thoroughly sanded every square inch of the wood with the 80-100 grit sandpaper, use a soft nylon brush to wipe off all of the sanding dust.
Since we are working with raw cut wood in this article, I would recommend that you go over the entire piece again with the 100-grit sandpaper on a sanding block until all wood fibers are smoothed out, and the entire piece feels relatively smooth under your fingers. Check for any wood fibers that are still showing through, and rough patches were there could be knots. Sand these out with the 80-grit paper.
Once you have the sanded the piece 2 times or so with the 100-grit sandpaper, use 150 grit sandpaper on your sanding block and go over the entire surface of the wood again at least twice to further sand out any further imperfections. Brush the sanding dust away again with a soft nylon brush.
At this point, inspect the piece for any wood fibers, rough patches, or blemishes. Your fingertips and eye will tell you when enough is enough, so continue steps 1-5 until you get a clean, smooth surface. Imperfections like scratches caused by cross-grain sanding or chatter marks will become painfully obvious when you start staining. Another common problem is burn marks. Sometimes extra elbow grease will be needed to eliminate those. This may sound like a lot of work, but if you use fresh sandpaper and take your time, these steps will be well worth it for your finished project!
Now that you have sanded the raw wood down to a nice uniform and even surface that is smooth the touch, looks good under light, and has no more blemishes or marks, it is time to really fine sand the piece. Take your tack cloth out, and wipe down the entire surface again to make sure that you get all of the sanding dust off.
Now we're are going to take out the 200 Grit wet/dry sandpaper, and go over the entire piece 2-3 times to really start to smooth out the surface. Be sure to get into every little groove, nook, and cranny. The goal here is to really clean up any rough patches left in the wood - the wood surface should be shiny after completely sanding with the 200 grit sandpaper.
Brush clean again and wipe clean again - do this every time you sand!Wipe the entire surface clean again with your soft nylon brush. And wipe it down again with the tack cloth.
Now that you have started to bring out a shine to the wood, we want to further smooth it out and make it extra clean for finishing by using the 400 grit sandpaper. Put the 400 grit sandpaper onto your sanding block, and work the entire surface so that there is not a dull surface left behind. Yes, this is tedious work, but again, and skimping in these steps will show through in the final stain and finish. So be through, and your work will reflect all of you hard effort.
Alright, now all you have to do is brush the entire surface with your nylon brush and wipe it clean with a tack cloth. Your all finished, unless you want a smoother surface -which would require you to keep on sanding until it feels the way you want it. As you can see in the photo, I cleaned up my piece, and then brushed on some Danish Oil to protect it.