Hand sanding – love or hate it, these tips will help you work better and faster

Hand sanding is a divisive topic among woodworkers. Some consider it to be an essential and satisfying process, others an interruption to their workflow, and everyone seems to have their own opinions on the best way to get the job done.

Wherever you stand on hand sanding, here are some observations and suggestions about this venerable element of our shared craft.

Hand sanding...why?

Even if you find sanding by hand laborious, you'll have to concede that it can deliver a better finish than using power tools. A power sander can leave scratches, and can't always manage the kind of fine-tuning around knots or fine mouldings which come naturally to practitioners of hand sanding. Indeed, in some specialised areas of woodworking - high-end luthiery, for instance - power sanding is normally either avoided completely or used only for roughing out a job.

If you've decided to give hand finishing a go, we think you'll get some mileage out of the following tips.

1. Go with the grain

The first rule of hand sanding should be hung on the wall of every woodworker - go with the grain! Wisdom of this kind comes naturally to handworkers but tends to get lost in the hurly-burly of a powered woodworking shop. Sanding with the grain helps minimise torn wood fibres and gets your surfaces smoother, faster.