How to Sand Furniture

how to sand furniture

With specialized tools and quality sandpaper, you can smooth wood swiftly and easily.

Sanding wood is a task often dreaded by wood-restoration hopefuls.  However, regardless of whether you are refurbishing an old wooden chair or modernizing a wooden dining table, with the proper equipment in hand, you can restore your furniture to its former glory without hassle or regret.

If you arrived here wondering how to sand furniture, you’ve come to the right place.  Today, you’ll learn about the best sandpaper, tools, and equipment to have for restoring your furniture’s wood to like-new condition.

I’m not claiming to be a high-end wood restoration professional, but, I have a fair share of DIY-project experience, especially when it comes to wood and furniture.

A few years ago I purchased a home and furnished the space with second-hand furniture to reduce costs.  Often, you can find good-quality wooden furniture at yard sales, estate sales, and even thrift shops.  While they won’t be in mint condition, you can pick up these furniture pieces for much cheaper than retail prices and with some sanding can repurpose them to a like-new shape.

That’s just what I did.

Now, you can too as you learn how to sand furniture insider tips and tricks.

How to Refinish Furniture

At first, refinishing wood may seem simple, but doing so requires patience and the best tools for the job.  You may find yourself turning your restoration into a weekend project but allow yourself enough time to follow these steps to ensure job-well-done results.

There are a few steps to wood refinishing, including:

  • Remove the old finish
  • Fill the grain (not required but recommended)
  • Apply sanding seal (optional, but again, recommended)
  • Stain the wood
  • Apply a clear coat
  • Removing the Original Finish

The first step in the restoration process is the removal of the old finish; the most work-intensive stage.  This can be achieved in one of two ways; sanding or chemical stripping.

Removing the furniture’s old finish is usually done most efficiently with the use of a chemical stripper.

Before depleting the coat using chemicals, there are some supplies you’ll want to have:

  • Dust Mask
  • Steel Wool
  • Finish Stripper
  • Wood stain
  • Scraper tool or putty knife
  • Eye Protection
  • Rubber Gloves

Ensure the space in which you are carrying out the restoration is properly ventilated; chemicals can be harmful if inhaled.


Chemical stripping the wood isn’t the final step; the wood will still need sanding.

sanding a table top to refinish with paint or stain

Sanding doesn’t emit potentially harmful fumes but it does disperse debris and dust into the air.  That said, ventilation and eye-protection measures must be taken.

There are some supplies you’ll need when sanding, including:

  • Eye protection
  • Sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Dust Mask
  • Rubber Gloves

Keep in mind, while you’re sanding, you never want to go against the grain, go with it.  The result of your restoration is determined by the time you take and the focus you give this step of the process.

Thoroughly sanding a piece and ensuring no surface areas are missed will make a night-and-day difference in your finished work.

Here are some tips for sanding wood:

  • When removing the finish, use an 80-150 grit palm sander.
  • Continue the step above, keep sanding, and change the grit as needed until you see bare, finish-less wood.
  • Remove any paint or stains that are left using with the palm sander using 150-200 (or more) grit.

For awkward, impossible-to-reach surface areas, a sanding block or small-cut piece of sandpaper may be needed.  Ensure all sanding residue is wiped away before filling the grain or applying coating.

Filling the Grain

filling the grain

While optional, it may be needed depending on the type of grain used within your furniture’s wood.

You can avoid this step if you have tight-grain wood, but if the wood’s surface has a lot of open grain, applying filler is recommended (delivers a smoother coating and finish).

There are some supplies you’ll need for this, including a scraper tool or putty knife, wood filler, and a tight-haired paintbrush or rag.

Ensure the fillers pigmentation coincides with the grain of the wood; you’ll want a color that contrasts well with the color of the wood you’re staining.  To make the wood’s grain less pronounced, I suggest you select a color that resembles that of the color you plan on using to stain the wood.

There are some ways to streamline the ‘filling the grain’ process, including:

  • Using a paintbrush or a rag is a great way to work the filler into the grain.
  • A putty knife or scraper makes it easy to remove excess filler.
  • Upon the filler drying, gently sand the wood while going with the grain.

How to Apply Sanding Sealer

how to apply sanding sealer

While optional, applying a sanding sealant is suggested; it smoothens the surface for a more flush finish.  Adding to that, applying sanding sealer will also allow the wood to absorb the dye more easily and evenly.

For this step, you’ll want to have sandpaper, a clean rag, and some sanding sealer (of course).

The process is rather easy.  Adding sanding sealer to my furniture pieces took no more than thirty minutes and yielded impressive results.

To begin, you’ll want to apply a generous amount of sanding sealer to the wood while allowing it to sit and settle into the wood.  Next, you’ll want to wipe away any excess sealer remaining using a clean rag.  Finally, allow the sealer to dry before applying a staining solution.



When it comes to staining wood there are a few routes to choose from.  Some choose water-based stains while others choose oil-based solutions.  For easier, more efficient staining, you can use a one-step finisher to stain the wood effortlessly.

When staining wood, you’ll need a clean rag and either a staining pad or paintbrush, although, a staining pad is usually recommended as pads spread stain more evenly and cover more surface area; effectively speeding up the process.

It’s important to follow the furniture manufacturer’s recommendations before staining the wood.

Here are some steps that will help you stain your wood to industry standards:

  • Apply generous amounts of stain to the piece.
  • Wipe away any excess stain using a clean cloth and then gently remove the excess stain using a clean cloth while going with the grain. If you don’t wipe in the same direction as the grain you chance leaving streaks.
  • Apply a final coat of stain to the wood’s surface.

You may not achieve the desired color on the first stain.  As such, you may need to apply a few coats.  Be sure that you allow each coat to dry before applying another coat of stain.

Clear Coat

Before choosing the type of finish you’ll use there are some aspects to consider, such as your desired appearance, experience, and sealer durability.

There are a couple of supplies you’ll need when clear coating wood furniture, including:

  • Sandpaper
  • Clear coat

Applying a clear coat is easy; apply it evenly, follow the wood’s natural lines, and allow drying time between coats.

  • Apply one layer (initially) of a clear coat directly on the wood.
  • Gently sand and smooth the surface.
  • Apply a second or third layer if needed.

After the final layer is applied it can take 24 hours for the wood to dry and cure.

Whether you’re a woodsman professional or an intermediate restorer such as me, closely following these steps will make the process much easier, even if you’ve never done it before and don’t know how to sand furniture.

Whether you’re searching for fixer-upper furniture pieces to restore or want to refresh your already-owned furniture to like-new condition, the steps shared here will allow you to do so effortlessly.

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