Best Sandpaper for Hand Sanding

I do a lot of finish sanding on every project. A lot more than I'd like to do. It's impossible to get around and having the right bit of sandpaper for the job takes a lot of the pain and suffering out of the task.

My old favorite was just a piece of standard sandpaper folded in half. That works reasonably well except that the paper has no strength and can bunch up and crumble into a wad pretty easily. It also wears unevenly and cannot be washed or cleaned effectively.

I stumbled onto my new favorite by accident. I was looking for a tough sandpaper with an adhesive backing to make a long (6 foot) sanding block. I needed this for finish sanding edges of stock for glue up. A final edge sanding removed any gaps or bows in the work and makes for a much better job.

I bought a roll of Porter Cable resin coated sandpaper for the task and it worked great. The roll is 4 1/2" wide by 30 feet. Lots and lots of sandpaper. A lot more than I needed for my project.

Porter Cable Adhesive Backed Sanding Roll UPC 039404 113160

The comments for this product in Amazon described it as being way too sticky and that once attached to your tool, it was on forever. For me, that was not an issue but it got me thinking about other ways I could use this resource.

4.5" x 30' roll of 150 grit adhesive backed sandpaper
I made a few sanding blocks out of wood scraps and this stuff was perfect. It stuck solidly to the wood, any kind of wood, and would last for a long time. Once attached to the block, it can be washed with water and a scrubbing brush to remove the "corning" or globs of gunk stuck solidly to the paper. The paper itself is waterproof but the backing is not.

I used this stuff on a number of other sanding accessories to great effect, then one day I tried folding over a scrap piece and the result was my favorite hand sanding accessory!

4.5"x3" double sided hand sanding paper

The benefit of using this two sided bit of sandpaper are several.
1. A lot heavier than a single sheet.
2. Stiff enough to sand edges yet flexible enough to hit curved areas like roundovers and bullnoses.
3. Amazingly resistant to wear.
4. Washable.

The first time I used this setup I was sold. With sandpaper on both sides, the paper grips my (gloved) hand perfectly so holding it firm is not required. Getting into crevices and corners is quite easy since the paper is pretty stiff, yet flexible enough to bend around a 1/4" roundover without damage.

Folding this stuff into a usable bit of sandpaper is actually a lot tougher than it looks. The stuff is so incredibly sticky that once a glued edge touches another glued edge, it's permanent. There is no unsticking it. Because of this, one has to be very careful to be sure that the fold is perfect.

Here's my procedure:

1. Fold the paper in half BACKWARDS (sand side to sand side) and carefully crease.
2. Fold it sticky side to stick side holding the far edges away from each other.
3. Start mushing it together at the crease and move towards the edges.
4. Work out the air bubbles if there are any.
5. With a snap blade knife and a straight edge, cut off the edges.

I always use a snap blade knife since cutting sandpaper is going to ruin the blade. DO NOT use scissors unless you want to throw them away after trimming a single piece of sandpaper. Remove the last section of the snap blade after completing the trimming operation.

This results in a hand sanding accessory with perfect edges and sharp corners. It's impossible to fold it perfectly but reasonably easy to get the fold flat if care is taken. Trimming it with the knife removes any imperfections in the fold.

If you're wondering how to tell what grit is on the paper after glueing both written sides together, just hold it up to the light.

150 grit


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