Wood carving is a beautiful, calming hobby, and I enjoy taking my time with every bit of the process. I love cutting the log, shaping the wood, sharpening knives, and finishing every little detail of my project. Sanding is a big part of the finishing and polishing. This is why I decided to write 6 sandpaper reviews and talk about what makes the best sandpaper for wood carving, and how is it different from the best sandpaper for woodworking.
In this article, I will share my experience with wood carving sanding tools, and tell you which one, in my opinion, is the best sanding paper for wood. If you are interested in buying a new whittling knife, you should check my review in Best Whittling Knife To Choose In 2020. In case you are taking a break from wood carving knives, you can look up Best Power Wood Carving Tools In 2020 and give electric tools a shot. Also, don’t miss our guide on glue for different types of wood, it’ll be helpful for any carving project that has small details that need to be connected.
- Fandeli 36025 100 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets
- Quality material sheets for flat wooden surfaces. Not useful for details and corners of your carving.
- Fandeli 36021 060 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets
- Rough sandpaper for multiple uses. Good value for 25 durable sheets.
- 3M - 533440 9019 General Purpose Sandpaper Sheets
- Perfect grit options for the whole sanding process. One set of these sheets can only be used for 2 projects in total.
- 3M Wetordry Sandpaper, Assorted Grit
- A fine assorted grit sheet for polishing a wood carving project. 3 grit levels of fine grit, good size sheet, easy to use.
- LANHU Abrasive Dry Wet Waterproof Sandpaper
- A set of very fine grit sheets, that can be used for smoothing the wood.
- Zona 37-948 3M Wet/Dry Polishing Paper
- Synthetic fiber sheets for extremely fine sanding. Can be used for polishing already finished and painted projects.
- S SATC 72 PCS 5 Inch 8 Hole Hook and Loop Adhesive Sanding Discs Sandpaper for Random Orbital Sander
- Best for orbital sanders. 72 pack of disc-shaped orbital sandpapers in grits from 60 to 320 for a complete project finish.
When it comes to sandpaper, the key is to choose the right degree of grit you need. There are different types of sanding paper according to how much material they remove – some are for hard brushing, while others are used for final gentle polishing. 60-grit sandpaper is generally used for rough sanding that is the base of the finishing process. After that, a more gentle 100-grit comes to the stage to polish the wood to a smoothness level you are happy with. And finally, 120-180 grit sandpaper is for tiny details and perfecting the wood carving.
So, the best grit sandpaper for wood depends on what you need it for, really, but after trying different grits I realized that, when it comes to wood, it is not useful to use anything softer than 200-grit paper. In these sandpaper reviews, I’ve shared my thoughts on the best woodworking sandpaper and sandpaper that I use for wood carving.
Types of sandpaper
There are different types of sandpaper, diversified mainly upon the sandpaper grit. However, sandpaper grits depend on the materials they are made of, each designed for sanding specific surfaces. To explain the main difference, we must first understand what are the different grits of sandpaper.
Sandpaper grit tells you about the coarseness of the paper. The number that measures the grit of the paper actually refers to the number of holes per square inch – the lower the grit number the coarser the paper.
There are many types of sandpaper grit that go from low 12 and high 600 or even over one thousand. Most sanding projects require no lower than 60, and are usually as fine as 220, at least when we talk about wood carving and woodworking projects.
When you are wondering what grit sandpaper to use, you should think about what you want to achieve by sanding your project. In this brief sandpaper grit guide, I will explain what each sandpaper grit is used for.
Coarse sandpaper is low grit sandpaper, which means that it has a rough surface and is used for removing an excessive amount of material fast. They are used for sanding out lumps and unwanted curves of your project, but also for removing excess from the glue or the wood stain.
Sanding papers that have low grit are also used for sharpening blades in wood carving. These papers especially come in handy when there are damages on the edge of the blade that needs to be smoothed out.
Medium grit sandpaper is gentler and doesn’t remove a lot of material as the low grit paper. They are usually used to remove the scobs from your project that appears after using low grit paper.
Because it is gentler than the coarse paper, but not too gentle, this is a good sandpaper grit for removing paint from your project – it is coarse enough to remove the paint layer, but not overly rough to damage the surface underneath it.
The high grit sandpaper is the one you are looking for if you need a sandpaper grit for finishing wood. These are very gentle papers, and the finest silicone ones go up to 1200 grit.
Usually, the fine sandpaper you will use for finishing wood will be about 200 grit, and this is enough to prepare your wood for polishing, staining, and applying the finish coat.
Type of abrasive
Sandpapers are nowadays made of natural and synthetic abrasives, where natural tones such as garnet often are the highest grit sandpaper. Synthetic abrasives such as aluminum oxide are used for very fine grit sandpapers designed for delicate sanding.
Other materials used to make sandpaper are ceramic, flint, and silicon carbide. You will choose the type of abrasive depending on the type of surface you will be sanding – wooden surfaces and gentle metals need a different approach.
Both garnet and flint sandpapers are made from natural materials, while other abrasives are synthetic. Garnet is a popular choice for hand sanding because even though it is soft and doesn’t last very long it gives excellent results.
Silicon carbide abrasive stands out on this list as the only one that can be used on wet surfaces as well as dry ones. This is the go-to abrasive when you are dealing with metal or plastic, as it is fine grit and delicate, designed for polishing and final preparations of your project prior to painting and finishing.
Aluminum oxide is very common, as it is generally more durable than the other abrasives, while it offers high grit for delicate projects. It is a good choice for both wood and metal projects.
This is a very hard paper, extremely rough, and a good choice if you are looking for coarse-grit papers. It generally guarantees better quality, which is why it is somewhat more expensive than the other abrasives, but it is long-lasting and works well with power sanders.
Wood Sanding Tools
Palm sander sand paper is a frequent choice of many craftsmen. However, if you are using sanding pads often, you might need some help. This is where wood sanding tools come to the stage.
Orbital sanders and belt sanders are electric devices that do the sanding for you, meaning that you are not the one moving the sandpaper – but moving the tool/project over the spinning sanding surface instead.
Orbital sanders are circular-shaped and are also known as disc sanders. They come in many different grits and you can also replace the sanding surface once it’s finished.
Disc sanders are not as popular as the belt sanders to be purchased individually, most disc sanders are coming as a part of 2 in 1 machine alongside belt sanders.
Abrasive block / Sanding Sponge
Sanding tools usually refer to power sanders, but there is one other simple tool that is super handy – a sanding sponge. Sanding sponges are made of foam with abrasive surfaces that can be of different grits.
These spongy tools are very useful if you have to sand some hard-to-reach surfaces such as corners or holes. They are great if you are a hand-sander kind of person but you need to be able to apply more pressure by hand.
Belt sanders are the ultimate sanding tool for any craftsman who needs sanding on a regular basis. There are many things to consider about the belt sander before you choose which one you need – the power of the tool, the speed it can achieve, the flexibility of the belt itself, and most importantly the size (length and width) of the belt.
Belt sanders allow you to replace the sandpaper so you can switch between different grit types and sand everything – from wooden projects to your woodworking tools (knives, saws, and so on).
They can be portable, which is handy for woodworking when you need to bring the sanding to the project and not the other way around. Belt sanders that are designed to stay in place are usually used for sharpening tools on a regular basis.
Fandeli 36025 100 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets – Quality material for flat surfaces
The sandpapers’ abrasive material works well for softwood and hardwood, and it is efficient in removing imperfections when finalizing my project. The material used is aluminum oxide mineral.
However, the sheets are too stiff and they keep breaking when I fold them. The paper is not durable and it disintegrates very quickly. If you try adding more pressure to it, it will backfire on you. For a 100 grit paper, this one seems a lot rougher in practice.
If you need it for short-term use, it is a fine deal since there are 25 sheets in the pack, and they are not expensive, all things considered.
- Cheap price for 25 sheets.
- Works well with softwood and hardwood.
- Quality abrasive material.
- The sheets are too stiff and they break easily.
- The grit layer does not stand any pressure and disintegrates easily.
To Sum Up
In theory, this sandpaper is good for removing lumps from your carving, but it is very delicate because it is stiff and doesn’t react well when you bend it. I recommend you use it for flat surfaces, but don’t bother if you have a carving project with many corners and details.
Fandeli 36021 060 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets – Durable and highly abrasive sandpaper
Fandeli multipurpose sheets are good for high wood removal, also made of high-quality aluminum oxide mineral. The 60-grit sheets are highly abrasive, and with their surface, you can remove an extensive amount of wood and even up all the lumps you come across.
The package includes 25 sheets, 9×11 inches, and they are good to be used more than once. In fact, every next time you use them it gets easier because they become softer and then you can reach even the delicate corners of your carving.
- Sandpaper can be used multiple times.
- The more often you use the sheets, the softer they get.
- Highly abrasive, rough sandpaper grade.
- The sheets are super stiff when you first unpack them.
- More expensive than it is worth.
To Sum Up
This is a rough sanding paper for wood that is very durable and handy to use multiple times. It is very stiff at the beginning and difficult to apply in delicate places. It is a little overpriced, in my opinion, but for 25 pieces you might consider it a fair deal.
3M – 533440 9019 General Purpose Sandpaper Sheets – 3 grit papers in one box (2 of each)
This assorted-grit package contains 60, 100, and 150 grit sheets, 2 pieces of each. This is an aluminum oxide sandpaper, considered a general-purpose abrasive, and can be used for finishing your project entirely.
With each sandpaper sheet, you should sand with the grain of the wood. Start with the hardest, 60 grit paper, to remove any extra layers from your carving. Then move onto the 100 for leveling the surfaces out, and finally polish everything with the more gentle 150 grit paper.
With this paper, you can even work on your final project after gluing and painting. It is a good size paper, but it is not good for woodworking since it doesn’t last for more than one project. Each sheet can only be used once, and this is why I think it’s too expensive overall.
- A full pack of sandpapers - 60, 100, and 150 grit, 2 pieces of each.
- Great size and quality abrasive material.
- It can be used on painted wood.
- Doesn’t last long - each sheet can only be used once.
To Sum Up
I purchase this pack when I have an urge to finish-up a quality project, so I am looking for 3 grit papers in one box. However, this is not my standard choice, and I would rather buy them separately if that means they will last longer and be cheaper in the long run.
3M Wetordry Sandpaper, Assorted Grit – A very fine assorted grit sandpaper for general use
This assorted grit pack of sandpaper is intended for more general use. You can use it for metal, glass, ceramics. But, there are qualities of this toolkit that make it good for both woodworking and wood carving as well.
First of all, the pack contains 5 sheets 9×11 inches in total, among which is one very fine (220 grit), two extra fine sheets (320 grit), and two superfine (400). This makes it ideal for completing your projects to the level of perfection and prepping the wood for oiling, waxing, and painting.
The downside of this assorted grit is that it only contains the finest grit sandpaper for wood, which means you would need to purchase rough sandpaper on the side. However, it is a good value and I recommend you have one of these nearby.
- Fine sandpaper for wood polishing.
- Three levels of fine grit, 5 sheets in total.
- Good size of the sheet.
- It is a bit expensive if you don’t really need three fine grit levels in a single purchase.
To Sum Up
When it comes to fine-grit sandpaper, these grit levels are all you will need, really. The size of the wood sanding paper sheets is good, and the material is of good quality, so they are easy to use and practical for the final touch of your project.
LANHU Abrasive Dry Wet Waterproof Sandpaper – Best for smoothing the wood to perfection
Now, this is what I call a fine assorted grit. This pack of sandpaper sheets contains 12 sheets in total, and with the grit of 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500. It is intended for all kinds of work around the house, but you won’t often use it in wood carving unless you are a professional carver.
Sandpaper sheets are made of grit silicon carbide, which is different than other sandpaper you can usually find. It is excellent quality material and will be very durable in your workshop.
Now, the sheets on their own are super small – 2.8×4.5 inches, which is what the manufacturers call “compact”, but I like to call it “impractical”. The only time I ever use these is when I try to finish-up the tiny details of my project, but other than that they are just collecting dust in my workshop.
- Super good quality of the abrasive material.
- The finest set of sandpaper you can find.
- Good for professional carvers.
- The sheets are very small and not practical to use.
- The pack is way too expensive.
To Sum Up
This is among the finest sandpaper for wood I could find, but to be honest I rarely use all the grit levels. It is the best sandpaper for smoothing wood, but unless that is what you need for your projects, then it doesn’t make sense for you to have one.
Zona 37-948 3M Wet/Dry Polishing Paper – The finest sandpaper you can find
Grit levels in the Zona pack are the following: 400, 600, 1200, 4000, 6000, and 8000. These papers are intended for plastic and metal objects that you need to polish until they shine, but I don’t know any carvers that actually use this fine grit.
The size of the sheets is really good, 8.5×11 inches, and it is comfortable to use, plus very durable. I found them useful for painted and waxed carvings that I already thought were finished, but with this toolset, I ran an extra mile and gave them a different kind of glow.
The materials that this paper is made of is some sort of synthetic fiber, and it doesn’t behave like a classic sanding paper. But, as I said, these grit levels are good when you want to freshen up the look of your carvings that you have finished a long time ago.
- Good size, very practical.
- Durable synthetic material.
- Handy for maintaining the glow of your carvings.
- Such fine grits aren’t often used in wood carving.
- A very expensive package for a woodcarver.
To Sum Up
If you were thinking of buying this paper to finish your carving projects, it won’t be of much help. The only good application is for maintenance of your figures that were already finished, waxed, and painted over.
S SATC 72 PCS 5 Inch 8 Hole Hook and Loop Adhesive Sanding Discs Sandpaper for Random Orbital Sander – Full-set of coarse, medium, and fine sandpapers for disc sanders
This is orbital sander sandpaper that comes in different grits: 60/80/120/180/240/320. A total of 7 different grits are included in this 72 pack of quality abrasive, made of aluminum oxide grain.
These papers are easy to stick to your disc sandpaper machine and easy to swap, which is very important when it comes to the sandpaper for a power sander. The grit variety of these sheets are what makes it a good full-stack for a complete project finish, but it can also be useful as metal sandpaper because it is made of aluminum oxide.
Although it is rather useful to have the sandpaper in this shape for the disc power sander and the price is solid, the highest grit (320) is something that you will most likely not use in your carving and woodworking projects.
- Good deal for a 72 pack of sandpaper sheets.
- 7 different grits are designed from rough to delicate sanding.
- Easy to replace on an orbital sandpapering machine.
- They wear out faster than most aluminum oxide sandpapers.
- The highest grit sandpaper is not as useful out of the 7 grit types included.
To Sum Up
If you are a regular disc sander user, having a pack like this will make your life easier in comparison to the DIY sandpaper you would cut out yourself. Although the deal is sweet for the number of sheets you get, they are not very long-lasting, and the highest grit is rarely used for a full-finish wood project.
When I think of the best sandpaper for wood, the first one that comes to mind is the Fandeli 36021 060 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets, for many reasons. First of all, rough sandpaper is essential for the process, and it is very important to me to have one I can rely on. This product comes with 25 sheets that are very durable, high quality, and perfect dimensions for my needs.
Now, for the best sandpaper for woodworking, I would have to choose the same winner. When sanding wood, in general, there isn’t much need to use fine and superfine sandpaper. It is handy to have one on you for when you really want to make the best out of your project, and my go-to choice is 3M Wetordry Sandpaper, Assorted Grit, which I find to be just fine enough.
I hope you enjoyed my sandpaper review, and that my experience can help you out in choosing what is best for you and your carving style.
What kind of sandpaper to use on wood?
In wood carving and woodworking projects, the general grit set used is from 60 to 220. 60 or 80 are considered coarse sandpapers and they are used to smoothen out the lumps and remove excess stain or glue from the project.
Medium-grit (100-150) is used after the low grit sandpapers, and they serve to prepare the project for the final smoothening with the finest grit papers. Although, it is worth mentioning that sometimes when preparing your project for wood staining, medium grit sandpapers are the final stage of sanding, as some paint is easier to apply on a surface that is not super-smooth.
Fine grit (up to 220) sandpapers are used for final polishing of the wood, and generally to prepare your project for applying the finish coat and/or oiling the project in the very end.
If you are wondering what kind of sandpaper to use on wood in terms of the material it is made, natural abrasives are always a good choice for both softwood and hardwood. It is also important to mention that the best sander for woodwork is not the one that achieves high speed, as wood is delicate to work with and fast sanders can easily damage your surfaces.
What are the different grits of sandpaper?
Natural abrasives (garnet and flint) go from 60 (coarse) to 220 or 260 (fine) grit size, which is generally enough range for finishing wooden projects.
With synthetic abrasives such as silicon carbide and aluminum oxide grit sizes go up and over 1500, which are extremely fine grits for delicate materials such as metal or plastic. It is hard to answer the question of what is the highest grit sandpaper, as the technology develops further and these numbers can go up even higher.
What grit of sandpaper should be used for wood before painting?
When we talk about the sanding of the project before the very end, before applying an either a wood stain or a finish coat, we refer to the sandpaper for finishing wood. In general, high grit sandpapers are used for the final smoothening and polishing of the project, but this can also depend on the type of wood paint you use.
The best way to know how to sand your project before painting is to check the instructions about what grit sandpaper for wood is before painting, which is usually stated on the wood stain package. Gel stain, for example, doesn’t require much sanding, as the paint structure sticks better to the wood that is raw and not smooth.
Medium or fine-grit sandpapers are good choices when you need sandpaper for painted wood, to smooth out the lumps from the excess paint on the surface, while medium grit papers are the most efficient to remove the paint if you wish to repaint your project.