Over the years I haven’t just used sandpaper – I’ve used up and replaced many sanders. So my view on the best grit for sanding wood comes from a lot of time standing in front of many sanders.
What is sandpaper grit? Grit on sandpaper refers to the size of the abrasive material used to remove wood or metal. The lower the number (eg. 24 grit vs. 220 grit) the larger the size of the abrasive. And the faster the sandpaper will be at removing material.
The best grit for sanding wood is dependent on the tool you’re using. Therefore I am going to review the best grits by tool first, and then application. To further help, tools #1 to #3 are listed in order of ability to quickly remove wood. The belt sander will grind most woods up in a hurry if you aren’t careful.
1. Choosing Belt Sander Sandpaper Grit
Hardwoods: 24 grit and up
Softwoods: 80 grit and up
You’ll notice a trend here of a recommendation to start with a lower number grit and work your way up. Except of course if your only goal is rapid removal of wood and the finish isn’t important. When would you do that? Well, one example is grinding cabinet filler strips to fit the wall.
With the all powerful belt sander you can go down to a 24 grit that will quickly remove the wood. And sometimes too quickly so I recommend someone new to this tool to start with an 80 grit. If you are sanding cabinet doors or drawer fronts then starting at an 80 grit and working to a 120 or 150 grit is a great way to reduce time spent with an orbital sander.
Belt sanders come in 3×21″ and 4×24″ models so you can plan accordingly when looking at the best sandpaper.
Recommended: For a 3×21″ sander a multipack of Tacklife sandpaper belts* with grits from 40 to 120 grits is perfect. And if you have a 4×24″ then I’d recommend the M-life belts* with grits from 60 to 400.
2. Best Sandpaper Grit for an Orbital Sander
Hardwoods: 24 grit and up
Softwoods: 40 grit and up
When choosing grit for your random orbit sander think of it as a progression of at least three different grits. My preferred sequence for most woods is:
- 60 grit to remove deep sanding marks from a belt sander
- 120 grit to start to knock down the grain
- 180 or 220 grit to smooth out the sand marks.
Recommended: A multi-pack of high quality Mestool 5″ hook and loop sanding discs* that fits most sanders is a great place to start.
3. Palm sander
Hardwoods: 80 grit and up
Softwoods: 100 grit and up
For palm sanders or mouse sanders the goal isn’t fast removal of wood. Instead, you are looking to remove any scratch marks or sander swirls from the previous sanders. While you can start more aggressive I like to go with 120 grit, then 200+ grit to a fine finish over 300 grit sandpaper on almost all words.
Again, be careful on downward pressure with your sander.
Recommended: For a mouse sander the LEOBRO multi-pack* has 40 to 240 grit pads to meet all your needs. While for a palm sander an assortment of Duragold sheets* from 80 to 1000 grit will make your wood project as smooth as glass.