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What is the Best Sandpaper for Woodturning?

Updated: Jun 2

I have been Turning for quite a while now and been in business as a Woodturner for more than 8 years. I've seen and tried various products that are available on the market over the years. Each one is different, some better than others; some good for certain projects but not for another. I wanted to go through some of these products in this one Post as some of my Customers keep asking for recommendations. Hopefully, this will explain things a bit better. I sell all these products so I can advise which one is which.

Sanding a small bowl in Tralee
Quality Sanding products are vital for great results!

So, What is the Best Sandpaper for Woodturning?

What is the best Sandpaper for Woodturning? That's a loaded question right there and it depends on what you are doing and how tough the products need to be. There's no point in using a paper sandpaper on a fast spinning piece on a lathe as it may disintegrate over time and there's no point in using high quality cloth back sandpaper on rubbish material as it is overkill and a waste. In the following paragraphs I will deal with each type and what I would use them for. Some products are called abrasives but their function can still be similar or the same. The products listed here are also used for regular Woodworking and even handy for Painters or hobby DIYers.

First, The Important Lecture Bit

Sandpaper is actually a cutting tool, not an abrasive tool. It should be used once and then discarded. Many people including myself back in my early days do not know this and keep rubbing the spent sandpaper against the wood grain. Why is this bad? Spent sandpaper does not cut anymore, clogs up easily and generates a heated burnish to the wood surface which may cause issues with your finish. I used to keep a metal drawer full of used sandpaper when I first started Woodturning so don't feel bad if you didn't know this. It was a bit embarrassing to realize my mistake at the time but I got over it.

Paperback Sandpaper

This is the cheapest form of sandpaper, make sure it it brown and not green aluminium oxide which is terrible for woodwork. Good for Woodworking but not so good for Woodturners sanding across the grain as it has a tendency to be a bit too rigid, may crack when rolled up for getting into smaller curved surfaces and can also fall apart if pushed too hard into the wood. This type is great when on longer sections or flat areas sanding in the direction of the running grain. It is cheaper to buy because it is cheaper to make. Even now, I still keep it around my Workshop because it is handy to have in a pinch. Using Paper Back instead of Cloth Back for some jobs can save on the amount of Cloth Sandpaper you use so don't discount it completely. It should be noted that some Woodturners use sheets or rolls of paperback without any issues. For me it is a personal decision to mostly use other types for my work.

Flexible Cloth Backed Sandpaper

This is great for Woodturning as it can be cut into any shape to allow you to sand into those small coves and around beads with ease. The cloth back holds the sandpaper together superbly. I use this type for most of my Woodturning and even more on my flat surface Woodcraft pieces. They work great in Sandpaper holders and stand up to a lot of punishment. Cutting the sandpaper into smaller strips for small areas is a great way to be economical. It is more expensive to buy because it is more expensive to produce but lasts longer than paper. It can be helpful to use compressed air on the surface or flicking the sandpaper every now and again to avoid clogging. I sell Cloth Back Sandpaper here.

Sianet Abrasive

Sianet is fantastic for sanding on and off the lathe. It is sold in 420mm x 75mm strips in grits from 80 to 600 but I only stock 120 to 400 grits as they are sufficient to cover all sanding needs. Sianet excels when used with a sander extraction system as it pulls the particulates through the holes in the net and doesn't clog like regular sandpaper. When used by hand it doesn't clog up either and all you have to do is shake it off and go back to sanding again. I find that a quick rub with 120 grit can smooth out a curved shape with tool marks very quickly on the Lathe. I always keep a sheet of 120 grit on each Lathe and finish with regular sanding grits afterward. Sianet lasts longer than cloth backed sandpaper so is a great investment. It can be cut with a scissors into any shape or size that you need. Each strip is sold loose without packaging so makes the product quite cheap to buy and great value for the amount of work it will do. I sell Sianet Abrasives here.

Chestnut Products Net Abrasive

Chestnut Products Net Abrasives are very similar to Sianet and perform in exactly the same way. Unfortunately, being a product from the UK these are more expensive to import than European made Sianet and they come in packaging which is also an added cost. Many of my Customers still buy it because they are used to using it and it arrive pre-cut to a handy size. Like Sianet, the grit is printed on each one so you won't mix them up. I sell Chestnut Products Net Abrasive here.

Chestnut Products Nyweb Sheets

Nyweb are great for in between work when sanding and also for preparing surfaces for the next stage or finish. They come in four colours with different levels of abrasion. While it states that the White is non-abrasive, I found that it can cause scratching if used between finish coats.

  • Green – Standard abrasion

  • Red – Extra fine abrasion

  • Orange – Ultra fine abrasion

  • White – Not abrasive, main use is in the even application of stains and other finishes.

Fine Sanding Pads

I use these very handy Fine Sanding Pads to de-nib Sanding Sealer which gives a lovely smooth surface prior to finishing without any extra scratches. Sanding on the lathe cuts across the grain which can leave little scratches so choosing the correct light grit is very important. After sanding a spindle crossgrain it is advisable to then go in the direction of the running grain before blowing away dust and applying your finish. I also am fond of using these as a final rub of Woodcraft products before bowing off with a compressor.

Sanding Discs for Bowls & Platters

You use specially cut sanding discs on mandrels for Bowls and Platters. Buying decent quality sandpaper is absolutely vital here as bad discs will just cause more heat and friction of the wood surface fibres. I make discs to order on my website from 25mm to 75mm and can sell the full 150mm discs too. I got a bad batch of discs one time in the past and they broke my heart. I had to use 2 discs of each grit where 1 had been sufficient before and every bowl I finished had visible scratches in the finished Bowls due to irregular sanding. I swore never again after that and I only use high quality Swiss or German made sanding discs these days. I sell Sanding Discs here.

In Conclusion

Everyone hates the sanding part of the job but it is absolutely vital so that the finished piece looks great even with close scrutiny. Buy cheap nasty products and you will get nasty results. I use all the products listed above at various times and for various wood products that I sell so they are never a waste to have around. Buy good products and your work will show it.

I hope to see you in the Checkout soon, thanks for reading! David

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