Last updated: August 17, 2021

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If you have worked on wood you probably already know how satisfying it is to use good sandpaper. There is something special about using your hands as tools and sandpaper as a chisel to create work. That's why in this guide we'll help you choose the best sandpaper on the market.

Sandpaper has always been a vital tool for any workshop that works with wood, paint and even jewellery and precious stones, because depending on its fineness it can do moulding and wear work, remove paint, and even detailing and polishing, plus its low price makes it easy to acquire and replace.




Summary

  • Sandpaper is a tool that combines a cloth or mesh backing with a granular layer of varying fineness, usually made of aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. They are used for shaping materials such as wood or metal, for removing paint from various surfaces and for detailing and polishing.
  • Grits can be classified by the fineness of their abrasive material or by the material from which they are made. The grit (or grain fineness) of a sandpaper defines how rough or fine it is and is classified using a numerical scale, where the lower the number the rougher it is and the higher the number the finer it is.
  • You should know that there is no single all-purpose sandpaper, because depending on the work you will be doing you will need rough or fine sandpaper. If you need to shape your work, remove paint from a wall, or polish a finish you will need the right sandpaper, so plan your purchase in advance.

The Best Sandpaper: Our Picks

Buying Guide

At Reviewbox we want to help you make the best buying decisions, so we've put together this buying guide for sandpaper. We searched for the best products on the market for you, researched what makes them so good and where we can find them to give you accurate and condensed information.

There are many ways to use sandpaper, the easiest is to use it directly with your hands. (Photo: Monchai Tudsamalee / 123rf.com)

What is sandpaper and what are its advantages?

Sandpaper is a simply manufactured work tool, as it consists of a base made of paper or fabrics of various materials, which is covered with a layer of abrasive particles, usually aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. It is used for abrading and polishing work on various materials.

The advantages of sandpaper are many, as it has a wide range of applications. Depending on the roughness of a sandpaper, it is possible to carry out work such as shaping and abrading, paint stripping and even polishing of rocks and metals. Sandpaper can also be adapted to different working tools.

Advantages
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to use
  • Various uses
  • Easy to acquire
  • Adaptable to tools
Disadvantages
  • Not very durable

Aluminium oxide and silicon carbide sandpaper - what should you look out for?

The most common abrasive materials in sandpaper are aluminium oxide and silicon carbide. Although these work in a very similar way and at first glance there are no differences, there are a few details between them that can make the user have a better experience when using it, or simply work better.

Aluminium oxide: This is the most common and cheapest material and is slightly more durable than silicon carbide, which is why it is used in automatic sanding machines. The abrasive material breaks down as it is used, giving way to new sharp angles. It is usually not waterproof unless it uses a base that allows it to be used wet.

Silicon carbide: This material wears much faster than aluminium oxide but is less durable, so it is not widely used with tools such as automatic sanders. Its other advantage is that silicon carbide sandpaper is mostly waterproof, allowing it to be used on wet surfaces.

Aluminium oxide Silicon carbide
Durability High Low
Wear power High Very high
Highlighting feature Tool use Waterproof

How much does a sandpaper cost?

You can find them individually if you buy them in specialised shops selling household tools, but it is advisable to buy packs of sandpaper as you will rarely need just one.

In all wood finishing, coarse sandpaper is used for shaping and fine sandpaper for finishing touches. (Photo: Jozef Polc / 123rf.com)

Buying criteria: Factors that allow you to compare and rate different models of sandpaper.

Buying the right sandpaper is not as simple as it seems, as the wide variety of grit finenesses and the materials they are made of add extra depth. For your convenience when shopping for sandpaper, we have put together in this section the most important factors and features surrounding sandpaper.

  • Grit level
  • Open and closed grit
  • Waterproof
  • Zinc stearate coating
  • Tool sandpaper

Grit level

The grit level is the main purchasing factor, as it will define the most efficient use of the sandpaper. You will need different grit levels for each step of shaping and finishing a piece of work, so it is a good idea to know which sandpaper is best suited for each job.

Coarse: Coarse sandpaper is considered to be sandpaper ranging from 12 to 50 grit. It is very abrasive sandpaper for the removal of paint and other hard-to-remove finishes, wear on extra hard materials, and in the case of those approaching 50 grit, it is used for wood moulding. It is also used to remove rust on metals.

Medium: A medium grit sandpaper ranges from 60 to 100. It is the perfect grit level for light wear on wood, such as correcting small imperfections or bumps before finishing, or removing planing marks and stains on wood. If you are removing a small bump you will need this grit level.

Fine: Fine grits are in the 100-180 range. They are used for much smaller and more precise grinding, so they are used for removing small scratches. If you will be preparing the wood before a coat of paint, you will need this type of sandpaper.

Very fine: 180 to 320 grit sandpaper is considered extra fine. If you are going to apply a new coat of paint you will need to make the base even, which you can do with this level of sandpaper without having to worry about over sanding.

Extra fine: Extra fine sandpaper has numbers above 400. They are used for polishing paints, varnishes, metals, and even for polishing precious stones. Working with this type of sandpaper is usually a gradual process, increasing the level of fineness little by little between polishing.

Open and closed grits

As you may already know, the grits are part of the abrasive layer of the sandpaper, when a sandpaper is marketed as open or closed it does not mean that it has holes, or that it must be opened before use, it refers to the space between the grits that are in the abrasive layer of the sandpaper, and this influences the performance of the sandpaper when it is used.

Open grit: An open grit sandpaper covers only 70% of its sanding layer with abrasive grains, allowing the waste sanding material to accumulate and thus achieving much less friction during sanding. Ideal for those who work with dusty materials or sawdust.

Closed Grit: A closed grit sandpaper has abrasive material on 100% of its sanding surface. They wear much more than open grit and also achieve a much smoother finish, as there are no gaps between the abrasive material. If you work with jewellery or will be doing polishing work, you will need closed grit sandpaper.

Waterproof

Waterproof sandpaper allows you to use water and other fluids to lubricate during sanding. Sanding on a wet surface will reduce the friction and effort required, it also reduces dust emission and increases the durability of the abrasive material, which makes them good for working indoors during home renovation.

There are techniques for using wet sandpaper such as surrounding it with a wet cloth during sanding to trap dust. They can also be used in conjunction with abrasive creams for polishing work on cars, as well as for finishing musical instruments such as guitars and electric basses.

Zinc stearate coating

Often while sanding, the material that comes off can clog the sanding process. A zinc stearate coating will come off along with the abrasive material and the waste material that you abrade to avoid clogging, but it is not recommended for use on wet surfaces.

If, for example, you are sanding paint on a wall and you find areas of the sandpaper clogged with paint residue, it may be time to use a zinc stearate coated sandpaper, as the coating will peel off and the paint residue will go with it, thus preventing your sandpaper from losing wear power.

Sandpaper for tools

If you are planning to buy an automatic sander, you should know that there are specialised sandpaper for use with these tools. It is not enough to go to a shop and buy ordinary sandpaper, because unless the sander has a press-fit base with an anchor or you modify the sandpaper, the ordinary sandpaper will not be able to fit your machine.

Sandpaper with an adapter: If you will be using sandpaper on a tool such as a random orbital sander, make sure it is shaped and has the necessary adapter to fit securely. Most machine sanding papers use a Velcro coating on the base, so replacing them is quick and convenient.

Ordinary sandpaper: It's normal not to realise that we sometimes use more sandpaper than we need, so it shouldn't surprise you if you buy sandpaper all the time. If you've run out of sandpaper for your sander but have regular sandpaper on hand, there's a trick to adapt it for use with power tools.

Cut a shape out of the regular sandpaper the same as the one your sander uses, then super glue the sandpaper to a used sandpaper from your polisher, preferably dust free so the glue sticks firmly, wait 10 minutes and presto, the regular sandpaper can take the backing of the old sandpaper and be used with the sander.

(Featured image photo: Roman Samborskyi / 123rf.com)

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