Is Sanding Necessary?

Yesterday I woke up with a pretty nasty bug that’s going around, so haven’t put as much time towards finishing my Shaker Step Stool as I’d like. I’m staring at the calender, counting the day’s till vacation is over and I’m back at work, hoping I’ll have enough energy to finish it up before then.

Back on topic, I’ve been wondering if it is necessary to go over this project with sandpaper before applying a finish to it. Right now I plan on finishing it with Danish Oil. I’m interested in applying something else after that, but not sure yet.

Anyway it seems to me that a plane – especially a smoothing plane – gets a board much smoother than sandpaper ever can. I know there are times when you don’t want that: if I were painting this piece I imagine that the surface not being so smooth would help the paint adhere.

So I have a piece of scrap (another story I’ll get around to) on hand and I’m going to find out whether I need to sand this project or not.

On the left hand side I planed the board with my smoothing plane and then sanded it with 220 grit. On the right hand side I just planed the board with my smoothing plane and stopped:


I applied the Danish Oil. Following the instructions on the can I soaked it down and let it sit for 30 minutes, then soaked it again, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wiped it dry. Here’s what we look like so far:


I figure if I get a real burst of energy the earliest I’ll be applying finish to the Shaker Step Stool is tomorrow evening. So I’ll look over this piece again before deciding whether to sand or not.

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3 Responses to Is Sanding Necessary?

  1. Interred to see how this turns out.


    • Wesley Beal says:

      Me too. One thing that may influence the comparison is that I did not progressively sand this piece of scrap through 100, 150, 180, 220. Again, thinking that it was smooth already, went straight to the 220.

      To my mind, the 220 sandpaper made the surface rougher than it was after I planed it. I’ve always thought that the point of sanding a piece was to make it smooth, in which case why would you go backwards and make a piece rougher than you had it with your plane?

      But it is also entirely possible that there’s another objective going on with regards to finishing that I don’t know about.

      I have to admit, I find finishing a necessary evil. I haven’t yet been attracted to the process the way some are. By the time I’m ready to apply a finish, I’m done with the part of the work I enjoy.


    • Wesley Beal says:

      The verdict, when the finish is Danish Oil and the wood is Cherry, is that no, sanding is not necessary.


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