Is there thing as too much sanding for a surface that will be stained?

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Forum topic by bmm2727 posted 08-12-2019 08:25 PM 583 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 41 days

08-12-2019 08:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: table top stain sanding finishing

Hello all, first post here… after a brief search of the forum, I didn’t really see anything that would answer my question, so I figured I would go ahead and start this thread…

Anyway, I’m about 90% done building my own dining room table… the top is 8/4 thick white ash, and I am worried that I may gotten a little overzealous with sanding the surface down. I’ve got it sanded down all the way down to 800 grit, basically to the point that you can see a reflection in the wood at certain angles. I was fine with 240, but the fiance decided she wanted something that would be as smooth as possible.

My question is, have I sanded the table top too much for the ash to properly “take” any stain? I’ve never really sanded any finer than 240 and have never had any issues with staining in the past, but I’m worried that I may have sanded it too smooth (and therefore eliminated the “porosity” of the surface – if that makes sense). I am planning on using a combination of weathered gray and classic gray Varathane/Minwax stain, for the record.

Anyone have any input/feedback? I would rather not have to rough up the surface again if I wouldn’t have to, as this table top is roughly 78” L x 50” wide, and it took what felt like an eternity to get it to this point!

Thanks in advance!

7 replies so far

View Rich's profile


4843 posts in 1073 days

#1 posted 08-12-2019 08:52 PM

You should be working with test boards made of ash that are sanded exactly like the table. That way you can try your stain before you apply it to the table. It’ll save you a lot of headaches.

The good news is, if the test board doesn’t take the stain the way you want, it’s easy to go back to a coarser grit.

-- There's no such thing as a careless electrician

View gwilki's profile


318 posts in 1957 days

#2 posted 08-12-2019 09:04 PM

Rich’s advice is good.

Your results will depend somewhat on what type of stain you are using. I use quite a bit of wipe on lacquer-based stain and my supplier recommends sanding to no finer than 150. I get nice uniform coverage with all kinds of wood taking his advice.

If your stain is water-based, all your fine sanding will be undone by the grain raising caused by the stain.

You can remind your fiance that the final “smoothness” will be as dependant on how well you apply and finish your top coat than it will on how fine you sand before staining.

-- Grant Wilkinson, Ottawa ON

View CaptainKlutz's profile


1782 posts in 1978 days

#3 posted 08-12-2019 09:41 PM

+1 what they said above.

Always test on scraps FIRST!

BTW – Wood is not smooth. If you want smooth wood finish; you fill the grain and MAKE It smooth; not sand it smooth.
Smooth wood finishes are usually done with several steps on typical finishing ‘schedule’:
1) Remove imperfections by sanding with 150-220 grit.
2) If using waster based finishing, raise the grain with water, dry, and re-sand.
3) Fill the grain. There are many different methods.
4) Add color via stain or dye if desired.
5) If using water/alcohol based stains and water based top coat; seal wood with shellac, or light initial coat of finish to prevent migration. Then lightly sand with 400 to remove the raised fibers.
6) Apply top coat(s) following mfg recommendation for sanding between coats.
7) When finish is completely cured, apply 2 coats of your favorite furniture paste wax.

AND YES: you need to test the entire process on your test boards!

There is an over sanding danger to be aware about when working with course grain woods like Ash. The early and late wood in the grain has different density. If you sand to much, especially when using a foam backed sanding pad, you it will create ripples or peaks/valleys in the surface. Can usually feel them, before you see them with straight edge. If you have never seen this phenomenon before, might not notice.
Only fix is planing, or scraping the surface flat again, so want to avoid over sanding. :)

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View bmm2727's profile


2 posts in 41 days

#4 posted 08-12-2019 10:02 PM

Wow… thanks for all the information, everyone. I have several ‘drop’ pieces that I will definitely be testing the variations of stain and finish on and will be sure to sand these down to 800 grit as I did with the table top itself. I suspect that for optimal results, I’ll have to go back down to the 180 range though… but maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

And yes, although very minimal, I have noticed some “waviness” or slight rippling after all of that sanding as well… now I know what the cause was! I will be sure to follow up in this thread how everything turns out, as well as a few final pics of the whole project (once I have the matching bench completed as well).

Again thanks for the insight!

View Jack Lewis's profile

Jack Lewis

483 posts in 1562 days

#5 posted 08-13-2019 12:43 AM

Tell your SO that a perfect finish will show every ding and suffer under hard use. Go with the advice above, after you have put the final finish on and it is cured. rub the surface with pumice or rottenstone and waxes for the glossy finish you are after. Then use can be repaired by repeating the last steps.

-- "PLUMBER'S BUTT! Get over it, everybody has one"

View therealSteveN's profile


3656 posts in 1058 days

#6 posted 08-13-2019 04:38 AM

If when you sand you truly go through the grits, there is nothing to stop you on your test pieces to go to 180 on one, 220 on another higher, lower what every you want to try. Saying sanding, and wood there are so many variables, open grains, closed tight grains, they will all work, and finish differently. Doing experimentation is the best way to figure some of it out. I can’t remember a project of even medium size when I didn’t have several cut offs, and scrap. All you need for a test piece is a small piece.

Point was made, once you do figure where you want to go off the test pieces, do that same finish/prep recipe to the project. Not a good time to switch horses, when you are doing the actual project.

I think the worst mistake is wanting to be done, and trying to hurry a finish. Take your time, like it or not it’s part of the ride.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Rich's profile


4843 posts in 1073 days

#7 posted 08-13-2019 04:45 AM

Never mind.

-- There's no such thing as a careless electrician

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