A Guide to Buying Sandpaper

If you are a DIY enthusiast you might know that the need for proper sandpaper can hardly be overemphasized. When you work with wood, metal, fiberglass or other hard surfaces, sandpaper is indispensable. You can use it for cleaning metal surfaces of rust and polishing, finishing, smoothing, sanding or preparing wooden surfaces for varnishing

How to best use your sandpaper?

You can use it the good ol’ fashioned way, that is, manually by hand or you can use it with power tools. They help you get rid of imperfections and let you shape, level and finish your woodwork. 

It’s considered a good practice to sand edges after cutting, before varnishing and between in between paint coats. That makes them perfect for preparing metal surfaces for painting or varnishing. 

If you want to work with more precision hand sanding is your best bet. It allows for more maneuverability and lets you reach places you simply can’t with a power tool such as an orbital sander

Whichever method you prefer, you need to familiarize yourself with different types and classifications of sandpaper — the basics.

Different types of sandpaper

Each type of sandpaper works usually best for one job. Conversely, it won’t work that well for another. Selecting one that will work for the task at hand can be tricky because each abrasive material has its own properties.

When you’re shopping for sandpaper for your project, whether online or in a hardware store, you’ll be met with a variety of sandpaper sizes, the grit, its type, and coarseness. And from all those stacks of sheets, rolls, and folders, you’ll have to pick one that is right for your DIY project. 

What is grit?

Grit is what sandpaper is made of. They’re fine particles derived from natural or synthetic sources — more on that in a few — adhered to a surface like cloth, paper or sponge. 

Grit is sorted according to size before its glued to the surface. Different projects call for different grit sizes so, you need to take that into account when choosing your sandpaper.

The grit sized is measured on what we call a Coated Abrasive Manufacturers Institute scale or CAMI scale for short. You’ll come across grit numbers such as 200-grit, 100-grit or 80-grit, which this scale dictates. 

On the lower end of this scale are larger grains which translate into more coarseness. As we move up the scale towards higher grit numbers, the grains decrease in size which means the sandpaper will be finer and fit more delicate work-pieces.

Depending of this grit size, they’re labeled: coarse, medium, fine, very fine, extra fine and super fine. Coarse paper would have a 60 grit while a super fine paper should have a 360 or above.

As a rule of thumb, coarser sandpaper is better for preparing surfaces for varnishing and painting, while finer sandpaper is best suited for finishing purposes or projects which need attention to detail.

The reason is pretty straightforward: Coarse sandpaper sands through material with ease and can remove more of it with each stroke. On the other hand, fine grit sandpaper lets you give your piece a better finish because it gives you more control.

Abrasive types?

Sandpapers make use of either natural abrasives or artificial ones. Here’s what both of them are…

Natural Abrasives

Natural abrasives like garnet, flint or emery are optimal for raw wood, old surfaces and rust. You can use them to prepare for varnishing or removing blemishes. They can also be used to wipe rust and paint from metal surfaces for instance. Be mindful that these abrasives wear off much quicker than artificial ones. 

Garnet

Rust-colored garnet sandpaper is a natural abrasive, and like all other natural sandpapers it wears away pretty quickly, leaving behind a fine finish. For that reason, it’s particularly useful for sanding work that needs great attention to detail. As it wears out, it reveals new and sharper edges conducive to fine tuning.

Flint

Flint sandpaper, also known as glasspaper is another natural abrasive is fairly light in weight and yellowish in appearance. It’s probably one of the most inexpensive sandpapers out there but it depletes too quickly to be suitable for woodwork. 

If you’re working with metal but would rather stick with a natural abrasive, emery should fit the bill. It’s black in color and is more popularly known as emery cloth. If you want to sand and smoothen metal surfaces or clean rust off them, this sandpaper should work like a charm. That said there are better options, mostly synthetic, available for sanding metalwork, which brings us to our next point.

Artificial abrasives

Artificial abrasives like aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, and zirconia alumina last longer and can be used in a variety of scenarios. For example, the most common kind of artificial abrasive, aluminum oxide works well on wood, metal, and plastic. As it wears off, it reveals newer particles which keep its edges sharp. It’s popular for affordability and durability. 

Aluminum oxide

Aluminum oxide is easily one of the most popular synthetic sandpaper choices among the DIY crowd and for good reason too. It’s very durable, hard and leaves a decent finish. Thanks to its durability, it can be paired with power tools as well. It works as a good all-around sandpaper, especially for woodworking. 

Zirconia alumina

Zirconia alumina is many folds tougher than aluminum oxide and the edges sharpen themselves, same as aluminum oxide.

Silicon carbide

Silicon carbide works best for smooth surfaces such as marble, ceramics, and glass. And it is probably the most common abrasive material used in sandpapers today. It lets you remove paint from automobiles, finish wood works and metal surfaces, and smooth these surfaces whether they’re moist or dry. If you’ll be working on wet metal surfaces, or using water as a lubricant while sanding, this sandpaper will interest you.

Ceramic sandpaper

If it’s durability you’re looking for, ceramic sandpaper won’t disappoint. It’s tough, built to last, and can sand through a sizable amount of material in a relatively short time without disintegrating. 

Although you can use it for handsanding, it won’t leave a finish as good as its counterparts, especially if you’re not careful. If want to give your piece a finer finish, I’d recommend you skip this one.

Industrial or Commercial?

Sandpaper can either be industrial grade or commercial. Some of the differences between them are overt while others are rather subtle. You need a good grasp of these differences, so you can pick the one that the task at hand calls for.

The most obvious distinctions would be the material these two gradings use. 

As you might expect, industrial kind uses higher quality, or ‘premium-grade’, material for the paper, the grit and the glue used to stick both of them together.

Most commercial grade sandpapers don’t use subpar materials for these components either, but, more often than not, industrial grade will outstrip commercial.

Aside from the difference in elements, they also differ when it comes to the spacing between grits. The sandpapers which have their grits spaced out further from each other are rated ‘open-coat’, while the ones which have grits packed closely together are ‘closed-coat.

Now onto the next logical question, which grading and rating work best for which projects? In general, if you’re working on a woodwork project, and would like a sandpaper you won’t have to clean every few minutes, open-coat should be a good candidate. 

Now that you have some basic understanding of which sandpaper to use in what conditions and what makes them different from each other, it would help in your hunt for sandpaper perfect for your own project. 

To guide you through it, here are our top 5 sandpaper picks available both online and in your nearest hardware store. 

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Verones 90 Pieces Sandpaper Assortment 
Paxcoo 85Pcs Sandpaper Assortment
Lattcure 108 Pcs Sandpaper Assortment & Hand Sander Kit
3M 03021 Assorted Grit Sizes
Peachtree Abrasive Roll

 

Verones 90 Pieces Sandpaper Assortment 

Our first pick is from Verones collection, a set of 90 pieces of sandpaper sheets. The grit number ranges from 600 to 3000, and each grit size has 10 pieces of sandpaper, for a total of 9 different grit types.  

It’s made of synthetic abrasive material, silicon carbide to be precise. The waterproof nature of silicon carbide allows for usage in both moist and dry conditions.

Any sandpaper is supposed to wear out after a few uses under wet or dry conditions but endurance is where this product excels. Silicon carbide is well known for its durability, so, this sandpaper will last you for a considerable number of uses without wearing off.

Aside from durability, this assortment also offers versatility. Since it has a variety of grit sizes and 10 pieces for each grit size, you get all the variants you’ll need in a single package. Be it woodwork, metalwork, art, and crafts or plastic and fiberglass projects, this assortment of 90 pieces has got you covered.

Sanding some surfaces demands attention to detail like the finishing of wood, furniture or metal work. While others call for a little more toughness, like polishing removing mold from furniture or drywall for instance. And because this set is suitable for all these jobs, you can work at any task at hand without hassle.

We do have a minor complaint with this product though. The manufacturers claim it does a good job with rough and light sanding and everything in between, however, we found that claim to be a slight exaggeration since it doesn’t include ultra-fine grit sizes. But that can be forgiven, considering the low price point.

Key features

  • 90 pieces of sandpaper with 400-3000 grit 
  • Silicon carbide as the base abrasive material
  • Electro-coated for extra toughness
  • Usability in both wet and dry conditions
  • Can withstand hundreds of uses
  • Can be cut to sizes of your liking

Paxcoo 85Pcs Sandpaper Assortment

If you are a DIY woodworker or a metalworker, you might already be familiar with how some jobs need fine-tuning and attention to detail. And as we’ve explained earlier choosing sandpaper for such a job can be a bit challenging and confusing sometimes but this set can prove to be an answer to that problem.

First things first, what material does it use? It is made out of silicon carbide and is layered with an electric coat which fortifies it and makes it more durable. While many of electro-coated sandpapers boast of durability, in practice, they often wear thin pretty quick. However, this sandpaper seems to stand true to that claim. Which means you can use it in a rough manner and it still won’t tear apart or wear off easily.

The product is a set of 85 pieces with a wide variety of grit levels, ranging from 400 to 3000. This makes it ideal for nearly every material type and finishing work. Its dimensions allow it to be cut into smaller sheets or be mounted on a sandpaper block for more convenient operation.

The nine grit sizes allow for usage on wooden surfaces, metal surfaces, automobiles, ceramics, and fiberglass. From smoothing a tiny imperfection or a loose splinter to polishing jobs, this tool will come in handy in a number of different scenarios. 

One thing worth mentioning about this product is it’s excellent resistance to water. Unlike some of its competition, it won’t dissolve in your hand while you’re sanding and will work like a charm on wet or moist surfaces.

Key features

  • A total of 85 pieces with 9 different grit levels
  • High-quality silicon carbide material with electo-coating for extra strength 
  • Each sheet has the dimensions of 9×3.6 inches
  • Can be cut into smaller pieces if necessary 
  • Performs well in a wide variety of situations
  • Waterproof and tensile strength allows for use in wet and dry purposes
  • Can be rolled onto a sanding block 

Lattcure 108 Pcs Sandpaper Assortment & Hand Sander Kit

Moving down the list, we have the Lattcure sandpaper assortment. Out of the box, you get 108 pieces of sandpaper, gloves for safety purposes, a sanding box and a toolkit. This helps it stand out from its competitors because it is more of an extensive package instead of just a set of sandpaper sheets.

And as you may have guessed already, it works for wooden or metal finishing purposes.

The papers are made from high-quality silicon carbide, which is layered with waterproof material. Besides, the water-proofing the abrasive is also layered with an electric coat, which adds to the durability and toughness. 

The grit level varies between as low as 60 and up to 3000, and for each grit level you get 9 pieces, which is more than enough. To say it another way, you can find the right fit for just about any project in this box, woodworking, metalworking, furniture sanding, automobile, drywall sanding, you name it.

To save you from the hassle of looking for the right grit level or the trouble of confusing grit levels with each other, the grit number is printed on the back of each piece. 

Other than the set of sandpapers, you get a pair of gloves and a box to carry your tools and a sanding block. The pair of gloves keeps you from accidentally cutting your hands so you can work freely with peace of mind. The utility box can be used to store your tools and sandpaper sheets. And finally, the sanding block comes in handy when working on tasks that are a bit more complicated.

You might be wondering that this whole package must cost a pretty penny, well good news, it’s doesn’t. For the feature-packed product it is, it’s priced fairly reasonably.

Key features

  • 108 pieces of sandpaper
  • Grit size ranging from 60 to 3000
  • 9 pieces under each grit size
  • Works for dry or wet sanding
  • Made out of silicon carbide and electro-coated
  • Dimensions of 9×3.6 inches
  • A refund policy of 30 days
  • Applicable in a variety of situations

3M 03021 Assorted Grit Sizes

You can use this sandpaper either by hand or with a power tool. It is made with a fine silicon carbide abrasive, adhered to a waterproof paper which saves you the trouble of switching between separate wet and dry sandpapers.

It is primarily geared towards automobile sanding. It is perfect for repainting, shaping filler and provides a refined and smoother finish. That said, it also works just as well for plastic and fiberglass surfaces.

Auto body sanding calls for sandpaper that won’t clog and scratch the surface and most auto body jobs need wet sanding to prevent dust build up on the surface. This product allows for wets sanding during auto repairs and and lets you do dry sanding too. In other words, this sandpaper saves you time and effort during body repairing.

Key features

  • Ideal for automobile sanding
  • Pack of two wetordry sandpapers
  • Dimensions of 9×11 inches
  • Can be used manually by hand or with a machine
  • Waterproof abrasive
  • Made of silicon carbide optimal for aggressive and light sanding
  • Removes paints dust and rust
  • Smooths and shapes filler

Peachtree Abrasive Roll

Last but not least, we have Peachtree abrasive roll on our list. More often than not, when your work-piece is pretty small, regular sandpaper won’t do an efficient fine-tuning job. This is where Peachtree abrasive roll comes into play. Each roll contains 20 inches of sandpaper of five different grit levels and you can cut it to your required length while keeping the width the same.

The grit size ranges from 150 to 600 which is applicable for an array of different sanding jobs. The rolls are made of J-weight clothed sandpaper which allows for use on delicate surfaces like graphite or wooden sculptures.

Since it works best on delicate small surfaces, it won’t be a good idea to use these rolls on wider and larger surfaces. You might be wondering why not cut a regular sheet of sandpaper for that purpose? Because it’s difficult if not impossible to cut the strips in exact same width you need every time. Having it already cut to your required size saves you time and effort.

That said, this product doesn’t deliver as good a performance you might come to expect from its larger counterparts. But it will be easier on you and your pocket. We’d recommend to use it when your work piece is smaller in size or round in shape because strips work better in such scenarios than rectangular sheets.

Key features

  • 5 strips of sandpaper with the grit level printed on the back
  • Each roll has the dimensions of 1″ x 20′ 240
  • Grit levels of 150/240/320/400/600
  • Allows for cutting strips of the desired length 
  • Each strip has a width of 1 inch 
  • Perfect for subtle details and delicate woodwork
  • As long as the length and width are fit for the job, it can be used on any surface

Final Thoughts

To wrap up this guide, you need to find the right sandpaper kind before you go shopping for one so you don’t waste your money on a product that’s not up to specifications for the task at hand. You need to factor in the coarseness or grit level, the material of the sandpaper and the nature of the surface you’ll be sanding. 

In addition to all that, make sure the sandpaper you’re buying is durable and would last you some uses. If your project calls for it, it should also be usable in dry and wet conditions alike.

Used right this inexpensive tool can bring a polished look and professional grade quality to your DIY projects. Many seasoned DIY enthusiasts and woodworkers swear by many of the brands listed in this buying guide, however, if you don’t find one that suits your requirements, you can use it as a guideline to find one that will.