Carver’s Corner


By J. Christopher White

Preparing a surface to shine is more important than getting the wood to shine. Design your piece to where light can move across its surfaces without drastic distortions (eg. Hail dents distort the light reflecting off the hood of a car, or a poorly repaired car fender).


Step 1:  Wood Preparation

Re move all saw, gouge and rasp marks with a Nicholson #50 followed by any variety of Nicholson 2nd cut files.  Shallow file marks are easily sanded out. The surface is now ready. Be sure to sand with the grain whenever possible.

Note: Each grit of wet/dry sandpaper (I prefer 3M brand), will leave its own tiny scratches.

Step 2:  220 Grit Sandpaper (coarse)

Removes all file marks and does final shaping of surface.

Step 3: 400 Grit Sandpaper

Removes 220 grit scratches. When you think you are through (all 220 scratches removed), then go over it again, as most people do not spend the necessary effect on this step.

Always before going to the next grit of sandpaper, take a worn piece of the sandpaper you are using, wipe it clean, then lightly go over the entire surface (in good light) checking for any noticeable scratches or flaws.

Step 4:  600 Grit Sandpaper

Removes all 400 grit scratches, wood should start to shine. Caution, listen while you sand, pieces of grit from the coarser sandpaper may be lurking in a crack or elsewhere and will get between your 600 grip sandpaper and the wood. This will make little ‘E’ shaped scratches and can be heard as you sand. Also, on these finer grits sawdust will accumulate and adhere to your paper in small dots, these dots can scratch the wood surface.

Frequentwiping of the sandpaper on your pants or cloth will help tremendously.

Step 5 : 1500 Grit Sandpaper

Removes 600 grit scratches. Be even more careful to listen for scratch makers and watch for build up on paper.

Note: Letting a finger drape over the edge of the sandpaper onto the wood helps keep unwanted grit off your wood.

Step 6:  Jewelers Rouge on Leather (split cowhide or buckskin)

Use light colored rouge (yellow or white) for light wood and dark rouge (chocolate colored) for dark woods. Applying the rouge to the leather requires pressure and a little friction heat to apply it well. Rub the wood with the rouged leather with moderate pressure until the wood

shines like glass. Be carefulnot to touchfinished surfaces with your bare skin as hand oils

or moisture will leave deep prints.

Step 7:

Now that the wood shines like glass you should be able to see every scratch you missed, yuck. You may have to go back to 220 grit in places to remove a rasp or file mark or just to 1500 grit sandpaper to remove prints. Use any finish you like (Danish oil – put 5 coats on, buffing with leather between each coat). Follow the instructions on drying time. Be sure and wipe piece dry before allowing the oil to curl or the oil will collect rouge from your leather as you buff and look muddy.

Here are a few helpful tips to speed the sanding process:

  1. Use good light!
  2. Concentrate on what you are doing.  Be systematic (start on one side, move over 1/2 inch and sand again, then move over and  repeat).  Check often to make sure you do not sand one area 20 times and another not at all.
  3. Frequently wipe surface with hand or cloth.
  4. Frequently clean or wipe the sandpaper off.
  5. From 1500 grip sandpaper on,  wear a cotton glove or use a soft cloth to hold the piece of wood. This keeps the prints down. (1500 grit sandpaper can be bought at auto body paint and supply stores)
  6. On small areas, in tight spots or if there is a specific scratch you wish to remove without redoing too much area. cut the paper in narrow strips (1/2″ to 3/4″ by 5″ to 6″). Place your thumb over a scratch (kind of a practice swing), hold the strip of sandpaper by one end, place top end of paper just above scratch then replace you thumb with light pressure. Pull the sandpaper between your thumb and the surface of the wood. Keep even light pressure on the wood, it all takes practice.


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