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Sanders for Stain-grade Prep

Brent Member


Let's talk best sanders for stain-grade white wood prep. I currently have a 1/4 sheet sander, a 5" ROS, and a Mirka Deros 6"x5mm orbit. My doors go through the WB sander to 180grit and get 120grit on the door edges with the large edgesander. I then sand the door edges to 150grit with the 1/4 sheet sander, break the edges by hand, and do a final face sand to 150grit with the Dewalt 5" ROS. The Deros... I love it... but it doesn't come into play on the final sanding. It leaves WAY more pronounced sanding swirls at 150grit that clearly show in the stain, the Dewalt 5" ROS I can't even see the scratches (I'm using the same sanding pad).

I want to love the Deros more, but I find the 6" is too big to not damage doors when sanding 2.25" rails and stiles. I'm considering the Mirka Deos 3x5" sander. Anyone have any recommendations on a good production-quality hand sander for my final face sanding, or have direct experience with the Deos in such an application?

3/12/23       #2: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Tom Gardiner

I have found the articles from Surf Prep to be very helpful in understanding the process of sanding. It may not be your sander you need to change but just the process. I do agree that a 6" sander is too large for door frames though.

3/12/23       #3: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Brent Member


Paraphrased from the Surfprep article: "Swirls are also a result of smooth and shiny wide belt sanding. It is impossible to hand orbital sand a smooth and shiny surface without leaving scratch marks that show. When wood is properly wide belt sanded, the scratch pattern sands away easily. The hand sander should stop sanding once the little mountains of scratch are removed to avoid driving grains into the flat plane that has just been created. The more the flat plane is sanded the more swirls will result. If the hand sander is polishing the surface they will cause their own smooth and shiny surface to create swirls in."

When I WB sand, I have the Surfprep stock removal guide pasted to the inside door of the sander and adhere to it. Is the above paragraph suggesting I am polishing the white wood on the final 180grit pass? I get the point of not oversanding with the ROS (I hate sanding too), but I have to get rid of the cross-grain scratches and I stop when I have achieved that (via visual inspection). How would I know otherwise that I am sanding too much with the ROS other than visual inspection?

I do notice less sanding swirls where I ROS sand to remove cross-grain scratches verse long-grain areas. Would this suggest I should focus more on sanding out just the cross-grain scratches and leave the rest of the white wood sanded less so?

Wheww... what a science!

3/13/23       #4: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Another Brent

I have tried every sander there is and have settled on the dewalt. The air sanders are the best but not efficient for a one man shop. I like the air sander pads much more because they are stiffer. I consider the dewalt a throw away sander, they last about a year and I have to get another, but they are cheap enough for that. Just keep them for a parts machine. Nothing beats the old school porter cable half sheet sanders for finishing, but they don't make them anymore. 6" ros have too big of an orbit, they are for stock removal imo.

You should get a light that shines flat on your work. This shows all the swirls and cross grain scratches that are there. You know exactly where to sand to. When I did this it took all the sanding frustrations out of the equation. The only way to get away from cross grain scratches without sanding is to use a tinted finish like the pre fab cabinets. I you ever refinish one of those all you see is cross grain scratches, that's why they tint the finish and don't wipe stain on.

3/13/23       #5: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Brent Member


Interesting, thanks for your input Brent. Yes, I have Dewalt ROS too and also consider it disposable. I may try the Mirka 3mm orbit sander. The light is a good idea... do you have an example?

3/14/23       #6: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Another Brent

Any light will work provided it doesn't blind you. I use a 2-light led work light with the base so I can turn them any direction depending on the door size. I just built a sanding table that elevates the doors so the work is flat across the light. You would be amazed at how small of a defect will cast a shadow.

3/15/23       #7: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Leo G Member

You can't compare a 3mm orbit to a 5mm orbit for finish sanding. The 5mm is a good compromise to do both, while you wouldn't be using a 3mm for bulk sanding.

I have the Ceros with the 5mm orbit and I rarely have finishing issues with swirls. I bring the grit up to 150 and I'm done minus special exceptions such as end grain on panel bevels and matching plywood to solid.

I have a Deos in the finish room which is a 3mm orbit, jitterbug type sander. Mostly used for scuffing clears but I use it for some finish sanding of white wood.

I used the DeWalt sander for a decade before I got the Ceros. And it is indeed a throw away sander. Like you it lasts me about a year. The last one I got lasted 3 years.

I didn't think it sanded any better than the Ceros and I wouldn't go back.

3/19/23       #8: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Chippy1987 Member

I'm a Dewalt man, and I agree with @AnotherBrent. The cordless ones work nicely for light jobs, with decent battery life.

3/20/23       #9: Sanders for Stain-grade Prep ...
Tim M

Any name brand random orbit sander with eight holes and vacuum attachment. The key to perfect stain job grain sanding BY HAND with a hard wood or melimine block. 180 grit for penetrating stain and 150 for gel stains.
After machine sanding repair any dings, chips, gaps (old or antique doors) by placing blue tape right on the edge of the repair to stop from filling adjacent wood pours. I like Elmer's wood filler as takes stain perfectly fill and remove tape when its still wet. Let the filler dry and while its drying put tape on one side the perpendicular grain style to rail interface line on all. Sand by hand on the un-taped side with the grain going fast with light pressure to remove any swirls from the sander. Switch the same tape to other, now sanded side of the line, and sand the grain by hand. Sand the panels with the grain by hand and use rubber sanding pads for moldings.
I did 13 100 yr old 8' six panel doors and grain sanding was less than 10 minutes a side not counting moldings.

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