Sanding Your woodworking project for a quality finish
I can't stress enough how important sanding, puttying holes, and just good prepping of the wood project before you stain or apply the finish coat is in obtaining a professional finish.
The more time you spend prepping your project, the better the finished result. By taking the time to fill any holes and imperfections that can't be sanded out, you will greatly improve the final look. This is what separates your project from looking like WOW!!! or looking like my three year old did it.
What grit sand paper?
The roughness of the wood will determine what grit sandpaper you will use. Common sense will tell you if it is rough and you need to sand small dents out of the wood, you will need a courser grit sandpaper, such as 80 grit to smooth out the surface. Then, as you get the surface smoothed, sand again with 120 grit paper and move up to 220 grit. Where I get deals on sand paper
At this point you need to use a damp cloth to wipe down the wood you have just sanded. Let it dry and sand again with 220 or you may use 320 grit for an even smoother finish.
Gun stock finishing trick.
Use this gun stock finishing trick on your furniture project for an awesomely smooth finish.
Wipe the bare wood with a damp cloth to raise the wood grain that the stain would have raised. This way you raise it with a little water, let it dry then sand it smooth resulting in a much smoother surface than skipping the damp wiping and going straight to the stain and topcoat. You may even repeat this process a time or two for an even smoother surface. (This process is used on gun stocks.)
When sanding with electric sanders, let the sander do the work by using slow strokes in the direction of the grain. Move slowly letting the sander do the work. If you move an orbital sander too quickly or are using a lower grit paper it will leave squiggly marks. By moving the sander slower you alleviate this problem. You will need to look at the wood at such an angle to where the light will glare off of it so you can see these and any other marks that you may need to re-sand until gone.
When you have the wood smooth and free of any unwanted marks or dents you are ready to move on to stain or clear finish.