Types of Sandpaper

Your walls need repainting? Furniture lacking luster? Need to scrape the rust off that old car? All you want now is the right kind of sandpaper that gets the job done. Here's the dope on all sorts of sandpapers out there.
HobbyZeal Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Sandpapers are things that we sometimes tend to take for granted. Some of us have also committed the folly of making use of any variety available at home, because all sandpapers are ultimately sandpapers, aren't they? Yes, they are, but each one has its own purpose. So, when you use the wrong type, either you won't be able to do any sanding, or worse, leave scratches on the surface. Some dilemma, this. And when you get down to the task, you'll have grit size, material, backing adhesive, abrasion... so many things that must be considered while choosing the right kind of sandpaper that fits your needs. Confused? Fret not, as we bring you a comprehensive guide on different types of sandpapers available in the market and their uses.
Characteristics and Types of Sandpaper
Surface Material
This refers to the material that forms the surface. There are four commonly found materials.
  1. Aluminum Oxide is a very popular type that can be used on metals as well as wood. It is also available in all kinds of grits.
  2. Garnet usually suits wood. It is the traditional sandpaper as the surface comprises actual sand particles. The level of coarseness is lower than aluminum oxide, making it less durable.
  3. Silicon Carbide, like aluminum oxide, is available in all types of grits and is extremely coarse. You will find it handy while wet sanding any surface. It is used to cut metal, plastic, fiberglass and remove paint. However, it tends to wear out faster.
  4. Ceramic is the hardest of all the sandpapers available in the market, and the most expensive one as well. It is used in shaving and leveling wood. They form a part of sander belts most of the time.

Grit

The grit of a sandpaper is the abrasion that you see on the surface. This is the most crucial feature of a sandpaper. They have values that correspond to the level of coarseness; higher the number, smoother the surface, and vice versa. Following are the types of sandpaper available, along with their respective uses.
                                                          Sandpaper Varieties
Grit Grit Grade Grit Size (┬Ám) Compatible With Used For
Macro Grits Very coarse 30-36 Metal and Wood Removing rust, Shaping wood
Coarse 40-50 Metal and Wood Removing paint, On hardwood floors, Removing scratches
Medium 60-80 Wood and Plaster Preliminary smoothing of walls, Wood sanding, Removing marks
Fine 100-120 Wood and Plaster Final use before the finishing
Very Fine 150-220 Wood and Plaster Final sanding
Micro Grits Extra Fine 220-240 Wood and Plaster Sanding between coats, Giving a silky touch
Super Fine 400-600 Wood, Plaster, Glass Sanding of finishes, Wet sanding, Giving sheen
Ultra Fine 800-1000 Glass Polishing


Backing material

Though sandpapers are often 'papers', sometimes different materials like cotton, polyester or rayon may be used in backing. Vulcanized rubber or fiber can be used to make the base as well. In case of very fine grits, mylar is the appropriate material. Why is this important? The backing material indicates the flexibility, thus determining its usage.
Adhesive Used
The glue mainly used to manufacture sandpapers is called 'hide glue'. However, it is not waterproof, if you need to use one for wet sanding; pick one that has a resin bond and waterproof backing material.
Shapes
Sandpapers are available in different shapes to suit your requirements, sheets being the most common. Other shapes include rolls and disks, and cloth backed belts are used to fit in belt sanders. Sandpaper sponges allow sanding in hard-to-reach spots.
Sanding can be made easy just by choosing the right kind of product. And just in case you run out of regular sandpaper, you even have the option of a liquid sandpaper. Hopefully, you are now armed to make the right choice. Before you get down to business, don't forget to put a dust mask on!