Sanding a wood bowl is essential to complete and prepare for a bowl’s finish. Honestly, I really don’t like sanding that much. Using the right sanding equipment makes the job much easier.
The last thing I want to be doing is spend all day sanding a bowl. I’d much rather be turning on the lathe.
I’ve managed to develop a sanding process that works well at achieving a good looking smooth finish in a relatively short time span. If you’d like to learn more about how I use my bowl sanding equipment and finish techniques, click here.
Here is my list of recommended sanding equipment along with Amazon links to each item.
At the core of the bowl sanding process is an electric power sander. I use an angled electric drill with variable speed control to get the best sanding results and bowl accessibility. This no-frills, variable speed, affordable drill does the job of sanding very well. The electric bushings last longer if you blow out the vent holes frequently on the sides of the drill. I use my as a dedicated sander at the lathe and I do not use it for any other tasks.
Foam Sanding Pad Mandrel
An additional foam soft interface pad can be added between the sanding mandrel and the sanding disk. This pad aids in making a smooth final sanded surface and prevents excessive pressure from removing material in any one spot. When working on a specific area this extra padding reduces the likelihood of a valley being formed accidentally.
Kinetic Powered Manual Sander
What happens is this sander uses the power of the bowl turning on the lathe to rotate the sanding disk. No electricity needed. You just hold the edge of the sander up to the bowl and it begins spinning and sanding. It’s pretty ingenious.
It does take a little time to get the angles right. At first, it seems like it’s not going to work but once you discover the correct angle to hold the sanding disk, it kicks in and goes to town. I’ve seen a few negative reviews online for this sander. My guess is they didn’t take the time to figure out how it works.
As I explained in my bowl sanding tools and finishing techniques post, I use two different types of sanding disks for different purposes. The economical paper sanding disks and the higher quality mesh sanding pads each serve different roles. I use both of these types of sanding pads throughout the bowl sanding process.
Paper Sanding Disks
|Two-Inch Sandpaper Disks||Three-Inch Sandpaper Disks|
|80 Grit||80 Grit|
|120 Grit||120 Grit|
|180 Grit||180 Grit|
|220 Grit||220 Grit|
|320 Grit||320 Grit|
|400 Grit||400 Grit|
|600 Grit||600 Grit|
Mesh Sanding Disks
|Three-Inch Mesh Sanding Disks|
Traditional sandpaper can be used to hand sand wood bowls both with the lathe running and when stopped. Be careful not to tightly grip the sand paper when the lathe is rotating. It’s best to touch the paper to the bottom area of the bowl when the lathe is spinning.
- 80 Grit Sandpaper
- 120 Grit Sandpaper
- 180 Grit Sandpaper
- 220 Grit Sandpaper
- 320 Grit Sandpaper
- 400 Grit Sandpaper
As a last fine “sanding”, it’s really more of a slight abrasive smoothing, I use 0000 Steel Wool to make a nice surface to apply a final finishing coat or to buff out My Favorite Wood Finish. When I’m using my favorite oil wood finish, and the oil has dried for about 24 hours, I use the 0000 steel wool to buff a light sheen on the finished bowl.
When I apply a lacquer finish, I will spray three or four coats and let them dry. Once the lacquer is dry to the touch, I will hand-smooth the surface with 0000 Steel Wool and apply a final coat of lacquer.
A word of caution about steel wool. If your final finish is a water-based clear product like a poly-varnish, be sure to remove all traces of steel wool residue beforehand. The steel will react to the moisture and create rust stains under the finish if it’s not completely cleaned off first. Rusting is not a factor for oil-based finished.