How to Sand a Flat Tabletop

Updated April 17, 2017

To achieve the best possible results when varnishing or staining a wooden tabletop, it is vital to sand the surface beforehand. The patterns and hues of natural wood can be subdued or lost without careful preparation, while a good sanding can improve cheap wood and enhance a fine tabletop. Take your time with the sanding and preparation process, and the final product will be a beautiful, lasting finish once it's stained.

Protect your eyes and mouth with the goggles and the dust mask. Wood dust can cause eye and skin irritation, as well as aggravate an asthmatic condition. If the wood is old or hasn't been well-treated, there are also biological dangers associated with bacteria and fungi.

Cover the sanding block with 100-grit sandpaper and begin sanding. Ensure that the sanding motion goes in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Stop sanding only when the surface is entirely even. Use the tack cloth to wipe up the wood dust.

Sand the tabletop with 150-grit sandpaper. Make sure to sand with the grain of the wood. The surface should be noticeably smoother after the second sanding. Wipe away dust with the tack cloth.

Cover the sanding block with 220-grit sandpaper and work in the direction of the grain. Oak, pine and the majority of other wood grains should be rendered smooth at this stage, ready for staining and sealing. Apply the tack cloth to remove wood dust.


For rounded edges and intricate detailing, use a foam swimming noodle, cut to size and wrapped in 100-grit sandpaper. Dense-grained woods, such as mahogany, will require an additional sanding with 320-grit sandpaper to be ready for staining. Once finished, use the tack cloth to dust the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Eye goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Sanding block
  • Tack cloth
  • Aluminum oxide sandpaper in 100, 150, 220 and 320 grit
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About the Author

Patricia K. Maggio is a freelance writer originally from Chicago, Ill. She has been living, studying or working in Europe since 2007, when she graduated with a B.A. in English from DePaul University. Most recently, her screenwriting work has appeared on BBC America and STYLE Network.