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Sanding wood smooth without losing rustic saw marks Answered

I've searched for an answer but can't find one. Hoping someone can help me out with this.

I recently picked up some old wood boards, about 3" thick, 4' long, and a foot wide. They're fairly old and have that warm weathered look of old raw wood. On one side you can see the nice circular saw marks from when they were milled. They're also very splintery, and I got plenty of splinters when I moved them.

My goal: preserve their rustic beauty while making them into usable wood for furniture. I want the surface smooth enough that splinters aren't an issue.

How can I sand the boards so they are smoother a micro level, but don't lose the beautiful saw marks? Ideally I'd keep that weathered color, but I suspect I'll lose at least some of that due to sanding and will have to fake it with stain.

Thanks a ton for any help!


I agree with Artlife. Sand it with a course grit using an orbital or even by hand. When you stain the saw marks will pop.

Hi, I have made a few pieces of furniture that have a rustic feel. Not rough, just not perfectly even like most commercial furniture today. Some of them I did with hand planes and skipped the sandpaper all together. The easiest way to take down those boards a little, would be to use abranet either by hand or even better in an orbital sander. http://www.amazon.com/Mirka-9A-241-080RP-pieces-6-Inch-Abranet/dp/B001BKXW8K/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1372775982&sr=8-12&keywords=abranet+sanding+discs If you stick to a coarse grade and don't get carried away by the "joy of sanding" you will be fine.

Thanks artlife. Is there a difference between abranet and regular sandpaper? I have a belt sander, but no orbital sander right now.

Yes, there is a big difference between abranet and sandpaper. The abranet (and abralon) products seem more expensive but they last much longer. Taking a belt sander to that wood is going to wipe out the texture you are trying to save. Do you have a scrub plane? If so you can knock down some of the rougher spots on the edges and then use the abranet on the entire surface. Can you borrow or rent an orbital sander?

I don't have a grinder or much of anything else. I have a very limited set of tools in my little apartment :-)

I can probably get an orbital sander to use. Thanks for the tips!

Okay, good luck. Will you post your project when you are done?

Also, for the color, you should be able to match the weathered color with a wipe-on poly. It comes in a bunch of colors and it is super simple to apply. Just wipe it on and wipe it off. Just use a rag to apply. No tools needed.

Do you have a grinder? If so you can try using it in place of an orbital sander. The issue with the grinder is you have to use a very light touch.

I think so too.

Shot blasting. Or some other media, like dry ice. You can't do it DIY, but it will do what you want.

I saw a guy on TV ages ago, he made a rustic table out of lumps of tree. Rather thsn preserve the original texture, he added it afterwards by gently attacking the surface with a power file.

That's cheating :-)

But really, I've seen lots of DIY tips on making wood look distressed, but nothing really brings back the original curved lines of a sawmill blade. I'd rather not lose that if I don't have to.

You might want to try something less aggressive than sandpaper. Fine steel wool or those scotch pads (potscrubber green plasticky mesh fiber). Steel wool needs to be vacuumed out or you might see little rust stains later on. Try wet sanding or sanding sealer first and knock off just the big parts. Good luck.

Thanks for the ideas. Not sure those will be enough to really smooth up the surface, but it might be worth a shot.

Perhaps a "high build" epoxy finish will work.
You won't have to do any sanding.

Check out this site:http://www.uscomposites.com/kk121.html

They are saying that  this product can be applied  in 1/8 inch thick coats.
And 3 coats is  not unusual .

Thanks RavensCraft. The epoxy is an interesting idea, but it's not really the look I'm going for. I'll definitely use some polyurethane, but in my experience that's not enough to prevent splinters.