Careful sanding is crucial if you want to obtain a professional finish on wood. Although power tools can do much of the heavy sanding on large jobs, only careful hand-sanding with progressively finer grades of sandpaper will guarantee a silky-smooth finish.

Sandpaper is sold in sheets or in packets of small squares. Buying by the sheet is more ecnomical and allows greater flexibility in shaping the sandpaper for specific jobs.- Sandpaper consists of a paper backing with an abrasive mineral coating. The abrasive particles may be close together (closed coat) for average work, or spaced widely apart (open coat) for materials such as old paint, that tend to clog when sanded.

- Flint is the cheapest sandpaper but it cuts slowly and dulls rapidly. Because of its low cost, it's a good choice for such jobs as removing old finish, and can be discarded as it clogs.

Garnet paper, which is more expensive, is more durable and best for all-round hand finishing.

Aluminum oxide is another highly durable paper for hand or power sanding.

Silicon carbide is harder and sharper but does not last as well; use it to smooth paint or varnish. If it has a wet-or-dry backing, you can dampen it with water or oil for an extra-smooth finish.

- Use coarse for shaping wood and removing heavy finishes, medium for preliminary sandings and for smoothing rough edges and cuts, and fine for final sandingbefore finishing.