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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

Sanding terms - 28 definitions all about wood sanding

Updated: 4 days ago

A wood sanding cheat sheet of sanding terms for DIY beginners

Every keen DIYer knows that wood sanding is a necessary evil, or perhaps you are one of those people who actually find the process of wood sanding cathartic and satisfying and are now raising your eyebrows and tutting at the screen! Either way, if you are a beginner looking for info, the subject of wood sanding can be a bit overwhelming. I recently wrote a Guide to sanding wood for Real Homes, which has lots of process-related info - read it here.

If you know what you are doing and are here to look for a particular term, or perhaps fancied swotting up on sanding-related terms and phrases, here’s part 2 of my DIY dictionary - all about sanding. (Just in case you missed it Part 1 was all about painting, read it here)

sanding machine for wood sanding

Aluminum oxide

One of the possible materials used to create the abrasive grits on sandpaper’s surface, alternatives include sand, garnet, and silicon oxide.

Barrel grip

The area at the base of an orbital or random orbital sander that is shaped to aid grip and control of the sander

Belted sander

A type of sander with replaceable belts of sandpaper

'Break the edge'

The process of rounding a sharp corner


Refers to the size of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. Coarse sandpaper has large particles with high abrasion.

Closed-coat sandpaper

Type of sandpaper with a high surface coverage of abrasive particles with little space in between.


The handle part of an orbital sander shaped like a ‘D’


Circular replacement sandpaper sheets of variable abrasion

Dust mask

Recommended when sanding to prevent inhalation of dust and Microparticles

Dust mask for wood sanding

Dust extraction system

The system by which a sander catches and collects the dust particles created in the sanding process.

Dust bag

Where the dust collected from the sander is collected/stored.


Refers to the size of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. Fine sandpaper has very small particles with low abrasion, for finishing sanding.

Grain (wood)

The pattern and texture in the wood resulting from the way wood fibres are arranged.

grain in a piece of wood


The abrasive particles that make up the sandpaper. The lower the grit the larger the particles and the more abrasive it is.

Hook and loop

The velcro-like system used by some sanders to attach the sandpaper discs to the pad at the base of the sander

Medium grit

Refers to the size of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. Medium grit sandpaper has particles in between coarse and fine and is a good general-purpose sandpaper.

Mouse sander

Small electric sander with a pointed end that resembles a computer mouse

Mouse sander for wood sanding

Orbital sander

Type of sander with a rotating sanding pad, to which you attach sandpaper discs. Read my article on the best budget orbital sander

Open-coat sandpaper

Type of sandpaper with gaps between the grit for dust and debris to collect.


Removing too much of the wood’s surface, resulting in uneven or discoloured areas.

Sander Pad

The area at the base of the sander to which the sandpaper attaches

Sanding stick

A piece of wood (a paint stirrer is ideal) with a sheet of sandpaper glued around it to make a DIY sanding file. Read a tutorial for DIY sanding sticks here.


Similar to 'grit's the 'P' refers to the rating on the FEPA scale. The lower the P rating the higher the abrasion.

Palm grip

The top area of some models of sander, designed to rest your hand on to control the motion of the sander.

Random orbital sander for wood sanding

Random orbital sander

A rotating sander, similar to an orbital sander but also moves backward and forwards which reduces the risk of the swirl pattern forming.

Sanding block

A block that provides support to a sheet of sandpaper (wrapped around it), or a purpose-made block with sandpaper coating.

Sanding sponge

These are basically sanding blocks that are made from a soft spongy material and have a variable, abrasive outer coating. The benefit of a sanding sponge is that it can be moulded to sand curved shapes and are easier on your hands too.

Swirl marks

Round marks that are left in the surface of the wood when using a random orbital sander. Usually due to flaws in the technique, a dirty clogged sander or poor-quality sandpaper discs

Wet sanding

The process of sanding with the introduction of water

I hope this was helpful.

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling, and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page). Why not check out some of my other posts...

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