Here is a picture of the right end of the countertop that I hand sanded vertically with 150-grit sandpaper but I don't get a nice finish.

I plan to sand it up to 180 grit and apply an oil finish. Should I just continue to sand it more in the same direction or am I doing it wrong?

right side countertop

  • Edit this question and clarify what you mean by "top to bottom". Generally, you sand "with" the grain, or along the long markings in the wood. Also, 150-grit is probably way too coarse, as this wood has already been machine planed for you.
    – jdv
    May 18 '20 at 17:41
  • I plan to sand it down to grit 180 then apply a oil finish. Originally these two sides were pretty rough (between 80-100 grit). May 18 '20 at 18:05
  • 2
    You should edit this question and tell us these details instead of hiding them in comments. Make sure you take the tour to get a feel for how this is not a threaded forum.
    – jdv
    May 18 '20 at 18:21
  • Also, remember that the point of finer grits is to remove the marks left from previous grits. This is the nature of sandpaper. You also don't say if you are sanding by hand or by machine. So make sure you edit the question and tell us that as well.
    – jdv
    May 18 '20 at 18:28
  • I believe they are referring to sanding the end grain of the butcher block.
    – Alaska Man
    May 18 '20 at 20:03

Normally you sand in the direction of the grain1 for best results. But this surface is all end grain, so that doesn't apply since technically the grain direction is outwards (towards the viewer).

What you do with end grain is instead sand until no sanding marks are visible, and/or you're happy with the surface. Beyond that the sanding direction makes little or no difference to the quality of the result.

Here though there is a good reason to sand in a specific direction, and that's simply one of ease — it's far harder to consistently sand a long, narrow surface like this working up and down, you really have to sand going side to side.

I plan to sand it up to 180 grit and apply an oil finish.

Generally you need to go finer than this on end grain (it's fairly commonplace to sand end grain to a higher grit than the long-grain surfaces of the same project)2.

How fine to sand is always a matter of individual preference. I would go to 240 at minimum myself, and sometimes you'll read of people sanding their end grain to 400 and sometimes beyond. But basically sand until you are happy with how it looks and feels since you're the one who has to live with it.

1 Approximately in the direction of the grain. You can't always sand exactly parallel to the grain since it may vary across the surface of any board, and additionally some coarse-grained woods respond well to deliberately sanding at a slight angle (not an issue if sanding using random-orbit sanders).

2 In addition to other reasons it also helps the end grain not turn out so dark when wet with the finish. If both long-grain and end-grain surfaces are sanded equally, to normal levels, the end grain will be very much darker once most finishes have been applied because end grain is very open and absorbs finish like a sponge.

  • Ah, the OP meant end-grain. Ok. I've had decent luck with random orbital sanders and a light hand. I needed a lot of breaks to remove the loose material from the end-grain before it clogged everything up. Both the end-grain and the sandpaper will "corn" up fast. But, as you say, it doesn't matter which direction you cut.
    – jdv
    May 19 '20 at 16:06

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