I'm new to woodworking and know very little, so apologies if this is an extremely basic question or I'm doing something completely wrong. Recently I've tried to sand away a few imperfections on a Snakewood pen blank I bought, using 220 grit sandpaper initially and following up with 600 grit. So far so good and I was able to remove the imperfections.

However then when my wood dried there was a chalky white residue on it. I've attached pictures to demonstrate, the blank on the right is the sanded one and on the left I have another snakewood pen blank which the sanded one looked like initially. I'm not sure what initial finish was applied to the blank on the left.

I'm not sure what this residue is but I would guess it is a mixed slurry of silicon carbide from the sandpaper and the wood the sanding shaved off. This is aesthetically quite displeasing so I tried getting rid of it. When I wet the blank it looks normal again but the white residue reappears as it dries, so I guess it is stuck in the grain of the wood.

So far I've looked up this issue on the internet and the recommendations range from washing down with a microfibre cloth (no effect), sanding further with different grits (no effect) to oiling the wood with mineral oil (again it looks OK when oiled but the white residue reappears as the oil gets absorbed) to using turpentine to get rid of the residue (again no effect, it reappears when the blank dries).

I've also had this issue before when sanding wood, especially when I'm only sanding part of the piece: when wet everything looks good but upon drying a white residue forms over the sanded area that is near impossible to remove.

Does anyone know concretely what this residue is and what is the best way to get rid of it? Thanks in advance for all your help!

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(click to enlarge images)

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to Woodworking. You don't need to sand away imperfections in a pen blank, that surface is all going to be removed by subsequent shaping operations — it is almost completely irrelevant what the wood looks like before you begin turning.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 15:15
  • About the sanding issue on a more general front, if the sandpaper itself may be part of the issue then #1 thing to try is a different type or make of abrasive. Sanding residue in the grain of the wood is of course perfectly normal and a natural part of the process, it's not always a problem. Now about the wet sanding specifically, why wet sand? Again some wet sanding is normal, but when and where you do it in woodworking is selected so that it is done when appropriate, and not otherwise.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 15:16
  • Hi Graphus, like I mentioned I know very little about woodworking as I'm just starting out. I'm not intending to turn these pen blanks, I just wanted to try out sanding on some small inconsequential items initially to make sure I don't damage something more valuable and this pen blank seemed like a good choice.
    – Hadi Khan
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 16:14
  • I decided to use wet sanding to minimise the amount of dust. I don't know if it causes any qualitative differences in the finished product or whether dry sanding would have been better in this case. Anyways I only sanded in the direction of the grain. So what is the best way to remove the sanding residue from the grains of sand?
    – Hadi Khan
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 16:16
  • Water on the wood will have a tendency to raise the grain up making the surface rougher than if dry sanded. This could make a difference in appearance and surface smoothness when you apply a finish to the wood.
    – Ashlar
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 23:38

1 Answer 1


Light sanding (320) cleaned up my mess quickly. Surprised that wiping with mineral spirits didn't work. I did notice that areas of wood exposed to the wet slurry (next to epoxy) did show filling of wood pores, but I don't think that's a problem in my case--just not that noticeable. I don't know anything about snakewood, but I'm guessing that the wet slurry of water and wood dust was forced into the pores of the wood--can't imagine it went very deep.

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