Preparing Wood

Make the wood as smooth and perfect as possible to ensure a great finish. Find and fill defects, conceal unsightly edges in plywood, and sand thoroughly.
Detecting defects

Natural defects in wood include tiny, solid knots; thin splits or cracks; and minuscule pest holes. Inspect your project carefully for these and note them. If you find them on hardwood that will be stained and clear finished, it's best to wait until after you've completed the finishing to take care of them. Then apply a colored putty that matches the final finish.

Or you can fill small gaps and other minor imperfections prior to adding a clear finish. One way to do this is to mix some of the wood's own sawdust with a bit of the finish and fill with that. Fine sanding dust is best; the dust-collecting bag or cup of a finishing sander, if yours is so equipped, is a great source. The other way is to simply buy a prepared filler in a matching color.

Use a commercial filler or exterior patching compound to smooth the rough edges of softwood plywood you plan to paint. Then sand the repair. For hardwood plywood, use iron-on veneer tape of the same wood species. In some cases, moldings can conceal the edge and add style at the same time.

Sand smooth

Do all prefinish sanding with orange-colored, open-coat garnet sandpaper. Dust won't clog it as easily as closed-coat papers, so it lasts longer and works better. For hand-sanding, "A" weight paper works best. Wrap it around a sanding block so the surface you're working on remains flat as you smooth it. The higher the grit number, the finer the grit. For most work, start with 100-grit, then use 150-, and end with 220-grit. Clean the surface of the wood between sandings with a vacuum, a tack cloth, or a paper towel lightly dampened with a solvent such as lacquer thinner.

Filling: Step 1

Use a nail set and hammer to drive nailheads below the surface. Press filler into the hole, let it dry, then sand flush.

Filling: Step 2

Softwood and softwood plywood often have blemishes that will show through a finish. To prevent this, apply a wood filler with a putty knife, then sand when dry.


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