How to Sand Between Lacquer Coats: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re looking to achieve a flawless, smooth finish on your woodworking project, knowing how to sand between lacquer coats is essential. This step-by-step guide will provide you with the information you need, even if you’re a complete beginner.

How to Sand Between Lacquer Coats
From by FWStudio

Things You’ll Need


High-grit sandpaper (usually 320-400 grit)

A soft cloth

A vacuum or compressed air can

Protective gear (mask, gloves, safety goggles)

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Sand Between Lacquer Coats

Here’s the sanding process…

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Before diving into the actual sanding process, preparing the surface is crucial. A clean surface ensures that no grit or debris gets trapped under the lacquer, causing imperfections.

Inspect the Surface: Check for any visible cracks, splinters, or rough areas. If you find any, you might want to consider sanding them down before you start.

Clean the Surface: Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove any loose dirt or particles.

Wipe it Down: Follow up with a lint-free cloth to capture any remaining dust or particles. For an extra measure of cleanliness, a damp cloth can be used, but make sure the surface is completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

Step 2: Apply the First Coat of Lacquer

Properly applying the first coat of lacquer sets the stage for the layers that follow.

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Safety First: Always wear protective gear such as a mask, safety goggles, and gloves to protect yourself from fumes and splatters.

Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions: Each lacquer can have different application guidelines. Familiarize yourself with these beforehand.

Apply the Lacquer: Using a quality brush or spray gun, evenly apply the lacquer to the surface. Make sure to use smooth, consistent strokes to prevent any runs or sags.

Let it Dry: This is crucial; do not rush this step. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to know how long it should take for the lacquer to dry. The drying time can vary based on environmental conditions like humidity and temperature.

Step 3: Prepare for Sanding

Proper preparation can make the difference between a project that looks ‘okay’ and one that looks professionally done.

Check the Dryness: Perform a “touch test” to ensure the lacquer is completely dry. If it feels tacky, give it more time.

Set Up Your Work Area: Make sure your work area is free from dust and other debris that could contaminate your project during the sanding process.

Step 4: Choose the Right Sandpaper

Choosing the right sandpaper is crucial for a smooth, perfect finish.

Understand Grit Numbers: The grit number indicates the size of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. A higher number means finer grit.

320-400 Grit is Ideal: For sanding between lacquer coats, you typically want a higher grit like 320 to 400. This will effectively smooth the surface without removing too much of the lacquer.

Quality Matters: Invest in high-quality sandpaper as it won’t deteriorate as quickly and will give you a smoother finish.

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Test a Small Area: Before you go all out, test the sandpaper on a small, hidden area to make sure it’s giving you the result you want.

Step 5: Sanding Between Lacquer Coats

The act of sanding between lacquer coats may seem simple, but the technique is essential for a refined finish.

Position Your Sandpaper: Hold the high-grit sandpaper (that you selected in Step 4) firmly but not too tightly. You want enough pressure to sand but not so much that you dig into the surface.

Use Circular Motions: Lightly sand the surface using small, circular motions. Maintain consistent speed and pressure to ensure an even finish.

Check as You Go: Periodically lift the sandpaper and inspect the surface. This will help you gauge if you’re being too aggressive or if the surface is becoming smooth as needed.

Clean the Surface: Once you are satisfied with the smoothness, clean the surface of any dust using a soft cloth or a vacuum cleaner. A tack cloth can be especially useful to pick up finer particles.

Step 6: Apply Subsequent Coats

Your first coat was just the beginning; now it’s time to build on that foundation.

Inspect the Surface: Before applying another coat, make sure that the previous coat is perfectly smooth and free from dust or imperfections.

Mix the Lacquer: If your lacquer needs to be mixed, do so according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This ensures consistency between coats.

Apply the Lacquer: Similar to your first coat, apply the lacquer in even, smooth strokes. Aim for a thin coat to make it easier to sand later.

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Allow to Dry: Let this coat dry completely as you did the first, adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines for drying times.

Repeat Sanding: After drying, repeat Step 5 for sanding between lacquer coats. Most projects will need at least 2-3 coats for optimal results.

Step 7: Final Touches

Once all coats are applied and sanded, you’re nearly there. A few final touches can make a significant difference.

Optional Final Sanding: If you desire an ultra-smooth finish, lightly sand the surface one last time using the same high-grit sandpaper.

Clean Thoroughly: Whether you opt for the final sanding or not, make sure to clean the surface meticulously with a vacuum and a tack cloth to remove any remaining particles.

Inspect the Work: Before considering the project complete, do a thorough inspection to make sure there are no rough spots, drips, or inconsistencies.

Apply a Sealant (Optional): If your project requires extra durability, consider applying a sealant as a final step. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines if you choose to do so.

For more articles on sanding, click here: Sanding: Your Full-Circle Guide to Smooth Mastery

Conclusion: How to Sand Between Lacquer Coats

Learning how to sand between lacquer coats can make a significant difference in the final look and feel of your woodworking project. By following these steps, you’re well on your way to achieving a professional, flawless finish.

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