Dick Colestock's Wood Turning Sanding & Finishing Procedure
Dick Colestock's procedure for obtaining a great finish on a wood turning lathe. (The steps can also be adapted when a lathe is not being used.)
  • Start sanding using low number to high number sanding grits to remove final tool marks and obtain that elusive 'fair curve' with a minimum of 'whoop-de-doos'. This is usually an 80 or 120 grit disk on a power sander with a sponge backing to prevent over-sanding. Each grit is passed across the slowly turning bowl, inside and out, a couple of times.
  • You MUST remove all the scratches from the previous grit BEFORE switching to the next grit. It is very important to stay away from any crisp edges as sanding will destroy these in a heartbeat. You may find that end-grain tearout becomes more visible as you get to the finer grits and you'll have to go back and start over with a coarse grit until all tear out is removed.
  • Repeat the preceding step with 180, 240, 300 and 400 grits and then switch to Scotchbrite material. Start with the maroon colored Scotchbrite and reverse the bowl turning direction to pick up any grain that is laid over.
  • Repeat the Scotchbrite sanding process using the color sequence: maroon, green, light gray and finishing with white. With each color change, increase the lathe speed and sand longer.
  • The final Scotchbrite white pass will burnish cherry to a wonderful glow which is improved by several coats of Tung Oil. When the last coat of Tung Oil leaves a visible sheen on the wood surface, it is time to buff the piece.
  • I use the Beall System of buffing pads on the shaft of an electric motor. The entire piece is buffed with red rouge first, then white diamond (and a different buffing wheel) and then finished with hard carnauba wax (and its own buffing wheel). I have never found a better system for bringing out the intrinsic beauty of a turned piece.
  • Some of the more porous woods, such as oak and walnut, may require fillers and some of the denser woods such as coco bolo may not require one coat of oil but they can all look their best with this careful final step.

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