How to Strip Paint Off Wood With Sanders


Restoring old wooden surfaces often requires the removal of old paint and other finishes. While chemical strippers can sometimes be used to shortcut the process, a power sander is another option. There are many types of power sanders, the three most useful in this project are belt sanders for the initial rough work, random orbit sanders for finish sanding large areas, and detail or profile sanders for getting into the crevices. Using all three of these together, you can make short work of almost any paint-stripping project.

Things You'll Need

  • Belt sander, 80- or 100-grit
  • Random orbit sander, 100-grit and 150-grit
  • Tack cloth
  • Detail sander, 120-grit and 220-grit
  • Emery cloth

Belt Sanding

  • Start your sanding process with an 80- or 100-grit sanding belt. Work parallel to the grain of the wood to minimize scratches. Start the sander along one long edge, keeping the sander moving to prevent it from digging in.

  • Run across the surface in overlapping rows, keeping the belt turning as you go. Watch the edge of your belt to ensure it does not "walk" off the rollers, which can cause rubber burn marks on your wood. Tighten the belt adjustment as needed to keep the belt straight.

  • Sand with the belt sander until the grain of the wood is visible across most of the surface. Resist the urge to finish removing the paint with the belt sander, stop when the surface is smooth, but some areas of paint remain.

Random Orbit Sanding

  • Start sanding with a 100-grit sandpaper disk. Work across the surface parallel to the grain of the wood, focusing on removing the bulk of the remaining paint. Keep in mind your finished project. Remove all paint for projects that will be stained. Smooth the surface and remove all loose paint if your project will be painted.

  • Run a second pass across the surface once the paint is removed with 150-grit sandpaper. Work in the direction of the grain and focus on removing any scratches caused by belt sanding. Replace the paper as needed to keep the sander working at prime efficiency.

  • Wipe the surface down with a tack cloth to remove the dust. Run your hand over the surface to feel for uneven areas. Re-sand any areas that feel rough.

Detail Sanding

  • Install the sanding tip that best fits the edges or detail section you are going to sand. Sand along the edges and corners of your piece with 120-grit sandpaper. Focus on removing the remaining paint in these areas.

  • Replace the 120-grit sandpaper with 220-grit for the second finishing pass. Smooth the grain and remove any scratches.

  • Wipe the dust from the surface with a tack cloth and run your hand over the areas you worked with the detail sander. Rework any areas that require it. Use emery cloth by hand to work very fine details.

Related Searches


  • The Wood Sanding Book; Sandor Nagyszalanczy; 1997
  • Wood Finishing Simplified; Joe L'Erario; 2008
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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