Breaking Down the Sand Paper Grit Scale: From Coarse to Fine


Breaking Down the Sand Paper Grit Scale: From Coarse to Fine

Sandpaper, also known as abrasive paper, is a versatile tool used in various industries and DIY projects. It is a sheet of paper or cloth with an abrasive material attached to one side. Sandpaper is commonly used for smoothing surfaces, removing paint or rust, and preparing surfaces for painting or finishing. The effectiveness of sandpaper depends on its grit size, which determines its coarseness or fineness. In this article, we will delve into the sandpaper grit scale, exploring the different grit sizes and their applications.

The Basics of the Sandpaper Grit Scale

The sandpaper grit scale is a standardized system used to measure the coarseness or fineness of sandpaper. It is based on the number of abrasive particles per square inch of the sandpaper. The higher the grit number, the finer the sandpaper. The grit sizes typically range from coarse to fine, with each grit size serving a specific purpose.

Coarse Grit Sandpaper

Coarse grit sandpaper, typically ranging from 40 to 80 grit, is the roughest and most aggressive type of sandpaper. It is used for heavy material removal, such as stripping paint or varnish, shaping wood, or smoothing rough surfaces. Coarse grit sandpaper is not suitable for finishing or polishing, as it leaves deep scratches on the surface.

Examples of applications for coarse grit sandpaper include:

  • Removing paint or rust from metal surfaces
  • Shaping and smoothing rough edges on wood
  • Preparing surfaces for refinishing

Medium Grit Sandpaper

Medium grit sandpaper, ranging from 100 to 150 grit, is the middle ground between coarse and fine grits. It is used for general sanding and smoothing tasks, such as removing scratches, preparing surfaces for painting, or sanding between coats of paint or finish.

Applications for medium grit sandpaper include:

  • Sanding wooden furniture before applying a new finish
  • Smoothing drywall joints or patches
  • Preparing surfaces for painting or staining

Fine Grit Sandpaper

Fine grit sandpaper, ranging from 180 to 240 grit, is used for finishing and polishing surfaces. It is ideal for removing small imperfections, smoothing wood, and preparing surfaces for a final coat of paint or finish. Fine grit sandpaper leaves a smooth and even surface without visible scratches.

Examples of applications for fine grit sandpaper include:

  • Final sanding before applying a clear coat or varnish
  • Smoothing wood surfaces for a polished finish
  • Preparing surfaces for painting or staining with a smooth finish

Extra Fine Grit Sandpaper

Extra fine grit sandpaper, ranging from 320 to 600 grit, is used for ultra-smooth finishes and delicate work. It is commonly used in the automotive industry for wet sanding between coats of paint or clear coat. Extra fine grit sandpaper is also suitable for sanding metal surfaces, glass, or plastic.

Applications for extra fine grit sandpaper include:

  • Wet sanding automotive paint for a mirror-like finish
  • Smoothing metal surfaces before polishing
  • Removing imperfections from glass or plastic

Types of Abrasive Materials

Now that we have explored the different grit sizes, it is important to understand the various abrasive materials used in sandpaper. The choice of abrasive material depends on the application and the material being worked on. The most common abrasive materials used in sandpaper are:

Silicon Carbide

Silicon carbide sandpaper is known for its durability and versatility. It is suitable for both wet and dry sanding applications. Silicon carbide sandpaper is commonly used for sanding metals, plastics, and ceramics. It is also effective for sanding between coats of paint or finish.

Aluminum Oxide

Aluminum oxide sandpaper is a popular choice for general-purpose sanding. It is durable and long-lasting, making it suitable for sanding wood, metal, and fiberglass. Aluminum oxide sandpaper is available in various grit sizes and is compatible with both hand sanding and power sanding tools.


Garnet sandpaper is a natural abrasive material that is gentle on surfaces. It is commonly used for sanding wood, as it does not leave deep scratches. Garnet sandpaper is available in various grit sizes and is suitable for both hand sanding and power sanding.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper for Your Project

Choosing the right sandpaper for your project is crucial to achieve the desired results. Consider the following factors when selecting sandpaper:

Material Being Worked On

The material being worked on plays a significant role in determining the appropriate sandpaper grit and abrasive material. For example, sanding wood requires different sandpaper than sanding metal or glass. Consider the hardness and sensitivity of the material to select the right sandpaper.

Project Goal

Determine the goal of your project. Are you looking to remove material, smooth surfaces, or achieve a polished finish? Coarse grit sandpaper is suitable for material removal, while fine grit sandpaper is ideal for finishing and polishing.

Surface Condition

Assess the condition of the surface you are working on. If it is rough or has imperfections, start with a coarse grit sandpaper and gradually move to finer grits. If the surface is already smooth, you can start with a medium or fine grit sandpaper.

Hand Sanding vs. Power Sanding

Consider whether you will be sanding by hand or using a power sander. Some sandpaper is specifically designed for power sanding, while others are more suitable for hand sanding. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure compatibility with your sanding method.


Sandpaper is an essential tool for various applications, from woodworking to automotive refinishing. Understanding the sandpaper grit scale and the different abrasive materials available allows you to choose the right sandpaper for your project. Coarse grit sandpaper is used for heavy material removal, while fine grit sandpaper is ideal for finishing and polishing. Consider the material being worked on, the project goal, the surface condition, and the sanding method when selecting sandpaper. By using the appropriate sandpaper grit and abrasive material, you can achieve professional results and ensure the success of your project.

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