Power your way to a polished finish
Sand the surface flat
Begin sanding the finish with 220- or 320-grit stearated sandpaper to remove dust nibs, brush strokes, and runs or dips, photo right. If you use a random-orbit sander with 220- and 320-grit discs, watch for build-up on the abrasive, middle photo. This can form lumps, called "corns," that mar the finish instead of smoothing it. Stop immediately and clean the disc if you see loops in the surface dust, bottom photo.
After you reach the 400- through 1,000-grit abrasives, switch to hand-sanding with wet/dry sandpaper lubricated with mineral oil. Sand with the grain, and clean the surface using mineral spirits and a soft, clean cloth after each grit.
Note: As you gain finish-sanding skill using mineral-oil lubricant, save time and mess by switching to a lubricant that lets abrasives cut faster. Make your own from 1 tablespoon of dish-washing liquid in 1 quart of water. Be careful: Fast-cutting lubricants increase the risk of sanding through the finish. When you have an even sheen, you're ready to polish.
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