How to Sand Corners (by Hand or with a Sander)

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A handyman holding a detail or mouse sander

Sanding corners by hand can be tedious and hard work for most woodworking amateurs and professionals alike. Learning how to sand corners, wood, and hardwood floors is important if you want to complete one of the final steps in the overall woodworking process.

In this guide, we are sharing some useful and practical tips with you that will help you sand corners like a pro!

Why Is Sanding Important?

After construction of your wooden masterpiece or the installation of hardwood flooring, bare or finished wood necessitates sanding in order to prepare the wood for the final stages of the process which includes adding the finish.

The finish that woodworkers typically apply after the sanding process consists of either varnish, shellac, lacquer, as well as oils, paint or stain.

To make sure that the finish properly adheres to the surface of the wood in question, you will have to perform the meticulous process of sanding which can test your patience and fortitude but is easily overcome with the right techniques and equipment.

Generally speaking, the main objectives that you are probably looking to accomplish with sanding are:

  • you want to remove any mill marks that are commonly caused by woodworking equipment and machinery,
  • you will also want to remove other potential flaws in the wood such as dents and gouges that may have been introduced while you were hard at work on carving or installing your soon to be completed project,
  • you want to remove the marks of the tear and wear a wooden surface had been exposed to (e.g. when refinishing a hardwood floor), or
  • you require the surface of an object or workpiece to have a certain smoothness that you can only achieve through sanding.

An alternative technique to sanding is planing – you can find a detailed comparison of both methods in this article.

Tips on How to Sand Corners of Wood and Hardwood Floors

There are a number of ways that woodworking that professionals approach the task of sanding down their finished or installed products. Luckily for you, we have compiled a list of tried-and-true methods that withstood the test of time that woodworkers use to sand hardwood flooring as well as hard to reach areas like corners.

What Equipment Do You Need for Sanding Corners?

Before you undertake the task of sanding, you will first need to acquire the appropriate equipment for the job at hand. While sanding always requires some kind of sandpaper or sanding material, you can choose the tool from 2 generic sanding tool types:

  • hand sanders (for manual sanding) and
  • powered sanders (electric or air tool).

There is a plethora of sanding equipment available on the market today, so it can be a little confusing to know exactly what you may need to appropriately sand away the unneeded layers of defects or roughness to arrive at your desired level of surface smoothness. Read on to find a list of tools that we have found useful for sanding corners of wood and floors.

Hand Tools (non-powered)

Like many folks these days, you are probably running a relatively tight budget for your sanding needs. Using manual hand tools can be a good approach to getting corners properly sanded. Whether you are sanding an area with a powered sander or by hand, you can use a hand sander, a sanding block or a bow sander to get the corners done.

Hand Sander

The hand sander is the ideal manual approach to sanding small patches of wood such that you don’t have to worry about wearing out your wrist. Hand Sanders are available in different sizes and have a form that facilitates working in corners. The hand sander is also a good solution if you’re working in a noise-sensitive environment.

This is a good alternative to a powered sander if you really need to keep a close eye on what you’re doing given that a split moment of inattention with a powered sander may result in a mistake that you can’t turn back from.

Bow Sander

The bow sander is specifically designed to allow you to sand contours, edges, and exterior corners with relative ease. This is the perfect manual sanding tool that sanding pros use to get to those often hard to reach corners.


An example of a bow sander (aka sanding bow).

Compared to a hand sander, it offers more convenience for certain use cases, e.g. sanding external corners.

Powered Sanders

Powered handheld sanders come in all shapes and sizes. For sanding corners, the likes of palm, mouse, detail, and random orbital sanders are the ideal tools.

Handheld sanders are designed in such a way that they fit comfortably in the palm of your hand all the while minimizing the amount of stress you place on your wrists. Handheld sanders are a must-have for medium to large projects and can be used well for hardwood floors.

Sandpaper and Grit Types

Regardless of whether you sand your corners by hand or with a powered sander, you will need to think about the sandpaper that you are going to use.

What Are the Different Types of Sandpaper?

There are four main grit paper types available to you that are commonly found at your local hardware store for purchase.

  • Aluminum oxide
  • Garnet
  • Silicon carbide
  • Ceramic

Knowing which type of sandpaper to use is fundamental to accomplishing a proper sanding job and getting the desired smoothness level you’re looking for.

For example, the aluminum oxide sandpaper will generally last the longest of the four but is the most delicate as it quickly crumbles, easily forming new soft edges. Garnet, on the other hand, will wear out the fastest but will also produce the smoothest surfaces.

If you’re a woodworker who is shaping wood, then we tend to recommend ceramic sandpaper for the job as it is also the most pliable allowing you to sand the tightest nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, is the most expensive of the group.

Hardwood floors will require sandpaper that will last a while as you have a lot of surface area to cover, in which case you usually can’t go wrong with silicon carbide grit.

Choosing the Right Grit

There are many levels of grit paper available, from super coarse 12 grit all the way up to very fine 600 grit sandpaper that is best suited for polishing jobs (source). Sanding jobs are typically done in a predetermined grit sequence that we’ll outline for you below, as it applies to hardwood flooring.

Sanding the Corners of Hardwood Floors

Sanding hardwood floors is one of the more challenging DIY activities around the house. If you are planning to refinish your hardwood floor, you might be wondering how to get the corners and edges of a floor sanded to ensure an even surface and a consistent smoothness of the entire floor.

Sanding the corners of a floor comprises basically of the steps required to sand all other parts of the floor – you can read this instruction for sanding hardwood floors to learn all the details.  

Repeat the Sanding Process in All Corners

For sanding most parts of the floor, you will likely use a floor sander or a bigger hand-held sander (source). However, these tools may not be small enough to help you sand the corners. Use a hand sander or a powered palm or edge sander to process the corners of your wood floor (check the previous section for guidance on the equipment).

When sanding the corners, you basically repeat what you have done for the rest of the floor – i.e. you prepare the corners accordingly, choose the same grit as for the rest of the floor and, at a later point, apply the same type of finish in these corners.

However, the difference is that you use another tool for your corners and that you will need to care about the transition between the sanded areas.

The Equipment Needed

The layout of most rooms that you would need to sand is square or rectangular. Thus, you will have four corners that you will need to take care of. Corners are known for being a challenging spot to sand as most sanders used for floor refinishing won’t be able to access the hard to reach area. In order to sand a corner, go ahead and use either a hand sander or a small powered sander that supplements the processing of the bigger sanding tool in small corners. If there are still areas that cannot even be accessed with a small handheld sander, pick-up some adhesive sandpaper with use the adhesive end to wrap the sandpaper around a pen, pencil, dowel, or putty knife.


Detail or Mouse Sanders – like this SKIL Sander, for instance – are inexpensive yet very useful for sanding corners.

This will help you reach and sand the corner appropriately without damaging any of the surrounding wood or walls that don’t require sanding. You can also use an emery board, the thing you use to file nails down with and use that as another method for reaching hard to reach crevices and corners.

Conclusion

Sanding corners and edges can be tricky yet it is not a rocket science if you have the right equipment at your hand. Use hand tools for smaller projects or delicate work and get a detail or palm sander to enjoy the convenience of powered sanding for bigger projects.

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