How To Sand + Smooth Grooves (Including Furniture)

Sanding is important when you’re trying to smoothen edges or prepare a piece for a paint job, though you don’t always get a straight surface to work with.

The intricate groove work on your favorite piece of furniture will pose a headache when it’s time to sand. So what should you do? 

Here’s how to sand and smooth grooves (including furniture): 

  1. Sand grooves by hand with folded sandpaper. 
  2. Use sanding detailers. 
  3. Wrap sponge sanders around concave and convex rubber pads. 
  4. Use woodworking files. 
  5. Use hose sanders for junction grooves. 
  6. Use a rotary tool fitted with a Roloc sanding disc. 

This article will look a bit more closely at these methods and cover a few extras. Watch out for how to deal with tiny grooves and product recommendations from 

How To Sand Grooves in Cabinet Doors or Dressers

Your kitchen cabinet or dresser doors see a lot of traffic over their lifespan. They’re typically made of hardwood, but they’re still prone to scratches and dents.

Depending on the design, you can sand the grooves in these units by using one of the following methods: 

1. Sand Grooves by Hand With Folded Sandpaper

Depending on the type of groove on your cabinet or dresser door, you can fold a sheet of sandpaper and sand by hand. Press down the folded sandpaper for more traction.

If the groove is wide enough, you can also consider wrapping the sheet of sandpaper around your finger to improve the efficiency of the process. 

However, as you’d suspect, this method can get tiring if you have a large cabinet or dresser. 

2. Use Sanding Detailers

Sanding detailers are small, stick-like products that look like conventional nail files. You can effortlessly use them to work between grooves in cabinet doors or dressers.

Sanding Detailer Finishing Kit, Finer Grits, 24 piece

Options like the Sanding Detailer Finishing Kit on Amazon come with multiple grit options, and you can swap out papers when necessary. 

3. Wrap Sponge Sanders Around Concave and Convex Rubber Pads

Some parts of your cabinet or dresser doors may have recessed grooves that are harder to reach by conventional hand sanding. Convex and concave rubber molds or pads make the job less difficult. 

Wrap the sandpaper or sponge sander around the mold that best fits the groove you’re working on, hold the grip, and you can work the groove better.

11 Piece 21 Profile Contour and Angle Sanding Grip Pack for Sanding Inside and Outside Angles Beads Corners Flutes Sign Lettering Ceramics Molding Plastic Auto Body Marine Wood and Around The Home

The Fulton Contoured Sanding Grips Set (also on Amazon) is a good example here. The pack contains molds that will fit most kinds of grooves in cabinet doors. 

4. Use Woodworking Files

Woodworking files are basically files wrapped with sandpaper. For a less costly option, grab a paint stir stick and glue all around it with sandpaper cut to fit.

However, woodworking files can work well for grooves on cabinet or dresser door handles and other parts where flat sandpaper will do a good job.

They’re similar to sanding detailers, but they offer more surface area, making them a better choice for wider grooves such as the one in this YouTube video:

5. Use Hose Sanders for Junction Grooves

Hose sanders are similar to woodworking files because they’re plastic hoses with sandpaper wrapped around one end using adhesives. You can sand junctions in your cabinet door design using one of these by doing the following steps:

  1. Position the end with sandpaper around the junction. 
  2. Press the hose firmly against the cabinet door. 
  3. Rotate the hose to sand the area. 

6. Use a Rotary Tool Fitted With a Roloc Sanding Disc

A rotary tool fitted with a small Roloc sanding disc is perhaps the fastest and least stressful way of sanding grooves on your cabinet or dresser doors—as long as the disc will fit.

The tools are super easy to use, and some have variable speeds. They’re also compact, so you can be sure of one-handed usage. 

GOXAWEE Rotary Tool Kit with MultiPro Keyless Chuck and Flex Shaft - 140pcs Accessories Variable Speed Electric Drill Set for Handmade Crafting Projects and DIY Creations

The GOXAWEE Rotary Tool Kit on Amazon is a good example here. It comes with 140 accessories in the box, including small sanding discs.

Fit a matching disc on the tool, and you can quickly sand through most types of small to medium grooves. 

Before you start sanding using this approach, consider the following:

  • Most cabinets are made of hardwood, but softwood cabinets are also common. If you have a softwood cabinet, you should be careful with the sanding equipment you choose to avoid damaging the door. 
  • Remove the cabinet door from the hinges before sanding. The force from sanding can damage the door if you’re working while it’s hung.

    After detaching the door, be sure to store the screws and nuts appropriately to avoid losing them. 

How To Sand Very Small or Narrow Grooves

Some of what we’ve covered so far may not work if a piece has very small or narrow grooves. You have to get even more creative with the solutions in this scenario.

The key is to find an approach that will allow you to get sandpaper into the groove. 

Some of the solutions you can work with here include the following: 

  • Use thin folded strips of sandpaper to hand sand the groove. It will take a while to get the job done, but the results will look good.

    Since your fingers likely won’t enter such a narrow groove, you’ll have to hold one end of the fold while working. 
  • Wrap sandpaper around a knife or pencil. These objects will give you more leverage and will make working the tight groove less strenuous. 
  • Use sanding detailers or micro sanding sticks. We already talked about these above. Most are tiny enough to fit into very small or narrow grooves.

    You’ll need patience when using these on recessed grooves, but it sure beats holding a thin strip of sandpaper. 

How To Sand Chair or Bedpost Spindles and Grooves

You can sand chair or bedpost spindles and grooves with some of the manual methods we’ve discussed above. However, most chair and bed designs have wider spindles and grooves that will allow the use of power tools.

A rotary tool works great here, but the mini belt sander or file sander may be a lot better. 

A file sander is great at working grooves and spindles because the belt area is thin enough to fit in most moderate-sized spindle or groove spaces. The motor is typically strong enough to deliver quick and detailed sanding.

WEN 6307 Variable Speed Detailing File Sander with 1/2-by-18" Belt

An option like the WEN Variable Speed Detailing File Sander on Amazon is easy to work with. It has variable speeds, and changing the sanding belt is a breeze. 

If the grooves and spindles on the chair and table are too small for the file sander or have too many ornate carvings and moldings, you should consider using any of the other alternatives we’ve discussed above. 

How To Smooth Out Grooves in Furniture

You can smooth out grooves in furniture by sanding with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove scratches and gouges first before working your way up to finer grits. 

  1. Start with 100-grit sandpaper and move up to 180-and 200-grit papers. 
  2. Repeat the process if the grooves don’t look as smooth as you’d like. 
  3. Fill in holes in the groove before you get started and clear out accumulated dust as you work. 

How To Sand Grooves in Decking Boards / Tongue + Groove

Sanding outdoor and indoor tongue and groove decking boards requires a two-pronged approach. You need to first sand the individual floorboards before working on the grooves between the boards. 

Depending on the size of the area, you may either use a drum sander or an orbital sander to work on the floorboards.

For the grooves and other hard-to-reach areas, you’ll need a small handheld sander or a sanding block wrapped with sandpaper (source: SFGATE).

Final Thoughts

By now, you should have a clearer idea of the right type of sander to use for all kinds of grooves. Always wear protective gear when sanding to prevent dust inhalation and injuries.