Denibbing - How & Why You Should Denib Your Finishes

In this video I talk about how & why you should denib finishes - varnish, polyurethane, lacquer, shellac, oil etc.

Selection of 400 grit to 1500 grit wet and dry paper (UK)

10x sheets of 400 grit wet & dry paper (UK)

10x sheets of 400 grit wet & dry paper (UK)

30x sheets of 400 grit wet & dry paper (US)

0000 steel wool 1m (UK) 0000 steel wool 1kg (UK)

0000 steel wool (US)

How To Choose A Finish video:

Guide To Different Wood Finishes:

How and Why you should always denib your finish

Denibbing is the process of gently sanding between coats of finish with a high grit abrasive paper to smooth over any imperfections in the finish such as:
o brush marks if you’re applying finish with a brush
o raised grain which is when the fibres of the wood swell slightly as a reaction to moisture from the finish soaking in to the wood and
o any airbourne dust, debris or hairs that might have settled on the finish while it was curing
You can denib any of the following finishes: Paint, varnish, lacquer, stain, dye, polyurethane, shellac and any type of oil finish.  
You shouldn’t denib a wax finish, as wax tends to fill the grain of the grain of the wood making it smooth
You can use a high grit abrasive paper like 240, 320, 400, 500, 600 grit – it doesn’t really matter - any of those will do the job – if you use a lower grit like 240 you’ll do a little bit less work but your finish will be less smooth, if you use a higher 600 grit you’ll do a little more work but have smoother finish.  Personally I like to use 400 grit, but to be honest there’s really not much in it so in my opinion it's not worth worrying about, but I wouldn't go lower than 240 grit or higher than 600.
An alternative is 0000 steel wool – that might work better in situations where you’re denibbing something that’s curved for example, and some people prefer it over abrasive paper, but personally I prefer wet and dry paper mainly because it's cheaper
Starting with the obvious reason and that is to get your finish as smooth and professional looking and feeling  as possible.  It really does make a huge and very noticeable difference.  It might seem counter-intuitive to be sanding a finish that you’ve just applied, so I prefer to think about it as polishing the finish that you’ve applied rather than sanding it.  
It’s really easy to do, it isn’t time consuming at all, and it’s also inexpensive.  I tend to use is 400 grit wet and dry paper.  If you’re in the UK, the best deal I’ve found is at Toolstation where it’s £2.62 for a pack of 10 sheets which always lasts me a long long time.  Screwfix sells it too but it’s more expensive at around £4 for ten sheets.  You can also get it on Amazon and I’ll leave some links in the description box below.  There’s also some cheaper stuff on Amazon by SilverLine but I'd recommend steering clear of that stuff, it's really poor quality. 
Once you’re at a point with your project when you are ready to apply finish after sanding your project to your chosen grit – whether that is 120, 240 or whatever it might be, and it’s nice and smooth to the touch, you’re ready to apply your chosen finish, whether it’s paint, varnish, oil, shellac - whatever.  Apply the first coat of finish, and wait for it to fully dry based on the manufacturers instructions.  You need it to be totally dry, not just dry to the touch.
If you’ve used a finish that seals the wood like varnish, lacquer, shellac or polyurethane for example, I’d recommend spraying on a bit of water both to the project and to the abrasive paper and wet sanding – this forms a slurry on the surface and helps keep things smooth and removes any particles a little easier.  You don’t have to that though, you can use it dry if you prefer.  If you’ve chosen to use steel wool though, then you’ll want to use that dry, otherwise your steel wool will turn rusty!
If your finish is paint, stain, dye or oil then you’re better off avoiding using water and sanding it dry
You don't need to apply much pressure at all while you're sanding - just go over it very gently, and do it in the direction of the wood grain, unless it's MDF or something that doesn't have a wood grain ofcourse.  Doing it in the direction of the grain helps to hide any markings from sanding.  You don't need to go over the same area any more than once or twice, it should feel smooth after one or two light passes.  Check with your hand to see if it feels smooth, and when it feels good, you’ve done enough.
If you wet sanded, wipe away any dust with a cloth.  If you dry sanded, you might want to blow or brush it away instead
You might notice at this point that the finish looks really bad, I might look dull, dusty or kind of murky, but don’t worry about that, because the next coat of finish is going to make it look beautiful again!
Now you can apply your next coat of finish in the same way as you did before, wait for it to full dry again.  If you’re happy with the finish and it’s nice and smooth then you are all done!  But if you want to apply more coats of finish, repeat the process of sanding or wet sanding once again, and then wiping, blowing or brushing off the dust again and applying another coat.
You can do that as many times as you need to until you’re happy with the finish.  
Once your final coat of finish dries, it should be nice and smooth to the touch