How to Sand in Small and Narrow Grooves

How to Sand in Small and Narrow Grooves

We woodworkers all know about sandpaper. It’s common to virtually every home workshop project, from furniture to cabinets, from trim to frames. The lower the grit the number, the coarser the sandpaper; the higher the grit number, the finer the sandpaper. We start with a lower number to remove more material quickly, and we end with the finer grits to make the surface smooth.

For larger sanding tasks, there are power tools to choose from, orbital sanders, random orbital sanders, belt sanders, etc. We’ve written about them previously, and you will find an earlier article about them here. And, of course, you can always hand sand, too.

But what about those tight spots, those tiny crevices, or small grooves too narrow for power tools? A little ingenuity or some specialized tools can help you out with them, and we’ll point you in the right direction in this article.

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What Can I Use To Sand in Grooves?

If you have trimmed out a room in your house, you know the v-grooves common to door trim. While trim usually comes fairly well smoothed, you’ll still want to sand between coats of finish or paint to make them perfect. Here’s a quick video on sanding trim with some good suggestions.

Most of us have folded sandpaper and used the fold to reach into the grooves, and this is not a bad solution. But, fingers get scraped, nails get broken, and if you aren’t careful, you can create an uneven surface on the concave or convex curves of the trim.

Many of us, too, have renovated or refinished our kitchens, including cabinets and cabinet doors. Raised panel cabinet doors might have presented a challenge to sand the edges of the raised panels and reach into the recessed corners to clean out an old finish or paint job.

And, we all have refinished old furniture for our homes, too. Perhaps we’ve had to deal with turned legs or decorative grooves on them, wanting to remove all evidence of finish or paint yet maintaining the integrity and beauty of the pieces.

We have a mix of power tools and hand tools to suggest, generally, for sanding in those tight spots, tiny crevices, and grooves, all of them effective and none of them expensive.

  • Detail Sanding Cones. If you’ve never seen or heard of them before, but have had work done on your teeth, then you’ve seen a variation of them in your dentist’s hands. Cone-shaped sanding implements on the end of the dentist’s drill smooth out your tooth to remove any sharp edges.

The same principle is at play with a detail sanding cone. They are cone-shaped bits of sandpaper wrapped tightly into the cone shape, and they are attached to a bit that fits into the power tool. The spinning of the cone will sand nicely in pretty much any tight spot on your wood.

The cones come in a variety of sizes to fit any tiny spot or groove and do a good job for you. Here’s a video to see them in action. They are inexpensive, come with a wide variety of cone sizes, and readily available online and at the large DIY stores.

  • Sanding Detailers. These are hand tools and are exactly what the name implies. Think a sharp-bladed craft knife you hold in your hand, only instead of the blade, the business end is wedge-shaped to a point and covered with an abrasive that can easily reach into any crevice or groove.

The abrasives come in a variety of grits, from coarse to fine. These stick sanders use replaceable belts, and the business end is small enough to fit where other sanding solutions can’t.

They are purchasable in kits that include the “stick” and replaceable belts, easily found online, in local hardware stores, and at the big DIY stores, for under $30.

  • Sanding Sponges. Exactly as the name suggests, these hand tools are high-density sponges covered with an abrasive that comes in various grits, from coarse to fine. They can be used wet or dry, and even used under water (perhaps you are polishing metal).

They are especially good for smoothing edges, although because they are so pliable (they are sponges, after all), they can fit in grooves, too.

They are inexpensive (a set of 8 might set you back $8), washable, reusable, and available online, at local hardware stores, and at the large DIY stores.

  • Oscillating Tools. You’ve either seen advertisements for one (think Dremel or a Milwaukee multi-tool, for instance)) or actually have one in your shop. Triangular sanding tool heads are available for oscillating tools, and they work very well in small crevices and grooves.

These are versatile tools with more uses than simply sanding and make a good addition to your power tool inventory. For sanding in those tight spots, their triangular heads make it easy to reach into narrow spots or grooves, and they do a good job of cleaning them out.

  • Large Contour Sanding Pads. We all know what a sanding block is and how effective it can be in most instances – a block around which we wrap sandpaper, gripping the block for added strength and force while sanding. Sanding pads are a variation on this theme.

These pads have a grip end, and the business end is like a food scraper. Sandpaper is wrapped around the business end, which then fits into the groove you need to clean and smooth out. The grip gives you the ability to add some force as you sand away, and the task is made easy. 

The grip ends come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you’ll be able to find one that fits your hand well. They are inexpensive, under $10, and will last you a long time. You can find them online, at your local hardware store, and at the big DIY stores.

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  • The DIY Kind. We mentioned ingenuity, and this is what we meant. Imagine a very high apple pie, maybe still warm. Cut a wedge for yourself and enjoy it with a little vanilla ice cream.

After you’ve eaten, find a piece of scrap 2 x 4 and cut a block that fits well in your hand. Cut it corner to corner, in the shape of the wedge of pie you just ate. Wrap some sandpaper around the point of the wedge to form a pointy-shaped sanding block.

It will work for you just as the store-bought contour sanding pad, but for pennies at most instead of dollars. We woodworkers have to be creative and crafty in our work, and this is an easy and effective  DIY solution for sanding your small and narrow groove.

Have a groove that needs sanding? No problem. You now have one DIY solution, a couple of power tool solutions, and a couple of hand tool solutions. Each of them can get the job done well for you, and none of them will break the bank.

Last update on 2022-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API