I purchased a stair tread from Home Depot that I wanted to use as a window sill. I think it's red oak. I stained several already and the stain didn't come out as nicely as I would have hoped. There were defects where the stain showed up in tiny scratches that were invisible to the eye. Also, the wood seems flat however very frequently the grain seems somewhat torn out, probably from when they cut the wood originally. It's hard to describe w/out a picture and my camera isn't that good. The grain is uneven and has tiny little dips all over it.

Is this "torn" grain something that I can eventually sand out? I've been sanding for a while w/ a random orbit sander, 80 grit sheet, and it doesn't seem to be making any difference. I'm sure polyurethane will cover it and it will still look good, but I'm trying to be a perfectionist here.


  • 80 is really aggressive paper. I'd suggest working your way towards 150. Jan 28, 2018 at 7:10

1 Answer 1


Yes it is something you can sand out. Be careful you only have about an 1/8" of material to work with and with aggressive sanding that can "burn through" quickly.

You will need to sand all the imperfections out with the 80G move up to 100 or 120G when you have the surface to your satifaction with the 80G. After all the sanding marks from the 80 is gone, change the grit again to 150g and remove all the marks left by the previous grit. You can check your progress of removing the scratches from the previous cut by marking the surface with a pencil and sand until the pencil goes away. I use a large "S" pattern to cover the area with marks about 2" apart, you could do the same with straight lines too. Some people say the graphite is "chased into the grain" and makes more sanding happen than needed. I have not had that problem with oak, pine yes. You could wet the surface you sanded with a fast drying compound that acts like a temporary finish so the scratches show up for a short while. Denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner comes to mind here, but then you have fumes and getting blowed up problems to contend with.

One last important note about oak. It's hard and softwood sand differently, and because of that nature, it will create an irregular surface to the perfectionist eye. The soft pad of a random orbit sander exaggerates this nature. IMHO, it is a little late to flatten it out, the sanding would have been better with a sanding block by hand and not machine. Machines have no discretion as to how much material it removes and where it removes it.

  • thanks for the response. When you sand something from a big box store (something that is already supposed to be sanded and smooth), how long do you find yourself sanding for? My sander seems to be very gentle and doesn't remove that much material, even on the highest speed setting at 80 grit. I can tell by looking in the little capture basin attached to it. When I wipe my hand along the wood, there is a very fine residue left too.
    – mj_
    Jan 29, 2018 at 2:38

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