Until recently I've always assumed (and always done) a sanding to the wood before applying the finish. However I recently saw Rob Cosman saying that where possible, he prefers to prepare the wood for any finish using a plane because sanding is dusty and messy. I must admit that I also don't particularly enjoy sanding, both by hand or electric sander for the same reasons and also for potentially sanding inaccuracies into the components. So is a sanding prep necessary for a finish to be able to take to the wood, or is planing just as affective?
I think it is up to you. Sanding will pull in more stain (if that’s your thing) and right off the hand plane will leave facets (or faces at slightly different angles to each other).
Before sandpaper, scrapers were used to smooth the wood.
In my limited experience and experiments I have found that sandpaper (even 400 grit) tears out the wood fibers and a good sharp piece of metal cuts the wood fibers.
I have finished both with Shelac, Tung oil, furniture wax, and Polyurethane. All seem to adhere just fine. I can’t feel the difference and they both look the same (just that sanding pulls in more stain).
I use both depending on the look or finish I am after. Good luck!
Marc Spagnuolo did a video on this I believe.
The way I look at it is, if I'm sharpening a plane to 6000 grit, that leaves 6000 grit sized serrations in the edge of the blade, thus replicating 6000 grit sandpaper. I might be absolutely wrong with that, but it's a nice story I made up in my head.
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