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Sandpaper or glasspaper[1] are names used for a type of coated abrasive that consists of sheets
of paper or cloth with abrasive material glued to one face. Despite the use of the names neither
sand nor glass are now used in the manufacture of these products as they have been replaced
by other abrasives such as aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. Sandpaper is produced in a range
of grit sizes and is used to remove material from surfaces, either to make them smoother (for
example, in painting and wood finishing), to remove a layer of material (such as old paint), or
sometimes to make the surface rougher (for example, as a preparation for gluing). It is common
to use the name of the abrasive when describing the paper, e.g. "aluminium oxide paper", or
"silicon carbide paper".
The grit size of sandpaper is usually stated as a number that is inversely related to the particle
size. A small number such as 20 or 40 indicates a coarse grit, while a large number such as 1500
indicates a fine grit.

The first recorded use of sandpaper was in 1st-century China when crushed shells, seeds,
and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Shark skin (placoid scales) has also
been used as an abrasive and the rough scales of the living fossil, Coelacanth are used for the
same purpose by the natives of Comoros.[2] Boiled and dried, the rough horsetail plant is used in
Japan as a traditional polishing material, finer than sandpaper. Glass paper was manufactured
in London by 1833 by John Oakey, whose company had developed new adhesive techniques
and processes, enabling mass production. Glass frit has sharp-edged particles and cuts well
whereas sand grains are smoothed down and do not work well as an abrasive. Cheap
sandpaper was often passed off as glass paper; Stalker and Parker cautioned against it in A
Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing published in 1688.[3] In 1921, 3M invented a sandpaper
with silicon carbide grit and a waterproof adhesive and backing, known as Wet and dry. This
allowed use with water, which would serve as a lubricant to carry away particles that would
otherwise clog the grit. Its first application was in automotive paint refinishing. [4]

320 grit silicon carbide sandpaper, with close-up view.

There are many varieties of sandpaper, with variations in the paper or backing, the material used
for the grit, grit size, and the bond.
In addition to paper, backing for sandpaper includes cloth (cotton, polyester, rayon), PET film,
and "fibre", or rubber. Cloth backing is used for sandpaper discs and belts, while mylar is used as
backing for extremely fine grits. Fibre or vulcanized fibre is a strong backing material consisting
of many layers of polymer impregnated paper. The weight of the backing is usually designated by
a letter. For paper backings, the weight ratings range from "A" to "F," with A designating the
lightest and F the heaviest. Letter nomenclature follows a different system for cloth backings,
with the weight of the backing rated J, X, Y, T, and M, from lightest to heaviest. A flexible backing
allows sandpaper to follow irregular contours of a workpiece; relatively inflexible backing is
optimal for regular rounded or flat surfaces. Sandpaper backings may be glued to the paper or
form a separate support structure for moving sandpaper, such as used in sanding belts and
discs. Stronger paper or backing increases the ease of sanding wood. The harder the backing
material, the faster the sanding, the faster the wear of the paper and the rougher the sanded
Type of abrasive[edit]
Types of abrasive materials include:

glass: no longer commonly used

flint: no longer commonly used

garnet: commonly used in woodworking

emery: commonly used to abrade or polish metals

aluminium oxide: The most common in modern use, with the

widest variety of grits, lowest unit cost; can be used on metal
(i.e. body shops) or wood

silicon carbide: available in very coarse grits all the way through
to microgrits, common in wet applications

alumina-zirconia: (an aluminium oxidezirconium oxide alloy),

used for machine grinding applications
chromium(III) oxide: used in extremely fine micron grit
(micrometre level) papers

diamond: used for finishing and polishing hard metals, ceramics

and glass

ceramic aluminum oxide: used in high pressure applications,

used in both coated abrasives, as well as in bonded abrasives.
Sandpaper may be "stearated" where a dry lubricant is loaded to the abrasive. Stearated papers
are useful in sanding coats of finish and paint as the stearate "soap" prevents clogging and
increases the useful life of the sandpaper.
The harder the grit material, the easier the sanding of surfaces like wood. The grit material for
polishing granite slab must be harder than granite.
Different adhesives are used to bond the abrasive to the paper. Hide glue is still used, but this
glue often cannot withstand the heat generated during machine sanding and is not waterproof.
Waterproof or wet/dry sandpapers use a resin bond and a waterproof backing.
Sandpapers can also be open coat, where the particles are separated from each other and the
sandpaper is more flexible. This helps prevent clogging of the sandpaper. Wet and dry
sandpaper is more effective used wet because clogging is reduced by particles washing away
from the grinding surface. Arguably there are also benefits due to lubrication and cooling.
Sandpaper comes in a number of different shapes and sizes:

sheet: usually 9 by 11 inches (280x230 mm), but other sizes

may be available

belt: usually cloth backed, comes in different sizes to fit

different belt sanders.

disk: made to fit different models of disc and random orbit

sanders. May be perforated for some models of sanders.
Attachment includes pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) and
"hook-and-loop" (similar to Velcro).

rolls: known as "shag rolls" by many contractors

sponge: for tight places

Grit sizes[edit]
Grit size refers to the size of the particles of abrading materials embedded in the sandpaper.
Several standards have been established for grit size. These standards establish not only the
average grit size, but also the allowable variation from the average. The two most common are
the United States CAMI (Coated Abrasive Manufacturers Institute, now part of the Unified
Abrasives Manufacturer's Association) and the European FEPA (Federation of European
Producers of Abrasives) "P" grade. The FEPA system is the same as the ISO 6344 standard.
Other systems used in sandpaper include the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JIS),
the micron grade (generally used for very fine grits). The "ought" system ({0, 00, 000, ...} aka
{1/0, 2/0, 3/0, ...}) was used in the past in the US. Cheaper sandpapers sometimes use
nomenclature such as "Coarse", "Medium" and "Fine", but it is unclear to what standards these
names refer.

Grit size table[edit]

The following table, compiled from the references at the bottom, compares the CAMI and "P"
designations with the average grit size in micrometres (m).

Grit size table

ISO/FEPA Grit CAMI Grit Average particle

designation designation diameter (m)


Extra Coarse (Very fast removal P12 1815

of material, hardwood
flooring initial sanding)
P16 1324

P20 1000

P24 764

24 708

P30 642

30 632
36 530

P36 538

Coarse (Rapid removal of P40 40 425


50 348

P50 336

Medium (sanding bare wood in 60 265

preparation for finishing, for
gentle removal of varnish, also
used for skateboard grip tape)
P60 269

P80 201

80 190

Fine (sanding bare wood in P100 162

preparation for finishing, not
suitable for removing varnish or
paint from wood, use for cleaning
100 140
plaster and water stain from

P120 125

120 115

Very Fine (sanding of bare wood) P150 100

150 92

P180 180 82
P220 220 68


Very Fine (sanding finishes P240 58.5

between coats)

240 53.0

P280 52.2

P320 46.2

P360 40.5

Extra fine, start polishing of 320 36.0


P400 35.0

P500 30.2

360 28.0

P600 25.8

Super fine (final sanding of 400 23.0

finishes, final sanding of wood)

P800 21.8

500 20.0

P1000 18.3
600 16.0

P1200 15.3

Ultra fine (final sanding and P1500 800 12.6

polishing of thick finishes)

P2000 1000 10.3

P2500 8.4

P3000 6

P6000 4