Make sure you know the type of wood you are finishing before you start sanding...the type of wood you are sanding has a direct relationship to the grit used for the final sand! Soft woods such as pine and fir & closed grain hardwoods such as cherry, maple, birch and alder should be sanded with a 150 or 180 grit prior to the application of a finish. Open grained hardwoods like oak, ash, mahogany and walnut can often be finish sanded with a 220 grit.
The coarser the final grit size used, the darker the finish when using stain. Conversely, the finer the grit size, the lighter the finish will be. This also comes into play when sanding end grain. Always sand end grain one or two grades finer than the rest of the wood. Because end grain will take stain more readily than face grain (like coarser finished wood), by sanding to a finer finish you'll close the grain up a little and it won't accept as much of the stain.
Always test your finish sanding on a scrap piece of wood if possible. This will determine the correct sequence of sanding steps you need to achieve the desired color. Unfortunately, once the stain or color has been applied to your work, the only way to get it back off is to strip or sand it off and start all over again!
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