swirls in Maple wood

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Ugh....those dreaded swirls in the wood from a hand sander. I sanded (electric sander) off the stain of a nice maple table and then sanded (by hand) with a piece of sandpaper to get rid of those swirls....but once I put on the stain...UGH! Those swirls are there. I'm attaching a picture of the top but it's not so viewable in the pict. Prior to staining I used a Varthane Wood conditioner. So, my question to anyone out there...how to fix this? Should I want till it cures and then hand sand it off (non-electric sanding)...

Thanks for any help you can provide.


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I don’t see the swirls. Can you post a closer picture to show the swirls so we can see exactly what you are talking about? ‘Swirls’ can mean different things to different people. 

If it’s a scratch pattern left by the sand paper, then grits were skipped or not used long enough to remove the scratches left by the previous grit. 

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Hmm...ok. So, maybe swirls is not the correct term. They are those tell-tale little circles caused by the hand-sander. I have seen this happen on this type of soft wood before but I thought I smoothed it all over with actually rubbing it over with 220 grit by hand. Not sure if you can see it in the new closer picture.  (I started with 80, 100, 120 and then 220)



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7 minutes ago, Tpt life said:

Pig tails. That is typically a pressure issue. Too much down pressure can cause that. Light pencil shading can give visual reference to ensure even coverage as you progress through grits. 

Ah...ok. So, too much pressure applied as I was sanding. Ok....good to know. Now, how to fix the issue? Re-sand down to bare wood again?


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Checking the surface between grits with a low raking light can help spot those tell-tales before you get to the staining stage.

Although the pattern your photo shows is probably a pressure issue as mentioned by @Tpt life, you may also see random singular swirls if the spoil builds up under the sander, or from loose grit. Using a proper vacuum to extract the dust through the holes in the sanding pad helps tremendously, as does vacuuming tge surface between grits to remove any dust or debris.

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14 hours ago, Ronn W said:

In my experience jumping from 120 to 220 grit is too much.  I am pretty sure the pigtails are from the 120 grit,  I suggest 120 - 150- 220,  0r 120-150-180 (You really don't need to go much finer than that).  I have learned that getting past the 120 grit takes more sanding than most people think.


12 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Checking the surface between grits with a low raking light can help spot those tell-tales before you get to the staining stage.

In addition wiping down with mineral spirits can enhance visibility of the scratch pattern and clean off the swarf.

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