You are not logged in. [ Login ] Why log in
(NOTE: Login is not required to post)

Post a Response
The staff at WOODWEB assume no responsibility for the accuracy, content, or outcome of any posting transmitted at any WOODWEB Forum. Participants should undertake the use of machinery, materials and methods discussed after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.
Your Name:
Your Website:
Email Address:
Subject: Re: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood


(read message guidelines).
Note: Do not use the below fields to advertise your business - only for links related to the discussion.
Thread Related Link URL:
Thread Related Link Title:
  To "point" to an image (picture) from another website, provide the URL (Web Address) of the file ( include ONE reference to http:// )
Thread Related Image URL:

Date of your Birth:

Upload a Thread Related File:
File Types: Image (gif-jpg-png-bmp), PDF, Sketchup, Video (mov avi wmv mpeg mpg mp4 ogg). (Image Upload Tips)

I have read the Site User Agreement and agree with the Terms

  <= Check to receive e-mail notification of responses

Message Thread:

Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood

Josh Koschak Member

I am looking for suggestions on what to do on eliminating swirl marks in clear alder/maple (tight grain woods).

I am building a clear alder kitchen, and have all the face frames, fronts, and doors ready to sand and finish.

What I am having an issue with is all the swirl marks in the wood. I am using Rubin paper, 120 grit on a Festool ETS 150/3.

I went back to the Porter Cable Model 505 1/2 sheet sander with 3M 120 grit, and same results. Although prior to the dark stain they feel perfect.

The stain is Sherwin Williams BAC wiping stain. Recently we switched our stain samples out and no longer offer anything from Minwax. This new stain system is showing this problem where I never saw it with the Minwax.

I also used our old Dewalt and Bosch 5" ROS's with Lowes brand 120 grit, my Festool 90 with granat 120, and also the ETS 150/3 with Abranet 80/100/120, all having the same results; a swirl finish.

Am I being too critical working under LED lighting on the bench? I am wondering how to achieve a swirl free finish before proceeding, any help is greatly appreciated! There has got to be a solution to this. BTW, my pad on the ETS is in excellent condition.

3/13/17       #2: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...
D Brown

With Alder I go 100g to 220g it takes more to sand Alder than Red Oak imo.

3/13/17       #3: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...
Guy Knight

most of what i do is alder 120 is way to rough to stop at 180 is the minimum and even then with alder it is hard to get it swirl free

3/13/17       #4: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...
door shop guy

120 is the problem. At least go 150.
I use Mirka Ceros and Dynabrade sanders.
I never was impressed with any of the Festool sanders.

3/13/17       #5: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...

Ya, what he said.

Typical sanding grits:

150 bare wood ready for primer or clear coat.

180 bare wood ready for staining

240 grit sanding primer or sealer

320 grit or maroon scotchbrite between coats

3/14/17       #7: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...
james e mcgrew Member


as said 120 is the problem it is a mid step to a finish we go to 180 then 220 even 320 depending on desired finish

3/17/17       #8: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...
Mike Jungers Member

We just finished an alder kitchen that used a lacquer based dye. We had good luck sanding to 150 with ETS 125's but we had to dial the vacuum way back till it was just catching dust. That seemed to clear up any swirling, especially on finished skins. With oil stains we go to 180+ because of how the pigment lays in the scratch.

3/27/17       #9: Swirl Marks in Unfinished Wood ...
Adam West  Member


The biggest tricks to avoiding swirls is light pressure and not over sanding. You don't mention the state of your material before orbital sanding, but that has an effect also.

You need to be sure your back up pad continues to spin as you sanding for the sander to "randomize" the scratch.

Go out in your yard, hook up your plow to your tractor, and plow an 8" deep furrow but don't leave any marks in the grass. That is like what we try to do with orbital sanders.

Low pressure on the machine gives less depth of cut. Low angle led lights help you to see how much sanding is required. The quicker you stop the less swirl.

The last tip is to slow down your hand speed. The pad must spin to randomize the scratch, but it cannot do its job if it can't keep up with the speed of movement. The quicker you move the bigger the swirls.

If I'm doing a job that cannot have any scratch pattern I will often use a soft block with 180 or 220 to lightly scuff the surface to remove most of the remaining scratch. If you properly opened the surface in the previous steps it will have almost zero impact on final color.


Buy & Sell Exchanges | Forums | Galleries | Site Map

FORUM GUIDELINES: Please review the guidelines below before posting at WOODWEB's Interactive Message Boards (return to top)

  • WOODWEB is a professional industrial woodworking site. Hobbyist and homeowner woodworking questions are inappropriate.
  • Messages should be kept reasonably short and on topic, relating to the focus of the forum. Responses should relate to the original question.
  • A valid email return address must be included with each message.
  • Advertising is inappropriate. The only exceptions are the Classified Ads Exchange, Machinery Exchange, Lumber Exchange, and Job Opportunities and Services Exchange. When posting listings in these areas, review the posting instructions carefully.
  • Subject lines may be edited for length and clarity.
  • "Cross posting" is not permitted. Choose the best forum for your question, and post your question at one forum only.
  • Messages requesting private responses will be removed - Forums are designed to provide information and assistance for all of our visitors. Private response requests are appropriate at WOODWEB's Exchanges and Job Opportunities and Services.
  • Messages that accuse businesses or individuals of alleged negative actions or behavior are inappropriate since WOODWEB is unable to verify or substantiate the claims.
  • Posts with the intent of soliciting answers to surveys are not appropriate. Contact WOODWEB for more information on initiating a survey.
  • Excessive forum participation by an individual upsets the balance of a healthy forum atmosphere. Individuals who excessively post responses containing marginal content will be considered repeat forum abusers.
  • Responses that initiate or support inappropriate and off-topic discussion of general politics detract from the professional woodworking focus of WOODWEB, and will be removed.
  • Participants are encouraged to use their real name when posting. Intentionally using another persons name is prohibited, and posts of this nature will be removed at WOODWEB's discretion.
  • Comments, questions, or criticisms regarding Forum policies should be directed to WOODWEB's Systems Administrator
    (return to top).

    Carefully review your message before clicking on the "Send Message" button - you will not be able to revise the message once it has been sent.

    You will be notified of responses to the message(s) you posted via email. Be sure to enter your email address correctly.

    WOODWEB's forums are a highly regarded resource for professional woodworkers. Messages and responses that are crafted in a professional and civil manner strengthen this resource. Messages that do not reflect a professional tone reduce the value of our forums.

    Messages are inappropriate when their content: is deemed libelous in nature or is based on rumor, fails to meet basic standards of decorum, contains blatant advertising or inappropriate emphasis on self promotion (return to top).

    Libel:   Posts which defame an individual or organization, or employ a tone which can be viewed as malicious in nature. Words, pictures, or cartoons which expose a person or organization to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person or organization, are libelous.

    Improper Decorum:   Posts which are profane, inciting, disrespectful or uncivil in tone, or maliciously worded. This also includes the venting of unsubstantiated opinions. Such messages do little to illuminate a given topic, and often have the opposite effect. Constructive criticism is acceptable (return to top).

    Advertising:   The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not an advertising venue. Companies participating in a Forum discussion should provide specific answers to posted questions. WOODWEB suggests that businesses include an appropriately crafted signature in order to identify their company. A well meaning post that seems to be on-topic but contains a product reference may do your business more harm than good in the Forum environment. Forum users may perceive your references to specific products as unsolicited advertising (spam) and consciously avoid your web site or services. A well-crafted signature is an appropriate way to advertise your services that will not offend potential customers. Signatures should be limited to 4-6 lines, and may contain information that identifies the type of business you're in, your URL and email address (return to top).

    Repeated Forum Abuse: Forum participants who repeatedly fail to follow WOODWEB's Forum Guidelines may encounter difficulty when attempting to post messages.

    There are often situations when the original message asks for opinions: "What is the best widget for my type of shop?". To a certain extent, the person posting the message is responsible for including specific questions within the message. An open ended question (like the one above) invites responses that may read as sales pitches. WOODWEB suggests that companies responding to such a question provide detailed and substantive replies rather than responses that read as a one-sided product promotion. It has been WOODWEB's experience that substantive responses are held in higher regard by our readers (return to top).

    The staff of WOODWEB assume no responsibility for the accuracy, content, or outcome of any posting transmitted at WOODWEB's Message Boards. Participants should undertake the use of machinery, materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB's Message Boards after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages it deems inappropriate. (return to top)

  • Forum Posting Help
    Your Name The name you enter in this field will be the name that appears with your post or response (return to form).
    Your Website Personal or business website links must point to the author's website. Inappropriate links will be removed without notice, and at WOODWEB's sole discretion. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    E-Mail Address Your e-mail address will not be publicly viewable. Forum participants will be able to contact you using a contact link (included with your post) that is substituted for your actual address. You must include a valid email address in this field. (return to form)
    Subject Subject may be edited for length and clarity. Subject lines should provide an indication of the content of your post. (return to form)
    Thread Related Link and Image Guidelines Thread Related Links posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should point to locations that provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related Link that directs visitors to an area with inappropriate content will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    Thread Related File Uploads Thread Related Files posted at WOODWEB's Forums and Exchanges should provide supporting information for the topic being discussed in the current message thread. Video Files: acceptable video formats are: .MOV .AVI .WMV .MPEG .MPG .MP4 (Image Upload Tips)   If you encounter any difficulty when uploading video files, E-mail WOODWEB for assistance. The purpose of WOODWEB Forums is to provide answers, not to serve as an advertising venue. A Thread Related File that contains inappropriate content will be removed, and uploaded files that are not directly related to the message thread will be removed. WOODWEB reserves the right to delete any messages with links, files, or images it deems inappropriate. (return to form)
    Limtech Industries, Inc. Lamello