Sandpaper, decorator’s mate, or if you prefer, hand sanding abrasive, they all do the same thing right? Wrong! With every sanding job there is an abrasive that is best suited to the task in hand.

Here we tackle some of the main hand sanding abrasives available and guide you through the pros and cons and the jobs they are best suited to in order to help you decide which you need. 

How do abrasives work?

There are many different types of abrasives, with different grits and backing materials, but most are produced in the same way.

The abrasive grains or grit, is produced by heating or chemically treating minerals which produce a hard material that is particularly good for abrading surfaces, such as wood or metal. 

Once treated, these minerals are crushed and sifted to create varying grit sizes with the finer grain sizes producing a finer finish. 

Grain coat types

There are two types of coats available, open coat and closed coat. An open coat paper means there are less abrasive grains bonded to the backing surface. They provide a slower cut and are best suited to sanding naturally soft materials. 

If the backing sheet is 100 percent covered by the grit, then the coat is closed, which makes it a strong abrasive that will achieve a finer finish.


Wear and tear is an important factor to consider when choosing an abrasive. This is called the friability of an abrasive, when the application of heat or pressure breaks down the abrasive grains. 

If an abrasive is highly friable, it means it breaks down easily creating new sharp surfaces that abrade, which make them last longer. 

Abrasives with low friability can dull much quicker.

Hand Sanding

Aluminium oxide abrasives

One of the cheapest and most popular abrasive materials is aluminium oxide paper. It is an all round general abrasive for woodworking and is an industry standard due to the many uses it is suitable for, including use on bare wood, painted surfaces or metal. 

Hermes VC 152 Aluminium Oxide Sheets

Hermes VC 152 aluminium oxide resin bonded on a medium/heavyweight paper that features an anti-static additive. This paper is especially effective for sanding paints and varnishes and is an excellent general purpose abrasive for all aspects of preparation. 

Choice of six grits, 60-240 grams. 

Hermes VC 152 'Decorator’s Mate' Abrasive Rolls

Open coat and free cutting, Hermes VC 152 ‘Decorator’s Mate’ abrasive is the perfect partner for painting and decorating preparation. Stays sharp and clean for longer when sanding painted surfaces, which means you can get the job done quicker with less paper. 

Supplied in convenient 10 metre rolls, and available in 80, 120 and 180 grit, you can take off as much or as little as you want from the centre and keep the rest neat and tidy to the last strip.

Silicon Carbide abrasives

Often used for finishing, silicon carbide papers deliver consistent results, but can be more expensive than aluminium oxide papers. It makes it a great choice when abrading hard surfaces like wood finishes, paint, plastic and metal.

Silicon carbide sandpaper also removes material without building heat. 

Hermes SF 168 Silicon Carbide Sheets 

Top quality, open coated silicon carbide, glue bonded abrasive on lightweight latex coated paper. This lubricated abrasive is one of the best papers for all aspects of hand finishing, especially paint and varnishes/lacquers. Available in a choice of eight grits, 80-500g. Mixed pack available containing the following grades: 120g x 2, 180g x 2, 240g x 2, 320g x 2, 400g x 2.

Hermes WS Flex Wet & Dry Silicon Carbide Abrasive Sheets

Hermes waterproof, silicon carbide resin bonded paper, more commonly known as wet and dry, is used primarily for car body work. Finer grades can be successfully used for final preparation, and between coats of varnish/paints, and is pre-eminent in achieving a superb result when oil polishing. It is often used on top of a solid flat surface to sharpen edge tools, the addition of a little water lubricates and prevents the paper from slipping. 

Available in a choice of 11 grits, 180-2500g. Size 280 x 230mm.

The mixed pack contains the following: 240g x 2, 400g x 1, 600g x 2, 800g x 1, 1200g x 1, 1500g x 1, 2000g x 1 and 2500g x 1.


Explore the Knowledge further for more help on sanding abrasives, tools and tips. Or explore more hand sanding abrasives online at Axminster Tools.