Today I sat down with some paisley spoons and my usual sanding set up (a narrow tray with some warm water and a few drops of washing up liquid in it to help break the surface tension) and 11 different grades of wet and dry sandpaper! For flat objects I put the paper on the tray under the water and sand on the flat surface. For things that aren't flat (such as spoons) I sand above the tray and dip the paper and object in the water when I start to notice a residue. Thinking about it a bowl would be easier when not sanding flat things so will try that next time.
Sandpaper wrapped round a block
I normally just use the sand paper in my hand but today I also tried wrapping it round a block (one of the kids wooden building blocks). It made it more comfortable to hold at least so I will do this again. I should of sanded using the same grades of paper with and without the block to see if that made a difference - next time! Quite a few people recommend using foam backed wet and dry sandpaper. I don't have any but I also just read a tip about wrapping normal sandpaper round foam for curved objects - going to give that a try too.
I had 4 spoons so tried using 4 different combinations of papers - all finishing on a different grade.
The first thing that struck me was how similar they all were! I thought you would easily be able to tell the difference between the ones that had been finished to a higher grade, but it was hard to tell. My mum even thought that the one on the left, the one finished to 1200 grit sandpaper was a little more shiny. My dad was able to correctly identify the one that had been sanded most (the second on the left that had been sanded through to 2500 grit). After a lot of sitting and feeling them I can now tell the difference too but it doesn't show visably.
How to tell when to move to the next grade of paper? I have found that for me (at this stage in my experience of sanding) I need to dry the piece to be able to tell. If I just go through the grades wet I get to the end and there may still be some scratches. If I stop and dry between grades I can see if it is ready, I can see if there are still marks or not.
So I still have things to try but I am going to stop agonising over which grades to use. I shall try and finish off with some of the higher grades if I am using a buffed finish. I'll let you know how my next lot of trials go.