Metal is a tough material to shape. It can be difficult to get the right finishing touches on metal items, especially if you are looking for that smooth, shiny finish. Sanding metal can help remove some of the imperfections and provide just enough shine to make your metal project look professional.

This blog post will walk through how to sand metal so you can create polished-looking projects on demand.

Step 1: Planning Your Project

Before you start sanding, make sure you have a clear plan of action. You wouldn’t want to spend all this hard work just to realize that it’s not the right color or finish you wanted after all.

Always take time out before starting your project to think about what kind of look you’re going for. Is it going to be bright and shiny, dull and rusty, black/brown patina? Figure out beforehand what your goals are.

Step 2: Gather the Right Equipment

One cannot sand metal without these items. Make sure you have everything on this list before starting:

  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask or respirator
  • Ear protectors (not required but can be helpful)
  • Sandpaper of varying grades (coarse to fine; 180 grit to 1500+)
  • Work gloves
  • Work bench (or somewhere where you can lay out all your tools and work)
  • Acetone (if your piece is plated)
  • Water and a toothbrush or sponge to scrub with (usually for raw, unplated metal)

Step 3: Cleaning

Before starting, make sure your piece of metal is clean. Dirt, grease, and grime may inhibit the polish or patina’s ability to adhere and may compromise the quality of the finish.

Rinse with water to remove loose dirt or dust. If not plated, sand lightly with fine-grade sandpaper or steel wool until the surface is smooth and clean.

Apply acetone if needed (to remove grease or oil). A toothbrush or other scrubbing tool might be necessary to remove tough spots of grime.

Rinse again with water and let dry completely.

Step 4: Sanding Down Your Metal

Lay your metal down on a flat surface. Make sure there is plenty of room around it, as you don’t want to risk any of the dust/powder getting on surfaces you don’t want it to.

With coarse sandpaper, begin to sand wherever there is a rough spot on the metal. In order to not make deep scratches in the metal, use circular motions and make sure you are applying proper pressure.

After all of the rough spots have been sanded, move on to using fine-grit sandpaper. This is when it begins to look like you are actually sanding the metal. Again, in circular motions, move up and down.

Now go back to your coarse sandpaper and use it in order to get rid of any leftover scratches that the fine grit left behind. After this step is complete, wipe off all of the dust that has accumulated on the metal.

Continue sanding until all of the surfaces is completely level and free of debris. Repeat until you have achieved the desired finish.

Step 5: Polishing or Patina-ing Your Metal

Before doing anything, make sure the entire metal is completely dry. Any moisture can inhibit a polish/patina from adhering and may compromise the quality of your finished piece.

Apply a coat of polish/patina to your piece. Make sure it is completely coated, but not too thick.

Let dry according to the polish/patina’s instructions. Once dry, you will notice a haze on your piece -now would be a good time to use a polishing cloth to get rid of this. Repeat until the surface has achieved the desired look.

If a protective finish is desired, a coat or two of a sealant such as a lacquer or clear spray paint will help preserve the polish/patina. Let dry before handling and use with care when changing to prevent the accumulation of dust particles that may damage your finished piece.


We hope this article has helped you understand the process of sanding metal. Maybe now, when faced with a project that needs to be made out of metal, you’ll know what tool to use and how to get it looking like new in no time!