Can You Sand Glass Edges by Hand

Jul 14th 2021

Sanding glass edges by hand

Sanding glass edges can be a tricky skill to master. You don’t want scratches or other scarring on your precious glass surfaces. With the right tools for the right job, it’s possible to sand glass like a pro. In this article we’ll go over which tools to choose for sanding glass and how to do it properly.

Getting Started

Like with any project, safety comes first. Make sure you’re using the proper safety gear for your chosen method. If you’re using power tools to sand large amounts of glass, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a properly ventilated space. Sanding glass turns it into fine dust, so you’ll also want to wear a mask and eye protection.

You should always wear gloves when sanding glass. They can protect you from getting cut on the glass’ edge as well as protect your hands from the sanding tools. Make sure they don’t impede your grip, so you don’t drop your pane of glass. Using a clamp may be helpful, but in some cases may use too much pressure and crack your glass.

Picking the Right Materials

Not all tools are up to all tasks. You’ll want to carefully choose your sanding method based on the kind of project you’re working on. Some glass will be too delicate for some tools, while other projects may require a more heavy-duty option.

We’re going to go over the best methods for sanding glass edges by hand. The tools and methods we’ll be expanding upon are:

  • Using Silicon Carbide
  • Dry Sanding
  • Wet Sanding

Abrasives for Glass - Silicon Carbide

In order to sand glass, you’ll need an abrasive capable of cutting and scratching a glass surface. Diamond is the only natural abrasive that can scratch glass, but it is obviously too expensive and rare of a material to use for simple applications like this.

Silicon carbide is a much more affordable abrasive grain that has many uses, including sanding glass. It is the hardest and sharpest of the manufactured abrasives while also being highly friable (easily broken to reveal sharp edges). This allows for faster cuts and more uniform scratch patterns.

Microscopic view of silicon carbide abrasive grains

You’ll find silicon carbide in most types of abrasives products like sanding belts, sanding discs, floor sanders, and sandpaper.

Silicon Carbide Discs

You can use silicon carbide discs for heavy-duty projects like masonry and concrete prep work or on your glass projects.

After wetting, use a circular motion and only apply light pressure on your glass. Continue to do this until you get the desired result.

Our discs are rigid discs perfectly formulated for light to moderate pressure grinding, sanding, and polishing applications on glass, masonry mediums such as stone and concrete. These fiber discs are designed to be used with a backing pad and attached to an angle grinder.

Silicon Carbide Sanding Belts

Another option is a silicon carbide sanding belts for glass. They can be affixed to a stationary belt sander or carried around with a portable belt sander to quickly grind down a smooth glass surface. Wet sanding is usually the best option for belt sanding glass, so make sure you shop for a belt that is waterproof and oil resistant.

Silicon Carbide Backed Sandpaper Sheets

You can use silicon carbide sandpaper sheets for wet or dry sanding methods, but we recommend using them with some kind of lubricant for the best results.

The sheets use silicon carbide grains that are resin on resin bonded onto strong latex-backed paper. These silicon carbide sandpaper sheets are waterproof, heat resistant, and have excellent grain adhesion. This makes them very effective in the automotive industry and on lacquers, paint, body fillers, glass, metal, plastics, stone, and marble.

Dry Sanding Glass

If you’re going to be sanding, you’re usually going to start with a dry sanding method.

Dry sanding can be used for all types of projects and is usually used in conjunction with wet sanding methods. Dry sanding is usually used to even out a surface, remove blemishes, and smooth edges to no longer be dangerous. You can dry sand woods, and metals in addition to glass.

Glass traditionally requires wet sanding. However, if you’re looking to increase or decrease opacity, you could only do so with dry sanding. Be sure to use superfine sandpaper when smoothing glass edges.

Wet Sanding Glass

Dry sanding is a valuable method for digging deep into your surface and smoothing it down until it’s completely even. However, the abrasive method of dry sanding can leave its own marks and scratches. To truly finish off your surface and achieve the smoothest mirror-like perfection, you’re going to want to use a wet sanding method.

Wet sanding, as the name suggests, uses water or another liquid to lubricate the surface while sanding.

You can’t use just any sandpaper for wet sanding. It requires waterproof or specialized tools. Regular sandpaper sheets aren’t built for wet sanding. The backing is not designed to be used wet and will fall apart. Also, the abrasive grit will load up with the material being sanded. The load and the grains will increase your chances of scratches.

The wet/dry silicon carbide sheets listed above, for example, can be used as wet sandpaper thanks to the latex backing. They won’t disintegrate or become overloaded.

Dry vs. Wet Sanding

There are different uses for wet and dry sanding methods. Now that we’ve covered the basics, we’re going to do some comparing and contrasting so you can decide whether to use one or both methods.

Dry sanding is used to even out a surface. Wet sanding evens out a finish. You won’t always use both together, but if you are, this is an excellent definition to remember.

Because they achieve different goals, you also use different techniques when applying wet or dry sandpaper. You’re going to use small circular motions on your surface for dry sanding until the whole surface has been covered. This will let you dig down and remove any uneven spots.

Wet sanding is done in even lines up and down your surface, much like you would apply to stain or finish to a floor or metal surface. The goal is to have a shiny, smooth, and blemish-free surface rather than to dig out rough patches. Wet sanding is also helpful because it’ll keep the dust down in the sanding process.

Depending on the final look you want to achieve, you may opt for only using one method. That high gloss finish may be too clinical for some DIYers who want a rough-hewn handmade look.

If you’re trying to remove a scratch from a glass surface or smooth out a rough edge, the wet method with a very fine grain waterproof sandpaper is ideal.

Sanding Glass Bottles

Glass bottles of assorted sizes and styles

Here’s how you might want to apply these methods for a typical glass sanding project: sanding glass bottles.

People like to use glass bottles for decoration. Once you’ve cut or shaped your bottle, you’ll probably have edges you need to be smoothed. Without first sanding them down, you’ll often have a dull appearance on the glass and you also risk unsafe edges.

You’re going to want to start with very fine grit, wet-dry sandpaper. Lightly wet it, and continue to be sure there is plenty of water on it during the sanding process. This will help tamp down the dust.

While applying downward pressure use a circular motion to start sanding the cut, and keep your application even by rotating the bottle every now and then so you don’t focus too much on one side.

Our sandpaper goes up to 2000 grit and is suitable for extremely fine polishing. Once you have a smooth edge, wet the sandpaper for the polishing process. Apply it to the sanded edges and bottle surface evenly, then wipe it dry and see your progress. Repeat this until your bottle is as smooth and polished as you want it.

After thoroughly applying these sanding methods, you’ll have a bottle that’s beautifully polished to look at, smooth to the touch, and safe to drink from.

Still Have Questions

Our abrasives experts are available during regular business hours to discuss your sanding questions with you. Please feel free to reach out by email, phone, or the chat function on our website below.