How to Smooth Plywood Furniture

Buying already assembled furniture from the big box stores is convenient, but the results are rarely lastingly satisfying. While cheaply made furnishings may seem like a good deal at the time, low-quality plywood surfaces tend to show scratches and dings quite quickly. If you can spare a few extra hours of labor, building your furniture from plywood allows for far better control over the quality and finish.

How to Smooth Plywood Furniture

With simple tools and the right technique for how to smooth plywood furniture, you can create furnishings that stand up to years of use without visible damage. In this blog post, I’ll share the step-by-step process I use to get professionally smooth results on any plywood project, from tables and shelves to bookshelves and entertainment centers.

Tools and Materials You Will Need to Smooth Plywood Furniture

1. Orbital Sander

2. Sandpaper (150 and 220 grit)

3. Wood Conditioner (for staining projects)

4. Foam Brushes

5. Stain (optional)

6. Polyurethane Finish

7. Clean Cloth

Step-by-Step Guidelines on How to Smooth Plywood Furniture

Step 1: Prepare the Plywood Surface

Before sanding, it is essential to ensure that your plywood surface is as clean and smooth as possible. Wipe off any dust or debris using a clean cloth, then use a wood conditioner if you plan on staining the furniture. This step helps to prevent blotches and uneven coloring when staining. Preparing the surface also helps the wood to absorb the finish more evenly.

Step 2: Start Sanding with Coarse Grit Sandpaper

Using an orbital sander and 150-grit sandpaper, start sanding the plywood surface in a circular motion. Make sure to keep your sander moving at all times to avoid creating uneven patches or burning the wood. It is best to work in small sections at a time, gradually sanding the entire surface until it feels smooth to the touch.

Using an Orbital Sander

Step 3: Switch to Fine Grit Sandpaper

After sanding with coarse-grit sandpaper, switch to 220-grit sandpaper and continue working in the same circular motion. This step helps to remove any remaining scratches or rough spots left by the coarse grit sandpaper, giving your surface a smoother finish. If you plan on staining your plywood, make sure to remove any dust or debris using a clean cloth before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Apply Stain (Optional)

If you want to add color to your plywood furniture, now is the time to apply stain. Use foam brushes to apply the stain evenly in the direction of the grain. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time and number of coats. After applying the stain, use a clean cloth to wipe off any excess and let it dry completely.

Step 5: Apply Polyurethane Finish

Once the stain is fully dry, it’s time to protect your plywood with a polyurethane finish. Using a foam brush, apply the finish in thin and even coats, following the direction of the grain. Let each coat dry completely before applying the next one, and make sure to lightly sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper in between coats for a smooth finish.

Step 6: Final Sanding

After your final coat has dried, lightly sand the entire surface with 220-grit sandpaper to remove any bubbles or imperfections in the finish. This step will give your furniture a professional and smooth appearance. Make sure to wipe off any dust or debris with a clean cloth before using your newly finished plywood furniture.

Clean Cloth Before Using Your 
Newly Finished Plywood Furniture

Following these simple steps will allow you to achieve a smooth and professional finish on any plywood furniture project. Whether you’re building from scratch or refinishing old plywood furniture, this process is sure to give your creations a durable and polished look that will last for years to come. So why settle for cheaply made, easily damaged furnishings when you can create high-quality pieces yourself? Give it a try and see the difference it makes! Happy sanding! 

Additional Tips and Tricks to Smooth Plywood Furniture

1. If your plywood furniture has sharp edges, you can use sandpaper or a file to smooth them out. This will prevent any accidents from occurring and make the furniture more comfortable to use.

2. For small areas that are hard to reach with sandpaper or a file, you can use a rotary tool with a sanding attachment. This allows for precision sanding and is great for intricate designs or curved edges.

3. Apply a wood conditioner before sanding to help open up the pores of the plywood and allow for smoother sanding. This will also help prevent any splintering or chipping during the sanding process.

4. Use a light touch when sanding, as pressing too hard can create uneven surfaces and cause damage to the plywood. It is better to make several light passes than one heavy pass.

5. When sanding, always move in the direction of the wood grain. This will prevent any scratches or marks on the surface of the plywood.

6. After sanding, use a tack cloth or a damp rag to wipe away any sawdust and debris. This will ensure that the surface is clean and ready for finishing.

7. If you are using an electric sander, be sure to wear protective gear such as safety glasses and a dust mask to prevent any accidents or inhaling sawdust.

Use a Light Touch When Sanding

8. For larger pieces of plywood furniture, it may be helpful to use clamps or a vice to secure the piece in place while sanding. This will allow for better control and prevent the furniture from moving around.

9. Don’t forget to sand the edges of the plywood as well, as they can also be rough and need smoothing out. Use a sanding block for more control and evenly smooth out the edges.

10. Finally, after sanding is complete, you can apply a finish such as stain or paint to protect and enhance the look of your plywood furniture. Follow the instructions on the product for the best results.

By following these additional tips and tricks, you can ensure that your plywood furniture is smooth and comfortable to use. Remember to always take precautions when using tools and to sand in a well-ventilated area. With proper sanding techniques, your plywood furniture will be both functional and visually appealing.  So, don’t be afraid to get creative and design unique pieces for your home using plywood!  Happy sanding! 

Precautions Need to Be Followed for Smoothing Plywood Furniture

1. First and foremost, it is important to wear protective gear like gloves, goggles, and a face mask when handling any type of plywood.

2. Make sure the work area is well-ventilated to avoid inhaling excessive sawdust particles that may cause respiratory problems.

3. Before starting the smoothing process, check if there are any visible nails or screws on the surface of the plywood. These need to be removed using pliers or a screwdriver to avoid damaging the sandpaper.

4. Inspect the edges of the plywood for any splinters or rough edges and sand them down lightly before starting the smoothing process.

5. It is recommended to start with coarse-grit sandpaper (around 80-100 grit) and gradually move towards finer grits (around 220-320 grit) for a smoother finish.

6. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid creating scratches or marks on the surface.

7. Use a sanding block or an electric sander for better control and consistent pressure while smoothing the plywood.

8. Do not apply excessive pressure while sanding as it may cause unevenness or damage to the surface.

Following these precautions can help you achieve a smooth and professional-looking finish on your plywood furniture. Remember to take breaks in between sanding sessions to avoid strain or fatigue. Happy sanding! 

Achieve a Smooth and  Professional Looking Finish

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Way to Smooth Plywood?

The best way to achieve a smooth finish on plywood furniture is through sanding. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper (around 80-100 grit) and gradually work your way up to finer grits (200-400). This will help remove any rough spots or imperfections on the surface of the plywood.

Do I Need to Sand Both Sides of the Plywood?

It is recommended to sand both sides of the plywood for a more even and smooth finish. However, if you are working with pre-finished or veneered plywood, sanding one side may be sufficient. It is ultimately up to your personal preference and the desired outcome of your project.

Can I Use an Electric Sander?

Yes, an electric sander can be used for sanding plywood furniture. However, it is important to use a lighter touch and avoid applying too much pressure as this can result in uneven sanding or damage to the plywood.

How Can I Prevent Splintering During Sanding?

To prevent splintering while sanding, try using a sanding block or a scrap piece of wood as a backing for the sandpaper. This will help distribute the pressure evenly and prevent the plywood from splintering. Also, be sure to always sand in the direction of the grain.


Now you know how to smooth plywood furniture like a pro! Remember to start with coarse-grit sandpaper and gradually work your way up to finer grits for the best results. Don’t forget to sand both sides of the plywood and use caution when using an electric sander. With these tips, you can achieve a smooth and professional finish on all your plywood furniture projects. Keep creating and happy sanding!

Photo of author

Adrian Green

Adrian is a woodworking hobbyist and has loved Woodworking since he was 10 years old. Back then in childhood, his father used to have a furniture shop. He used to help his dad and learned a lot from him about how to fix woodworking furniture, basic carpentry knowledge and also about how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others.

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