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To sand or not to sand.....

Mary et al:

I'm curious what the prevailing feeling is with regard to sanding a project as a "final" step. I suspect the answer is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but is sanding to achieve a smoother finish (e.g., remove pesky tool marks, deal with difficult grain transitions, etc) enough to get me kicked out of the carvers' guild (if I ever get into it)? I'm particularly interested in this when working on a project where I'm trying to achieve the most natural/realistic appearance possible (e.g., I've recently carved the convex scallop shell, IMO it came out pretty good, but I think a light sanding would make it even better). I'll appreciate whatever thoughts you care to share; thanks!

I'm a new carver, definitely not in the guild, so no worries about getting chucked out! I am carving furniture ornamentation in walnut right now. For the gooseneck, I sanded to smooth out the profile and used scrapers. I'm carving flutes in some quarter columns that are about 1" in diameter and a foot long,  yet have 8 flutes about 1/4" wide (#9/5mm) separated by 1/8" flats. I'm using sandpaper to true up the flats because I just don't have the skill to make that fine, 1/8" wide 12-inch long flat look good enough. The eye picks up all the little wiggles. On the other hand, I did not sand the rosettes that I carved because that would destroy the crisp details. I'm still learning to carve flame finials, but there too I won't sand. There is an applied ornament comprising scrolls, etc., that go on the tympanum of the clock that I'm making. I do not plan to do any sanding there, again because it would wash it out. My word means little, but that's what I've done. I'm posting partly to confess and also because I, too, am curious how much sanding would be done by better carvers in the instances when I've used it.

Thanks for the feedback, Ed.  I also consider myself to be a new carver, so looking forward to hearing from others across the range of experience.