I recently had my house painted and the crew did a great job—it actually looks like someone lives here now. The “crew” was more like a small army of 8 to 12 people (depending on the day), grinding, sanding, and of course, painting. Random-orbital sanders were used for the heavy lifting, and most days my house seemed to be enveloped in a cloud of dust. But inevitably the guys had to get down to hand sanding.

I’d see them grab a sheet of sandpaper, use it for a while and then toss it aside when it either ripped or when the middle of the sheet wore out where they had their hand. One resourceful crewmember cut his sheets into four smaller sheets. That was better, but I still wanted to scream, gather them in a circle, and show them my trick for folding sandpaper.

OK, it’s probably a clear indication of my OCD tendencies, but there is a better (and wicked easy) way to fold sandpaper and use it more efficiently. I learned this trick very early in my career as a carpenter—probably the same time I was running baseboard in that closet—and I have used it ever since. Here’s how it goes:

Fold the sheet in half lengthwise.
Fold the sheet in half lengthwise.
Now fold the sheet in half going the other direction.
Now fold the sheet in half going the other direction.
Cut one of the four folds from the center out to the edge. It does not make a difference which fold you cut.
Cut one of the four folds from the center out to the edge. It does not make a difference which fold you cut.
Start folding the sheet, working your way around the center.
Start folding the sheet, working your way around the center.
Keep folding...
Keep folding...
Fold the last flap to create a "stack" of sandpaper.
Fold the last flap to create a "stack" of sandpaper.
Now the sandpaper is a more compact size and no two abrasive sides touch. When you've worn out both sides, turn the stack inside out to expose the  two fresh abrasive surfaces.
Now the sandpaper is a more compact size and no two abrasive sides touch. When you've worn out both sides, turn the stack inside out to expose the two fresh abrasive surfaces.


Unlike just folding up a sheet and using it, this method separates the abrasive surfaces. In other words, the sandpaper isn’t rubbing on itself and wearing itself out as you sand. Use one side, flip it over and use the other side. Then just turn the stack inside out to expose the other two fresh surfaces.

As I sand, I also like the feel of a thicker “pad,” having four thicknesses stacked up. The quarter sheet is also more comfortable in my hand and easier to control than a full sheet. And the thicker edge is good for sanding in tight areas where I would need to fold the paper anyway.

Back on the OCD side of things, I tend to sand more methodically with the paper folded in this manner, using the faces one at a time instead of just attacking with a full sheet. I never did gather the painting crew to show them my method of folding sandpaper. (I never liked it when some know-it-all homeowner tried to tell me how to do my job.) Maybe someone on the crew will discover the method and share it, or maybe it’s just me being the anal-retentive carpenter.