The Fundamentals of Sanding Wood Floors – Part 5 Using the Edger

Put 10 of us contractors in one room to discuss how to sand a floor, and you’ll get 10 different ways of doing the same thing – yet, with varying results.

Now, when it comes down to edging, we all have our preferences. Everyone uses this machine differently, depending on the machine brand and how they were taught when they first started.

The edger is the most difficult machine to master, yet most of the guys out there let the rookie use the edger. The edger takes a lot of skill and understanding of how the machine works.

The most important piece of information you need to know about the edger: it is a spinning disc that cuts (touches the floor) in one spot along the edge of the disc, usually the size of a quarter.

If you understand this, you’ll master the edger very quickly.

The idea of fine edging is to remove scratches from the prior pass – that is it. The floor must be flat by now, and that was achieved with the rough edging. Understand how to orient (or clock) the edger, so the scratch pattern is mostly with the direction of the floor. This way you will not have to scrape or orbit all the edges later to remove scratches left by your fine edging.

There are two basic steps to fine edging:

  1. Along the wall, which forces you to run the edger in one direction regardless of the direction of the floor.
  2. Closer to the field where the big machine stopped. This area is normally sanded in three different styles:
    1. Circular motion
    2. J motion
    3. Motion correlated to the direction of the floor

The circular motion moves the edger in overlapping small circular pattern, it is not ideal for leaving a scratch-free surface, but it works for a lot of guys. The biggest key is clocking the edger in a manner that leaves scratches parallel to the direction of the floor.

The J motion moves the edger away from the wall in the letter J shape advancing it from left to right. This technique is probably the most common and can leave a very fine surface. Again, clocking the edger is a critical factor when using this technique.

The last motion is based on the direction of the floor. Scratches and halo issues are usually present where the floor runs perpendicular to the wall without a border. In this situation run the edger from left to right (clocking the edger), back and forth working your way toward the field while rotating the edger clockwise so that the scratches are parallel to the floor. (Please watch the video I took – it is much easier to understand this technique by watching someone doing it than reading about it.)

The later one was taught to me by Wayne Lee at one of the NWFA schools years ago. To this date, it is by far the easiest, fastest fine edging technique.

Once done with the fine edging use a scraper to clean up the corners.

Next, we will discuss buffing, screening, multi-disc machines and final polishing of the floor before sealing.

Avi Hadad is the owner-operator of Avi’s Hardwood Floors in the San Francisco Bay area. He can be reached at

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