The most critical part of finishing a piece of furniture happens before you open a can of stain or paint - it starts with the sanding. Sanding is critical to creating a smooth surface.
Use the following sanding sequences for new wood:
For wood that is going to be painted, use 120-grit, followed by 150-grit.
For closed-grain woods (such as Cherry, Pine, Maple, Birch or Alder) that will be stained with water-based products use 150-grit followed by 180-grit.
For open-grain woods (such as Oak, Ash, Mahogany, Parawood) that will be stained with water-based products use 180-grit followed by 220-grit.
CLEAR-COATED WITH WATER-BASED PRODUCTS
For wood that will be clear-coated with a water-based topcoat, use 120-grit, followed by 150 or 220-grit.
For wood that will be STAINED with an oil-based product use 120-grit, followed by 150-grit.
CLEAR-COATED WITH OIL-BASED PRODUCTS
For wood that will be clear-coated with an oil-based topcoat, sand up to 150-grit.
Do not over sand with the final grits. You will create a surface that is so smooth it will not accept a finish.