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Abrasive Blasting for Beginners

John Deere tractor engine

Want to know how to polish metal, how to remove paint, how to remove rust or clean metal? Abrasive blasters, commonly known as sand blasters, easily remove rust, paint, scale and corrosion from brick, concrete and metal surfaces using compressed air and surface scouring with abrasive media. It is not recommended that sand be used as an abrasive media due to health concerns for the one using the abrasive blaster. Abrasive blasters using glass beads not only removes paint or corrosion from surfaces, it also polishes surfaces and gives it a new, shiny look.

Abrasive Blaster Set-Ups

To determine the best blasting rig, or set-up, for your needs, consider the size of the project and the length of time required. What do you need to clean or polish? Will you need a portable blaster, or can you work using an abrasive blasting cabinet?

Abrasive blast cabinets are used for smaller objects such as transmission casings, exhaust manifolds and wheel rims. The abrasive blasting cabinet is made of steel with a Plexiglass viewing lid. A low-voltage light improves visibility during operation. Both tabletop and stand style blast cabinets are available at Tractor Supply Co. The large cabinets offer a larger work area that is up to 8 cubic feet, allowing you to clean or polish larger objects.

Pressure pot abrasive blasters are more portable because they are on wheels and can be used on larger projects such as removing paint and rust from tractors, body panels on cars, fencing and metal outbuildings. Pressure pot abrasive blasters come in three tank sizes: 5, 10, and 20 gallons. Larger tanks allow for longer cleaning time before stopping to build air pressure.

How to Choose an Abrasive Media

Abrasive blasters are commonly called "sand blasters", however silica-based materials are no longer recommended as a media for blasting as tiny particles can cause silicosis in humans when inhaled. There are two abrasive media that Tractor Supply Company offers:

When selecting an abrasive medium for an abrasive blaster, it is important to consider the job at hand. Garnet cleans metals, brick and concrete and is very economical. Glass beads are best suited for cleaning and polishing.

Abrasive Blasting Safety

The materials removed by abrasive blasting are oft/en very hazardous. Paint and other corrosives should not be inhaled or allowed to come into contact with the body for a prolonged amount of time. It is important to remember that no matter what abrasive blasting material you choose, you must use appropriate control measures such as containment, ventilation, and filtration. Just as important is the use of protective equipment such as an abrasive, or sand blasting hood, leather gloves, and a respirator.

If you are thinking about blasting a surface that you think may have been painted with lead-based paint, always get a professional to analyze the material and, if found to be lead-based, have the professional team of paint removal experts do the job.

Q and A: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Abrasive Blasters

Q: Why can’t I use sand in my Abrasive Blaster?
A: OSHA has warned against the dangers of using silica-based abrasives for years. When silica-based abrasives are blasted against a work surface, they shatter and result in airborne dust particles. When inhaled, these dust particles can lodge themselves in lung tissue, leaving the body no way to remove them. The result is a condition known as silicosis. Garnet and glass beads are not silica-based. They have a much longer life span than silica-based sand abrasives because they are recyclable.
Q: Can you use a blasting rig that is too powerful for a particular job?
A: No. The air pressure and abrasive medium determine the power of the blasting. It is important to regulate the air pressure fed to the blasting unit to control the power of the blasting. Choose the abrasive medium based on the job at hand.
Q: How long should I blast my work surface?
A: Blasting time will vary depending on the abrasive media and the amount of removal required for your specific project.
Q: How often do other abrasive blasting accessories such as film and hose need to be replaced?
A: Generally, these items should be replaced after about 4-6 hours of continuous use. Hoses should be inspected before each use for signs of bulging or soft spots. This would indicate that the hose is excessively worn on the inside and needs to be replaced. The film should be replaced whenever it becomes too difficult to see through it into the cabinet.
Q: How do I know which size nozzle is the best for my application?
A: The correct size nozzle is best determined by experimentation. In general, the 3.0mm nozzle is best for the pressure pot-style blasters, while the 5.0mm nozzle is best for use with the cabinet-style blaster.

Other Supplies You May Need While Using an Abrasive Blaster: