When you start working on a project that has a lot of layers of paint over metal, sometimes you need a way to strip the layers away quickly but effectively. Media or sand blasting is a great option in these situations, but bear in mind that the media used can damage the metal under the paint if you are not careful. If you try to work too fast, you can do more damage than good, so work slow and carefully.
What is Sandblasting
Sand blasting or media blasting is a process that uses compressed air to force media, in this case, fine sand, through a gun similar to that of a paint spray gun. The pressure of the sand or media against the surface of the paint causes it to chip and come off the base metal and cleans other contaminants off the surface. It can be used to remove paint, rust, surface oxidation, and stubborn materials that have adhered to the surface of the metal.
Types of Sand Available
The media used in sandblasting is a fine sand-like material that is available in varying sizes and can be very coarse to very fine in texture, depending on your needs. A very coarse media will be more likely to damage the base metal than a fine media, but it will also strip away paint layers faster. Keep in mind that not all materials will stand up under the coarse sand either. Soft metals are likely to develop divots in them as you blast away the paint, so use a finer media and lower pressure in these situations.
Renting a Sand Blaster
If you have a large project like stripping a car frame of paint or maybe a classic car body that you want to sand blast but you do not own the equipment to do it, you can rent the sand blaster and compressor to run it at a lot of equipment rental shops. You will have to buy the media that you want to use and should be sure to clean out the sand blaster before you return it to the rental company as the next person using it may not want the same media. Sandblast media is typically available at home centers and welding shops, but if you are not sure where to get it in your area, a professional at a supply store like Powder Coating Specialties will likely know where to send you.
Preparation and Clean Up
If you are going to use a sandblaster inside a garage, you need to set up some plastic sheeting around your project to keep the sand in one area. The sand is so fine that it will often find ways out through the cracks and if it likely you will still have some to clean up after you are done. Do not try to vacuum up the sand as it will pass through the filters in the vacuum and get into the bearings in the motor, burning out your shop vac. Sweep the sand up and place it in a plastic bag to dispose of it. Be sure to wear a respirator or dust mask when using the sandblaster and while sweeping up the sand. You do not want it in your lungs and nasal passages if at all possible.