Media Blasting for Dummies – Preserving OEM Parts & Bike Authenticity

That’s right, we are going super basic on this post; but nonetheless it should provide some very valuable information – Media Blasting for Dummies!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am new to media blasting, more commonly known as “sandblasting.”  In the past, I have outsourced this kind of work, generally hiring a local shop to do this messy task for me.  Why not, it usually isn’t very expensive.

That said, I recently got to thinking about how many parts I have needed sandblasted in the past, that I will sandblast in the future, and how much fun sandblasting must be.  So, I started doing the research and learned a few things I thought I should share.  I figure a Media Blasting for Dummies quick list would be a good read for anyone else considering venturing into this area of vehicular restoration.

Media Blasting for Dummies Quick List:

  1. No More Sand: Media blasting long ago graduated into using all sorts of different interesting media besides sand.  For example, people media blast with glass beads, plastic pellets, baking soda, walnut shells, etc.  Blasting with sand has been linked to various lung conditions, so it isn’t even a preferred media anymore.  Harbor freight is a great place to buy media.  The prices seem good and there are usually 20% off coupons.
  2. The Right Abrasive Depends On:  The right abrasive depends on the metal or material being blasted.  Softer metals like aluminum require softer blasting media like walnut shells.  Using a media that is too strong for the material being blasted will cut deep into the material and can cause irreparable damage.  Although not always possible, test the media on some extra material first to see how it looks.
  3. The Compressor: Sorry folks, but it needs to be a good one.  You don’t need a million PSI (90 psi is typically recommended, as too much pressure can disintegrate the media as it leaves the gun), but it should have adequate capacity in gallons and recharge capacity in the form of HP and SCFM to keep up.  Otherwise, you are going to blast for a few seconds and have to stop and wait for the compressor to catch up.  Additionally, this puts a lot of strain on the compressor, so it can burn out quick if not a good one.
  4. Other Equipment:  There are often times local ordinances against blasting outside – the reason being that whatever you are blasting with essentially disintegrate into the air causing local air pollution.  In general, you will need to get a blasting cabinet.  A tabletop one is good for only the smallest of parts.  You will need a free standing one for most engine parts.  Also, I have yet to find a cheap, off-the-shelf blasting cabinet that didn’t need some work before really being usable.  Be prepared to have to seal edges and reconfigure vacuum hoses on anything affordable you buy.
  5. Protection:  This is no joke.  Cover up anything on your body that might get hit by the media.  You have to consider the fact there will be a lot of bounce back off the surface you are blasting.  You absolutely must use a respirator, thick rubber gloves, and goggles.  Ideally, you want no exposed skin and should tape sleeves and pants to gloves and socks, respectively.  Media blasting is a dangerous activity and you need to take adequate precautions.
  6. Reuse:  Most media can be reused.  The harder stuff can be reused hundreds of times and the soft stuff a few dozen.  Collect your media either from your cabinet or from a big tarp if blasting outside.  Make sure to sieve it good before reuse to remove any blasted off particles from the blasting material.

Media blasting is a fantastic way to clean up and preserve old parts.  It is messy and can be a hassle to setup, but over time it can also save you quite a few bucks.

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