Sandblasting At Home
Stage 1: The Booth
In this article we'll take a look at setting up a professional level media blasting system at your home or shop. With only a moderate investment in equipment, the home hobbyist can have a sandblasting media system that rivals the abilities of a full professional shop.
Why set up a booth at home? Many places that offer professional sandblasting services are often geared toward heavy duty items, such as semi-truck frames, that are made out of the thickest steel. The operators often hit it hard and heavy to get the blasting done in the least amount of time possible. This process, although effective, can remove more base material than desired, and also cause problems with etching and pitting. Doing it at home can make sure it gets done the way you want, with the desired finish.
The aim of this project is to be able to set up a reasonably priced walk in blasting booth that can be assembled inside of a shed or garage. Although media blasting isn't as messy as chemical stripping, it still requires investing time in a proper setup. Because media blasting is often performed at different angles with high pressure air, some of the media will end up a surprisingly long distance from the blasting area if a protective booth isn't used.
To set up the media blasting booth you will need the following parts:
-1.25" Schedule 40 PVC Pipe and fittings
-Blue Plastic Heavy Duty Tarps
-6 mil clear plastic sheeting
-Heavy Duty Duct Tape
To begin, you will be using the PVC pipe and fittings to build a frame for the blasting booth. I didn't provide measurments or an amount of supplies, because depending on usage, the length and width will vary. One thing to consider is that, although it may be tempting to skimp out and build something less, 8 feet for interior ceiling clearance is as small as you'll want to go. This way there will be plenty of room to move around and lift items above your head as needed.
The heavy duty tarp will be used as the flooring for extra abrasion resistance, and the clear plastic sheeting will be used for the walls and ceiling. The duct tape will be used to seal it all. Although the temptation will come up to leave the top of the booth open, this is one area you will not want to skip. As mentioned previously, the blasting media has a tendency to go everywhere, and not installing a ceiling will only worsen the problem.
The open end of the booth will have draped plastic sheeting hanging down loosely without being sealed. This will be used for the entry and exit. As long as blasting isn't done right next to the unsealed plastic, only a minimal amount of blasting grit should escape. However, the rest of the booth should still be tightly sealed with duct tape to keep the escaping media to a minimum.
Stage II: Air Compressor
To run a small sized sandblaster tank efficiently, you'll need at least a 7hp compressor, preferrably two-stage, with 14 or more CFM at 100 psi. A single stage 5hp unit will typically output 8 to 9 CFM at 90 psi, which may or may not work well enough for your needs. Anything less than this will cause excessive waiting times for the compressor to "catch up".
The small oil-less compressors sold at home and garden stores will most likely not perform up to task. Also make sure your compressor is designed for high duty cycles or it may break down during blasting. An air/water seperator is also required on the air line for sandblasting projects. In addition, consider using a larger diameter feed hose for projects, as you'll get less pressure drop and more pressure at the nozzle.
Unfortunately, unless you have 220V service, a high powered electrical compressor may not be an option. Consider purchasing a gasoline powered compressor instead. Although louder than electric, it will output more than enough power for a home sandblasting booth.
Stage III: Blasting Tank
For at home work, you'll need a porable blasting tank. This will usually be about 3 feet tall and have wheels to move the unit around. The tanks are filled with blasting media and powered directly by the air supply. Attached to the tank will be a blasting gun with a calibrated nozzle and valve to control the blasting. There are many different models of sandblasters, and trying to cover some of them would be an article by itself. The best route to finding the right setup would be to go to an industrial supply store and actually talk to someone knowledgeable with all aspects of the machines.
Stage IV: Media
A typical at home setup would use something such as glass bead media for the blasting. In the booth you will need a broom, a dustpan, a hand brush, and sifting screen available. The sifting screen will clean the media for re-use and keep out other small bits of trash. This is a step you do not want to skip, as the small bits of paint and other debris will clog your blaster.
Stage V: Safety Equipment
Do not skimp on this step! You will need a full facemask and fresh air respirator. Breating dust from glass bead media can cause permanent lung damage. You'll also want heavy duty rubber gloves to prevent the media that bounces off from stinging and cutting your hands and arms. Also, make sure to wear old clothes you don't care about, as the dust will inbed itself in them very quickly.
So as you can see, you can set up a sandblasting media booth in your own home for a moderate amount of time and money that will work quite well for your own projects. With the investment you made you should also be able to make some money by doing projects for others on the side like I do.
My day job is working at a shop as an auto mechanic, but I also do sandblasting and parts restoration on the side. If you would like to learn more about sandblasting media and equipment, visit my website: http://sandblasting-authority.com
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