Tool Time Tuesday – Sandblasting Tool Overview

Did you miss me? Did you ever think I would never get around to doing my Tool Time Tuesday Posts again? I must admit, I was beginning to wonder myself. Kiari is now 3 months old (3 weeks adjusted age) and has been home for 4 weeks. We are slowly getting into the rhythm of things. Though I must say, it is mostly a sleep deprived rhythm for me. I never did care for the newborn stage for this very reason. I like it when the babies are little, but I look forward to sleeping again.

A while back I had learned of an opportunity to purchase a practically brand new sandblasting unit. It was a nice unit also, not just a cheapie one, though I am sure I would have been happy with one of those as well. Due to my crazy pregnancy and bad timing with weather, illnesses and injuries the delivery on this system was delayed by several months. Well, the day finally came and I am now a proud owner of this unit.

My friend Valerie came over so we could hook this baby up and get things rolling.

It isn’t a very large unit, but that is perfect for my current purposes. It has a light inside and a place for both hands to reach in. The spray nozzle on this unit is mounted in the top, which is nice because it leaves your hands free to manipulate the piece with both hands. I must say that the gloves inside are a bit big and bulky. They make it very difficult to work with the piece in the box. I may be modifying this particular set up shortly. But that is for another Tool Time Tuesday post.

In order for a unit like this to work, an air compressor is necessary. I didn’t have one of those. So after a little bit of surfing the web we figured we would run down to our local hardware store and pick one up. Look how pretty it is. The same color as a nice speedy sports car.

Because it is so pretty, it really deserves two pictures. So here is another with Valerie (ala Vanna White) showing this beautiful little piece of equipment.

Now there was one little casualty in opening the box for the compressor.  Just know, that
you should always be careful when opening a box with scissors.
Sometimes the scissors bite back.


I moved the unit into my storage room (right next to my bench) so that I could shut the door and not go deaf from the volume of the compressor.

For the unit to be set properly for the sand blaster we needed to set the pressure on the compressor to be 100psi. That in and of itself, while it should be a simple task, was somewhat interesting….to say the least. We looked through the instructions and finally decided to put them to the side and just get our hands dirty. Eventually we did get everything all hooked up, pressures correct and we were ready to go.

This whole process reminds me of a bad comedy of errors where the main character of a movie gets a new car and is all primped and ready to hit the road. Her hair is done and ready to feel the breeze blow through it  as she cruises along the freeway. She gets in the car, turns the key, turns up the music, hits the gas, goes about 10 feet and stops dead. Well, that is how this process kept going for us. I didn’t have the manual for the blasting unit, so we were just guessing on all of that and praying we did it right.

When you work with a sandblasting unit you need to have some type of material to blast at the piece you want to texture. In this case, I will be texturing pieces of copper. My unit came with 3 different texturing materials. I have Ruby, which is going to give me a course, sparkly texture; Glass beads, which is kind of a middle of the road texture; and a really fine sand, used for a smooth satin finish. There was already a little bit of ruby grit in the blasting unit, so we figured it would be a good one to start with.

Here you can see the inside set up with the gloves off to the side, the gun mounted at the top, the ruby grit at the bottom and the intake piece partially buried within the grit. There is a little shelf that sits on the little ledge you see at the back of the unit.

So here is where we get that first 10 feet and hit a dead stop. We push on the petal, the air is flowing, the compressor comes on to keep the desired PSI while blasting, our piece is held right below the gun spout and…. NOTHING! The grit isn’t coming out of the gun spout. It isn’t even flowing into the gun spout. We open it up and determine that perhaps we don’t have enough grit.

So we open it back up and add some more.

The music is cranking again, we have adjusted our hair and are ready to go once again. We hit that petal poised for speed and ….. NOTHING…. again.  We open the unit once more and see that the intake piece is once again not completely covered with the grit.

So we open it up once more and add the remaining grit. This time the intake is completely covered

So, once again, The music is cranking, we are ready to feel the
proverbial wind through our hair, even though our ego’s are getting a
little bit more bruised by the minute. But we hit that petal and….
NOTHING… again. GAH!  We spend some time fiddling with the nozzle and
pressures on the machine and finally get things going.

Now, I want to point out a very important thing in this picture just below. It is hard to see from the position of Valerie at the moment, but she is wearing a dust mask. Even though there is a door closed and locked shut on the front of this system it is still important to protect yourself when using these fine particulates. I guess really, we should also be wearing eye protection.

So, once again, the music is going… though this time is a bit more subdued… we no longer expect to feel the breeze through our hair and are ready to fail once again, but we push that petal just the same, and…. SUCCESS!!!!!

We begin to notice the ruby grit moving through the tubing, but even more than that, we begin to notice a fine little sparkly texture beginning to grace the face of our piece.

Now, I am not going to go through all the samples we did while shooting photos for the TTT posts, because there are a series of them coming up in the next couple of weeks. But the picture above is just one of the things we played with. The potential of this new tool is so much fun and I am so excited and filled with so many ideas I can’t wait to try them all out. Of course I will document it as much as I can so I can share my findings with you.

Now, Setting up this unit is one thing, but you must know that there is also a proper way to shut everything down. Of course the first thing you want to do is turn the power off and unplug both the sand blasting unit and air compressor.

You need to release the compressed air in the compressor. Here, Vanna-Valerie shows us what we can do with a simple, yet important, paper towel. My compressor has a little release on the bottom. When you compress air, it can build up condensation. Use the paper towel just below the release valve to catch any drips that may come out as you release the air.

Moving over to the blasting unit….
There is a small plug in the bottom corner of the back of the unit. This is used dump the grits back out. and into a container of some sort.

It is a wise idea to have some sort of catch tray below the unit as you unplug and poor the contents of the unit out into the container.  It was interesting, as we would pour the contents out, it would trickle out slowly and we thought we were done. We would shake the unit just a little and it just kept coming and coming. Even with all the shaking and such, we didn’t get ALL of it out. I think to avoid contamination, I will vacuum out the unit before adding a different grit, just to get all the little pieces out.  Even being careful to keep things covered, I still noticed pieces of ruby particles on my bench top when everything was done. So it will be important to take a damp cloth and clean up the surface of the table tops after using this system as well.

Here are some of the pieces we did last night. I will be showing the process of these and a few others I have in mind, next week. The lighting isn’t very good on the picture below, but you can see the textures for the most part.

Boy, it sure feels good to be back! Let’s hope we can keep it up.

2 thoughts on “Tool Time Tuesday – Sandblasting Tool Overview

  1. Angie S

    These are big time fun and offer more options for design than one can possibly imagine! Have fun – and I look forward to some really neat piecescoming thru the sand blaster!

  2. Woojoo

    Great post! I really appreciate all the details you give about using the tools. It’s invaluable! Your pieces turned out very well!

    I remember what it’s like having a newborn — amazing, but exhausting, too.


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