Sandblasting involves applying a high-pressure sand jet to surfaces to remove rust, paint, or varnish. Initially, this method was only used for metal, mainly to remove paint from old cars. Over time, it was also used for various other applications, including wood.
So, can you sandblast wood? Yes, you can sandblast wood, though we recommended to use low pressure as well as softer media. With a steady hand, you can easily strip several layers of paint from a piece of wood in just half an hour.
If you want to know more about sandblasting, read on to find out more, as well as what to know if you want to sandblast wood.
What Is Sandblasting?
Sandblasting is a technique used for the quick and efficient removal of paint, rust, dirt, or any other type of residue from various surfaces. This is a method of industrial cleaning that uses high-pressure sand to get a surface ready for priming or painting.
This process involves using compressed air and hydraulic hoses to blast an abrasive material onto a surface to strip away the top layer.
Sand is the most common material used in this process, hence the name, but you can also use a less abrasive material, such as baking soda, to treat more delicate surfaces. Alternatively, you can also use more abrasive materials like pumice stone fragments or shredded walnut shells.
You can adjust the pressure used in this process to customize how deep you want to go or the depth of the surface you would like to strip. Different materials also require different treatments, so you should look at your specific material to adjust to the right setting.
Sandblasting is known for being highly efficient at cleaning because it is a super harsh and abrasive process, so it’s usually not suitable for restoration purposes. Depending on your material, you can use the proper pressure and the suitable abrasive material to treat your surface with care.
You can achieve varying results by adjusting the material, pressure, and technique used in sandblasting.
Note: Because of the highly specialized equipment and skills required, sandblasting is a technique that is reserved for highly trained individuals and specialists.
Can You Sandblast Wood?
Sandblasting is a highly effective process that allows a similar result as sanding (with a sander or by hand). You can adjust the sandblasting media as well as the pressure and nozzle used to work with different types of materials, so yes, you can definitely sandblast wood, provided you know what you’re doing.
This process is commonly used for the redecoration of wooden pieces, especially wooden items that were previously painted with stubborn paint. Sandblasting uses abrasive forces to effectively strip the paint away and reveal the wood underneath.
To sandblast wood, it is highly recommended to use low pressure as well as softer media.
With a steady hand, you can easily strip several layers of paint from a piece of wooden furniture in just half an hour. Compared to traditional methods of paint stripping, which can take up to a few days, sandblasting is definitely a highly time-efficient process.
Depending on the type of wood you have – hardwood or softwood – you can adjust the pressure accordingly.
Hardwood is usually more durable, and so you can crank up the pressure without really damaging the surface, while softwood needs to be treated with care so that you won’t accidentally damage the surface.
Soda blasting essentially has the same mechanism as sandblasting but uses baking soda as a blasting media rather than sand.
Soda blasting is commonly used for sensitive materials such as wood because it is less abrasive than sand but still performs very well to strip layers of paint away without damaging the material underneath.
Baking soda is also friendly to the environment and biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up post-operation. However, if you are soda blasting on your lawn or garden, you should know that baking soda can harm plants, so you should rinse the soda away thoroughly so that your plants won’t be affected.
Keep in mind that if you want to substitute sand for soda, you should check if your equipment can be used with baking soda, as some of them won’t function properly with this media.
Sandblasting requires the following equipment:
- An air compressor. Generally, using a larger compressor will allow you to work for a longer period of time. With a 7-10 horsepower compressor, you can expect to work for up to half an hour before stopping. The downtime is usually for the compressor to catch up with you.
- The air compressor will come with an air tank of a corresponding size. If you are using a large compressor, the air tank will need to be larger (around 100 gallons) so that you can work for longer.
- A tank to house your sandblasting material (sand, baking soda, shredded walnut shells, etc.)
- A sandblasting gun with a nozzle size to fit with your sandblasting material and purpose. A smaller nozzle size will help you blast for longer, but it will only cover a smaller area at a time.
- If you are sandblasting a large object, such as a car, you will need a longer hose to be able to walk around the object uninterrupted.
- An abrasive material of your choice. The material’s granulation is measured by a number indication, with a larger number indicating a very fine grain. The granulation of sand is anywhere from 30-220.
Note that you can buy or rent a sandblaster depending on your needs.
If you are working on a few small projects at a time, then you can rent sandblasting equipment, which will save you a lot of money since sandblasting equipment can be costly.
If you want to carry out a large project, for example, redo an entire home, or if you want to sandblast several projects in your workshop, then it is wise to invest in a quality sandblasting cabinet that can help you get the job done.
There’s a reason why sandblasting is a technique reserved for highly-trained specialists. This is because repeated exposure to quartz sand can be quite damaging to your health.
Over the years, the use of quartz sand for blasting has been known to lead to respiratory diseases and even deaths among workers. Silicosis is a non-healing illness caused by exposure to silica particles that are found in the quartz sand during blasting.
In recent years, sandblasters have switched to red garnet as an alternative to sand. This is an eco-friendly, non-toxic material that has good abrasive properties.
Because this is a very hard material, red garnet is highly effective in blasting hard materials. It can be used to strip paint from copper, aluminum, and even stainless steel.
Regardless of the abrasive material you use, protective equipment is still required to minimize the risk of lung diseases that can occur when you inhale small particles.
A blasting helmet that’s certified to meet the requirements of OSHA (in the United States) or ANSI is very important. These helmets provide protection against dust particles and can even shield you from loud noises during blasting.
An optimal blasting helmet should evenly distribute the helmet’s weight on the shoulders to allow free movement and prevent neck pain. The protective glass should give you clear visibility, and there should be good ventilation to allow you to breathe easily.
In addition, the use of protective gloves and suits is highly recommended so that you don’t accidentally hurt yourself during the blasting.
It is highly recommended to sandblast outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Typically, sandblasting is done outside or in a workshop rather than at home because sand can get everywhere and into all your equipment and belongings.
If you want to sandblast indoors, for example, to strip paint from your kitchen cabinet, it is highly recommended that you cover everything else in your kitchen with a tarp to keep the sand from contaminating other areas in your kitchen.
How To Sandblast Wood
Now that you have all the sandblasting and safety equipment needed, let’s get to work.
If you have a piece of furniture with a lot of design details and crevices to get into, you can use a smaller nozzle to get into those details, although it will take longer to go through the whole piece as a small nozzle can only cover a small area at a time.
If you want to cover a large area at a time, then you can use a larger nozzle to help you cover a big area.
Then, adjust the pressure on your tank, and guide the blasting gun across the areas that you want to strip; make sure to go slow and steady.
After you have worked through an entire area, you can go back with fine-grit sandpaper to fix areas that you have missed or any rough textures that occur during sandblasting.
Then, you can clean up the sand (or whatever media that you choose) from the wood and finish up the piece with a few coats of Danish oil (or a wood finish of your choosing) to enhance the natural finish of the wood. Your wooden piece should be good as new!
Up Next: How To Clean Wood After Sanding