6 Common Sandblasting Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

Nov 27, 2017

Many people these days are going for the DIY solution to everything, even serious professional activities like sandblasting. The availability of power tools and YouTube how-to videos make it look simple, but it is also all too easy in this environment to get overconfident about your ability to work with powerful and unfamiliar equipment without training or experience. There are common sandblasting mistakes.  For example, it is vitally important that anyone operating a sandblaster, or even standing near one, understands the risks and makes sure they are doing it correctly. If not, people can get hurt and the product can get damaged.
Common Sandblasting Mistakes Steel Beam

Even seasoned professionals make mistakes sometimes when they are in a hurry or distracted by other aspects of a large project. Sandblasting is an excellent way to clear away rust, paint, stucco, and other covering materials from metal, concrete, wood, or brick. Whether you are a DIY property owner or a professional researching the trade, here is a summary of the most common sandblasting mistakes and how to prevent them from occurring in your project.

1) Neglecting Your Safety Precautions

When using any power tool, safety should be your top priority above everything else including the task itself. If you cannot achieve the necessary safety precautions or if you start to feel unsure about the task, don’t keep blasting. Unfortunately, not everyone takes the proper precautions in an attempt to speed up the process. However, nothing stops a workday quite like a bad injury caused by carelessness.

It is important to understand that sandblasting involves shooting abrasive particles at very high velocity from your blaster, which means that there is a significant possibility of bounce-back. For this reason, you need to cover your entire body, and so does anyone else who wants to be nearby as you blast.

Coveralls

There’s a reason that coveralls are the go-to attire for many construction, automotive, and other industrial service industries. A full suit of sturdy fabric is perfect for keeping everything from motor oil to falling sawdust off of your skin and out of your normal clothing. This is especially important during sandblasting when small particles bouncing back at you could not only abraid exposed flesh but could also get lodged in the seams and crevices of normal clothes. If you do not have access to coveralls for some reason, a heavy denim jacket and sturdy jeans can stand in, but you will want to be careful.

Face Protection

Protecting your face is incredibly important for sandblasting because of the danger involved in working with abrasive particles at very high speeds. The last thing you want is for a piece of sand or even a fleck of walnut shell to fly into your eye during the process. This is at best an incredibly uncomfortable way to end work for the day and at worst could result in permanent eye damage. For this reason, you will want to wear goggles at the very least, but a full-face mask with a pull-down plastic shield is the best tool for this job.

Gloves

Gloves are important for two reasons. The first follows our theme of covering every inch of exposed skin to protect you from the particles. The second, however, is a universal safety rule. Any time you use a power tool, you should also be wearing some protective gloves. For this project, leather gloves are considered best and the taller, the better. You can give your forearms great protection simply by wearing long leather gloves that your sleeves can be tucked into.

Distance

Every model of sandblaster is a little bit different with a variety of air pressure speeds for launching particles. This speed also determines how far you need to stand back to avoid the majority of bounce-back particles that put you in danger. Rather than accidentally sandblasting yourself, you will want to stand as far back as possible while doing this task. As for people nearby, unless they are also wearing full protective gear, they should probably stay completely clear of your work area.

2) Insufficient Window Coverage

Failing to sufficiently protect your windows is a rookie mistake, therefore something that a lot of DIY sandblasters are prone to. Window glass never needs sandblasting, unless you want it frosted and should be covered if you are blasting the outer walls of a home or even just with a window nearby. The act of covering windows for this purpose is known as ‘masking.’ You will need some clear, 6mm plastic sheeting cut to the size of your window and secure it in place with a sturdy, heat-resistant tape. It is very important that the tape be continuous all the way around so that no blasting particles can get through.

3) Using the Wrong Blaster

Sandblasters are versatile tools, but they still come in a variety of sizes and air-pressure capabilities. This will shape your experience with them through the distance back you can (and must) stand to complete your job and the size of the area you can sandblast at once. For working on the side of a house, you will want a large spread of particles while working with smaller objects will naturally call for a smaller blaster. It is important to find the model that’s right for both you and your projects.

4) Using the Wrong Blasting Medium

If you are new to sandblasting, the sheer number of options for what can be loaded into your blaster can be overwhelming. Despite the name, there are a lot more blasting mediums than just sand and these options can range from natural grounds like corn husks and walnut shells for blasting soft materials to very hard particles like glass beads for heavier-duty tasks. It is important to choose your medium based both on the underlying material and what you are blasting off of it. Using the wrong medium can either have a minimal effect or cause serious damage.

5) Forgetting to Recollect Blasting Medium

Most blasting material can be used over and over again. When you are working with a blasting cabinet, everything is automatically contained and can easily be collected and loaded back into the blaster for the next sandblasting task. Reusing your blasting medium can save a significant amount of money, especially if you are dealing with long project or plan on blasting through several projects in a row. The best way to recollect your medium outside is to lay down a tarp to cover the area your medium is aimed at and where it could bounce back to.

6) Working Outside Your Comfort Zone

If you have never sandblasted anything before or have only worked on small projects, you may not be ready to tackle sandblasting an entire building exterior on your own, and there’s no problem with that. When working with large projects and power tools, it is important not to exceed your abilities, and it is always OK to call in a professional, even after you have started a project. Most sandblasting professionals would prefer that you call them in rather than injure yourself or permanently damage your building.

Here at TLC Metal, we take special care of every sandblasting project we work on. Whether you have got a fresh assignment for us or need someone to step in on something you got started, we are more than happy to help everyone from businesses to homeowners with their sandblasting needs. For more information or to schedule a sandblaster in Long Island, please contact TLC metal today.