Sandblasting is often used to clean substrates and to achieve aesthetic finishes. Can you sandblast wood, though, and what are the caveats?
Can Wood Be Sandblasted?
Yes, wood can be sandblasted, as long as you use the correct techniques and sandblasting medium. You can sandblast wood to restore furniture, clean the wood, remove paint and finish, and make wooden signboards. When sandblasting, wood isn’t a forgiving canvas, and caution should thus be applied.
Wood varies widely in hardness and density, so choosing the correct abrasive medium is essential.
But why use sandblasting instead of sanding with a power sander?
Pros and Cons of Sandblasting Wood
Sandblasting is a great way to create masterpieces, but there are some drawbacks. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons.
- Sandblasting is quick and efficient.
- Glossy surface finish. When carried out correctly, sandblasting smooths and polishes wood, giving it a glossy sheen.
- It removed paint and chemicals from the surface. This includes glue.
- It closes wood’s pores. The sandblasting process pushes fibers back into the wood, closing the pores.
- Available in a variety of finishes. By changing the sandblasting medium, you could obtain a wide range of surface finishes, depending on the type of wood being blasted.
- It’s messy. Sandblasting generated lots of dust and debris, and it’s a huge task to clean up.
- Wood texture and consistency vary widely. It could be challenging to create consistent surface finishes, especially when working with knotty wood.
- It’s easy to overdo sandblasting, thus damaging the underlying wood.
How to Sandblast Wood?
Here is your step-by-step guide on sandblasting wood the right way.
1. Set Up a Work Space
The first step is setting up a working area when undertaking a sandblasting project (or multiple projects). Sandblasting is a messy job and creates a lot of dust. This dust, abrasive sand (sandblasting media), and other debris will end up all over your working area and anywhere else it can get to. So, this work area should be closed off from the rest of your workshop, or it should be done outside. Either way, it should be away from cars, buildings, and other things that can get damaged by stray sandblasting media.
On a practical level, this means building a plywood booth or a rig made of plastic tarps. When using tarps, ensure that the edges overlap, and the bottom ends are weighed down (scrap timber works well for this).
Your sandblasting area should also be well ventilated and have excellent lighting due to the dust generated. Lastly, you should have a way to clean things up afterward since sandblasting debris goes everywhere. A high-quality shop vacuum cleaner is a good option here.
2. Select the Sandblasting Media
Various different sandblasting media is available, each with its own pros and cons and specific applications.
Soda blasting is currently very popular and an excellent option for wood. Here, baking soda is used as the sandblasting media. Baking soda grains are small but have sharp edges, making them highly abrasive, especially when hurled from a pressurized nozzle. Baking soda is also biodegradable and water-soluble, making cleanup much more manageable.
Note that baking soda is harmful to some plants, so if you’re working outside, you’ll need to vacuum or since away as much as possible.
The sand blasting media you choose will affect the surface finish. Baking soda is the gentlest, while corn cobs, pumice, and walnut shells are more abrasive.
3. Right Sandblaster
Ensure that the sandblasting equipment you’re using matches your sandblasting media. This equipment can be handheld or stationary. For occasional sandblasting projects, handheld equipment is sufficient.
Note that working with the handheld variety is typically slower since it has a lower abrasive sand flow rate. If you’re new to sandblasting, this is probably a good thing.
4. Wear Safety Equipment
Put on protective equipment. This is essential since abrasive sand can remove the skin, causing severe injuries. Thick gloves and overalls, safety shoes, and a face shield are appropriate.
Needless to say, you have to wear a safety mask to prevent the fine abrasive particles from going into your lungs.
5. Set the Sandblasting Pressure
Load the pressure tank or pot with sandblasting media, and ensure that the nozzle matches your chosen media. Also, match the pressure to your substrate (wood, in this case). If the pressure is too high, the wood will warp. In most cases, this is 35 pounds per square inch, but it could vary depending on the equipment. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines to be sure.
Test the sandblaster on some scrap wood. The best way is to hold the nozzle about eight inches from the wood while pulling the trigger and moving it back and forth in a slow, even movement. Don’t overlap the passes by more than ¾ inches for best results.
Inspect the finish to ensure that it matches your requirements. Check for unevenness, pitting, and blown-out chunks. If you notice any defects, the nozzle was probably too close to the surface. Repeat the test, but hold the nozzle further away.
In some cases, the pressure is too low, and the sandblasting doesn’t obtain the desired effect. If you notice this, turn up the air compressor’s pressure in 10PSI increments while repeating the test on your piece of scrap wood. Don’t move the nozzle closer to the wood since this could damage the wood.
Once you’re satisfied with the finish, you’re ready to move on to your project.
6. Sandblasting Your Project
Carry out sandblasting on your project in the same manner that gave the desired results on your piece of scrap wood. Pause regularly to inspect progress, ensuring that you spot issues early on. Carrying on when things go wrong could ruin your project.
Note that lots of dust will be generated – go out for fresh air if necessary.
Sandblasting for Restoration
Sandblasting wood is typically used for cleaning, although it could also create aesthetic finishes. When restoring furniture, the first step is often removing paint or build-up from the surface – this is where sandblasting comes in handy.
Sandblasting Wooden Furniture
Sandblasting furniture can make it look like natural driftwood, which has spent months or years in the ocean. Note that sandblasting on antique furniture isn’t always the best course of action. The wood may be badly damaged underneath the layers of paint in varnish. In this case, sandblasting will worsen the situation. Where possible, test sandblasting on a hidden area on the piece before doing the entire thing.
Sandblasting is ideal for creating a rustic, distressed look since it makes wood look really weathered. Here, baking soda is the best medium to use since it will quickly remove paint and inflict the least damage to the wood.
Since sandblasting is highly effective at removing paint, it’s easy to overdo it. Work slowly and carefully, pausing to check your progress as you go. If you overdid the sandblasting, the piece would need to be sanded down again (usually by hand) before continuing.
Sandblasting is a common way of cleaning dirt, paint, and debris when refinishing decks. This cleaning process exposes the wood underneath, allowing you to apply a fresh coat of paint or varnish. When done correctly, it prolongs the deck’s lifespan. Note that overdoing sandblasting can damage the wood, so as always, work slowly and check your work as you progress.
Sandblasted Wood Signs
Sandblasting is an effective technique for bringing out the wood’s grain. This creates an effect similar to a weathered barn, popular in wooden signage and architectural trims.
Here, the sandblasting would eat away a more significant portion of the softer wood, leaving the hard grain intact. You could get a similar finish when using a wire brush on wood, although the effect is more pronounced in sandblasting.
This type of effect requires harsher blasting media, such as crushed glass or walnut shells, depending on how pronounced you want it to be. Trial and error is your friend in this technique since it requires a balance between sandblasting media and time spent sandblasting at the appropriate distance.
You could use a pencil blaster for detailed work, similar to an airbrush. This is ideal for smaller projects. This technique doesn’t offer deep penetration, though.
Back to Contents
- Can Wood Be Sandblasted?
- Pros and Cons of Sandblasting Wood
- How to Sandblast Wood?
- Sandblasting for Restoration
- Sandblasted Wood Signs