Can you sandblast wood? The quick answer to this common question is “Yes!” There are quite a few methods to consider, depending on the type of wood as well as the type of project you’re considering. This guide describes how to sandblast wood, and it provides tips for sandblasting wooden furniture as well. Note that you can use the techniques described here for sandblasting cabinets, as well. Let’s get started.
How to Sandblast Wood
Whether sandblasting wood furniture or sandblasting wood before getting started with a project, there are a few things that you’ll need:
- Ceramic nozzle
- Air compressor
- Sandblasting media
- Blast hood
- Protective gloves
- Tyvek coveralls (optional)
Once you have gathered all of your materials, it’s time to get some practice before you start to work on your project. We’d like to stress beforehand just how important it is to take your time and get a feel for the process before you get started, since there’s a very narrow margin for error. Also, unless you have a special, well-ventilated area set up for sandblasting, it’s best to do this project outside, away from any structure or vehicle that might be accidentally damaged by the pressurized media.
Set up your sandblaster according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and fill the pressure tank or pot with sandblasting media such as corn cob, walnut shells, or soda. Note that heavy media like corn cob and walnut shells are highly abrasive, while soda is gentlest. The media you choose will have an effect on the finished appearance of your project.
Ensure that you have chosen the correct ceramic nozzle for your sandblaster. Walnut shells, pumice, and other tough media typically call for a 1/8 inch nozzle, while soda blasting wood calls for a 3/32 inch nozzle.
Don your protective garb. Do not skip this step, as the abrasive material being used for your project will remove skin and can cause serious injuries. It’s a good idea to wear a pair of Tyvek coveralls with tape securing the openings. If this isn’t possible, cover up all exposed skin with durable work clothes. Be sure that you are wearing clothing with long sleeves. Wear pants, not shorts, and be sure that you’re wearing durable, closed-toe shoes.
Whether you use a sandblaster or soda blaster, understand that wood will warp if the pressure is too high. Be sure to read the instructions that came with your sandblaster. In most cases, the air compressor’s pressure should be set at 35 pounds per square inch.
Start by testing your sandblaster on a piece of scrap wood. Holding the sandblasting gun so its nozzle is about 8 inches from the wood’s surface, pull the trigger and slowly move the nozzle back and forth. Try not to overlap passes by more than about ¾ of an inch.
Stop and inspect your test piece to see how it turned out. You’re looking for problems like pitting, unevenness, and blown-out chunks. If you see any defects, try your test again, moving further away from the wood’s surface. Once your test piece shows no defects, you know you’ve got the correct distance and you can move on with your project.
If you have the opposite problem – that is, if you’re not noticing an effect, then you can turn up the pressure on the air compressor in 10 PSI increments. Repeat the test until you’re satisfied with the outcome, and then move on with your project.
Sandblasted wood furniture can be smooth and beautiful, so long as you’re very careful and you take time to practice your technique before working on anything truly important.
There are a few reasons to sandblast wood furniture: Perhaps you’d like to give it an old, rustic, or weathered appearance, or maybe you’d like to create a piece that looks like it’s made with real driftwood that has spent months or years exposed to the ocean’s salty waves. Maybe you’d simply like to remove a thick coat of paint so that you can refinish that old chest, chair, or cabinet that’s been begging for a makeover. Whatever the reason, sandblasting wood furniture of different types calls for the same basic steps.
Now is a good time to mention that sandblasting antique furniture might not be in your best interest, depending on your goals. If you want to try soda blasting or sandblasting a vintage piece of furniture with the aim of restoring it, understand that the wood underneath the finish might emerge badly damaged. Test a hidden area if you can. If, on the other hand, you have a piece of antique furniture that you’d like to turn into a rustic, distressed masterpiece, then sandblasting or soda blasting might be the perfect technique to use.
The best way to sandblast wood furniture is usually to use soda as the medium. The “soda” in question is the same as baking soda used in the kitchen. It’s great for removing paint easily, and it won’t cause as much damage as other media. Of course, you can always experiment with walnut shells or plastic media, if you like.
The sandblasting process typically moves very quickly. It’s easy to overdo it and end up with a project that needs to be re-sanded the old-fashioned way before finishing, so work slowly and carefully.
One of the biggest problems people encounter when sandblasting wood furniture, signs, and other projects, is that wood isn’t the same hardness all the way through. The sandblasting media cuts through the softest portions of the wood first, leaving the harder portions exposed. This can create a very cool artistic effect that looks a lot like natural driftwood, but the same effect can be problematic if it’s not exactly what you’re going for.
Don’t feel bad if your test projects aren’t perfect on the first go. Sandblasting wood furniture is a specialized technique that takes plenty of practice and even skilled operators sometimes encounter problems. Take your time, enjoy the process, and have fun experimenting!