How to Choose the Best Sandblaster for Your Application
Sandblasting is the process of using a sandblast gun to spray pressurized, abrasive material over a surface in order to smooth or shape it, or remove contaminants like rust or paint. The best sandblaster and best sandblasting media (abrasive material) will vary based on the application, so we’ve put together this guide to help you find the best sandblaster, best sandblasting cabinet, and best air compressor for sandblasting.
You can think of sandblasting as a more efficient and more effective alternative to hand sanding. Because of this, sandblasting is extremely useful for plenty of DIY projects. Any type of DIY project that involves part maintenance, restoration, tool cleaning, rust or paint removal, crafting, or artisan work will benefit from having a sandblaster available.
The best sandblaster setup for your work will generally fit into two categories:
- If you are without a larger outdoor area to work, prefer to work in a garage, or those working on exclusively small parts would benefit from a sandblasting cabinet.
- Projects involving very large parts will need an outdoor area and a complete, portable sandblasting unit with a portable air compressor for sandblasting or a simple sandblasting gun with a stationary air compressor for sandblasting.
Dust created from blast media is very dangerous to the eyes and lungs, so gloves, goggles, and a respirator are absolutely necessary for sandblasting, even when using one of the best sandblasting cabinets. These items are inexpensive, so don’t skimp.
The Best Sandblaster Guns and Sandblasting Units
There are 3 major types of sandblasters, siphon sandblasters, gravity fed sandblasters, and pressure sandblasters.
Best Gravity Fed Sandblaster
A gravity fed sandblaster uses a hopper on top of the gun to drop media into the pressurized air stream, shooting it out of the gun. These are great when working with smaller items.
Gravity fed sandblasters need to have the hopper refilled manually which makes them less than ideal for larger projects. Another disadvantage is that the hopper makes the gun larger and more difficult to fit into tight areas of larger project.
To function, a gravity fed sandblaster only requires:
- An air compressor for sandblasting
- A gravity fed sandblaster gun
This makes them as portable as your air compressor hose will allow, and extremely affordable. For those who don’t plan on sandblasting often this is the best sandblaster for you.
The Lematec Portable Sand Blaster Gun
Best Siphon Fed Sandblaster
A siphon fed sandblaster uses a bucket filled with media connected to the gun. The pressurized air flowing through the gun creates a siphon, which then draws the media into the gun and out of the nozzle. These are great for large and small projects.
To function, a siphon fed sandblaster requires:
- A heavy duty air compressor for sandblasting
- A siphon fed sandblasting unit
- A siphon fed sandblaster gun (if your siphon fed sandblasting unit does not include one)
Siphon fed sandblasters require a larger air compressor but allow you to continue working without having to refill a small gravity fed hopper. If you are planning on sandblasting both large and small projects fairly often then this is the best sandblaster for you.
The DBMIMPORTS Sandblaster Air Siphon
Black Bull SFSB90 90 Pound Abrasive Blaster
Best Pressure Sandblaster
A pressure sandblaster is made of a heavy duty tank with a pressure gauge. The tank is filled with media and then pressurized using an air compressor with sufficient power. The pressure is then used to push the media through the nozzle of your sandblasting gun.
A pressure sandblaster moves media faster and more effectively than a siphon fed sandblaster, as long as you have a powerful enough air compressor.
To function, a pressure sandblaster requires:
- A heavy duty air compressor for sandblasting
- A pressure sandblasting unit
- A pressure sandblaster gun (if your pressure sandblasting unit does not include one)
If you plan to work on large, tough projects frequently then this is the best sandblaster for you. It is well worth the extra costs, and time saved will quickly add up.
Nesco Tools 410A Portable Pressure Sandblaster
Best Air Compressor for Sandblasting
The heart of a sandblaster is the air compressor. The air compressor provides the pressure which allows the system to force the media through a nozzle. If you want a great sandblaster it all starts with a great air compressor for sandblasting.
The best air compressor for sandblasting depends on the application. A simple gravity fed system can get away with a smaller air compressor, but a siphon or pressure system will require a much more powerful air compressor for sandblasting efficiently and effectively.
Skimp on the air compressor and you may find yourself frequently waiting for your system to re-pressurize after just a few seconds of sandblasting. Pairing a super cheap air compressor with even the best sandblaster will result in poor performance. Remember, an air compressor can be used to power other tools as well, so they’re great investments.
The key air compressor figures to pay attention to are capacity (in gallons), HP (horsepower), CFM (cubic feet per minute) and PSI (pound per square inch).
A larger capacity means that you can sandblast longer without waiting for more air. More horsepower means more air will be available faster.
Your sandblasting unit will recommend a minimum CFM and PSI for optimal performance. As long as your air compressor can meet, or at least come very close to these requirements you are good to go. If your compressor’s specifications are below these numbers and has a small tank, you will be taking a lot of breaks.
Best Air Compressor for Sandblasting – Portable
The Porter-Cable C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor is a great addition to any garage. Its portability and large capacity will make it useful for tons of projects. This is the best air compressor for sandblasting that won’t be done in a sandblasting cabinet.
The Porter-Cable C2002-WK Specifications:
- 6 gallon capacity
- 150 max psi
- 2.6 SCFM at 90 psi
Best Air Compressor for Sandblasting – Stationary
The NorthStar 3HP 230V Single Phase Electric Air Compressor is the best air compressor for sandblasting cabinets and projects where equipment portability are not a concern.
The NorthStar 3HP 230V Single Phase Electric Air Compressor Specifications:
- 3HP, 230V single phase
- 60 gallon capacity
- 11.3 CFM at 90 psi
- 135 max psi
Best Sandblasting Cabinet for Easy Cleanup
Best Sandblasting Cabinet
The JEGS sandblasting cabinet is the best sandblasting cabinet for the money. It comes with a vacuum vent, gloves, an internal light and a sandblasting gun.
The harsh truth about sandblasting cabinets is that even the best sandblasting cabinet can leak. We recommend buying a quality sandblasting cabinet such as the JEGS cabinet, and coating the seams in a sealant spray. Just be careful to keep the spray out of the media collector.
After a quick touch up with the sealant spray and the addition of a shop vacuum you will have the best sandblasting cabinet for your money.
Best Sandblasting Media – Which Material Should You Use
First and foremost, always check what grit is compatible with your sandblasting unit. Certain grit sizes are not recommended for some sandblasting cabinets. It is best to read your equipment manual to make sure.
The results of sandblasting can vary greatly depending on what sandblasting media and grit size you use. The best sandblasting media for each application will vary greatly.
How to Choose the Best Grit Size for Sandblasting
Blast media is described by grit size. The smaller the grit size the larger the particles. Larger grit size will cut faster and leave a coarse finish. Smaller grit cuts slowly and leaves a smooth finish.
A grit size from 200 to 400+ is useful for finishing and smoothing, while a grit size from 30 to 100 will be useful for tougher cleaning jobs like heavy rust removal or leaving coarser finishes for paint prep.
How to Choose the Best Media for Sandblasting
Natural Blast Media
A gentle, natural media such as walnut shells, corn cob, or pumice is best when working with a more delicate material or a material you only wish to clean. These are great for paint removal or cleaning metal parts. This will maintain the integrity of the part.
Glass Bead Blast Media
Glass bead blast media is made up of small glass spheres that leave a soft, bright finish. Glass bead media is useful for rust removal, and peening. Glass bead is not the same as glass abrasive, which is essentially crushed glass.
Plastic Bead Blast Media
Plastic bead blast media is a good, general purpose blast media. Plastic bead media will work well for soft metals like aluminum or brass and plastics. It will work well in delicate automotive blasting applications since it does not damage or warp the underlying material.
Steel Grit Blast Media
Steel grit blast media is useful for items that you intend to paint. It leaves a slight roughness to the surface which allows the paint to adhere better.
Silicon Carbide Blast Media
Extremely hard media, silicon carbide blast media is useful for the toughest applications.
Hopefully we’ve helped you find the best sandblaster, best sandblasting cabinet, best sandblasting media or best air compressor for sandblasting.