Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting requests for information regarding paint-stripping options. A couple years ago I was pondering the same question myself and contacted the folks at the Eastwood Company for some advice. It just so happened that the company was developing a modification that would transform a standard pressurized sandblaster to operate using soda rather than silica.

The advantage of soda is that it’s much less aggressive than silica and will remove paint without the surface suffering the damage that coarse abrasives often cause. At the time it was the perfect situation for me as I had some non-metal parts that I needed to strip, so I had them ship me one of the very first soda conversion kits (part number 51360) for testing.

Since that time, Eastwood has refined its soda blasters and conversions, and they now work even better. That’s saying a lot since the early unit used in the following story worked great. So, take a look at my introduction to Eastwood’s soda blasters, and if you like what ya see, check out the Eastwood website and take a look at its selection of soda/abrasive blaster outfits and/or conversion kits. Take my word for it, either way, they’ll pay for themselves in labor savings as well as negating the use of caustic chemical strippers.

Stripping paint from any surface is a pain in the butt to say the least. Over the years I’ve spent way more time, energy, burned skin, and probably a few hundred-thousand brain cells removing old layers of paint using chemical strippers. Then, a dozen years or so ago, I finally graduated to sandblasting as an option. Sandblasting definitely beat the heck out of caustic chemical stripping, but had its drawbacks – chiefly the dangers of silicosis caused by breathing the airborne silica dust, the detrimental effect of work-hardening sheetmetal, and the aggressive abrasion on non-metallic parts. In these cases my only options were to go back to the old chemical stripper route or farm out the job to a professional media-blasting outfit – a hassle at best.

Then recently I became aware that one of my favorite tool sources (The Eastwood Company) had made a leap in technology that allowed the home (or professional, for that matter) shop dweller to take advantage of an optional stripping media (baking soda) that has the ability to remove paint without harming the substrate. With my curiosity piqued I grabbed the phone and dialed up one of my tech sources for the lowdown.

I got an Eastwood product development engineer on the line and he was more than happy to clue me in on this new development. Here’s what he had to say:

“Abrasive blasting is an old and proven technology which uses silica sand as a blast media, hence the term ‘sandblasting.’ However, with the increased awareness of silicosis dangers since about 1973 or so, several modern alternative media have been in use.

“The most common alternate blasting media (aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, glass bead, coal slag, aluminum or steel pellets and more) are generally used for paint and coating removal, and in some cases, rust removal. All of these media are grains of hard, sharp material, which when propelled at high velocity with blasting equipment, are capable of generating a great deal of heat on the blasted surface resulting in warped panels and etched surfaces. Traditional abrasive blasting is still best for stripping and removing rust from castings or heavy steel parts, but not the best for stripping paint from autobody sheetmetal and certainly not fiberglass.

“There are some less aggressive media including poly, walnut shell, corn husk and others available for the purpose of stripping paint from auto bodies, however, they can require a great deal of work to clean up from the area when the job is done and will leave residual particles in the car body’s seams and crevices. Another alternative, rapidly increasing in popularity, is bicarbonate of soda, more commonly known as ‘soda blasting.’ The technology is fairly recent, having been developed in the mid ’80s primarily for the purpose of cleaning the Statue of Liberty inside and out – a delicate task requiring effectiveness without damage.

“Fast forward some 20 years and we now have the benefit of equipment easily obtainable to the average hobbyist who wishes to strip paint from his pride and joy without inflicting damage. In fact, a car can be stripped of its paint while leaving all trim, rubber, and glass IN PLACE with no harm to those components! Additionally, no panel-damaging heat is generated, and the surface is left smooth and texture free, even on aluminum and fiberglass. This occurs because the soda particles completely shatter into dust after striking and removing the paint without harming the base metal or fiberglass. We recently stripped the paint on a classic Chevy pickup using Eastwood’s soda blaster and discovered original factory sanding marks on the fender. These were actually left intact, but the paint was gone!

“The soda will also leave a light, dusty protective film on panels helping to prevent surface rust for up to several months. This is simply rinsed away with water prior to painting and you only need to rinse out seams and crevices to remove stray dust particles. Perhaps the best feature of soda is the fact that it is completely inert and water soluble, saving a great deal of cleanup time when the job is done. Of course the proper steps should be taken to recover removed paint particles before getting out the hose and washing the dust away.

“An additional use for soda as a blasting media is the ability to clean and degrease complex mechanical assemblies such as transmissions or rear axles with no harm to internal moving parts. Many folks also use it to clean underhood areas with no removal of or harm to components or wiring.”

With this newfound bit of information, and a perfect candidate for a paint-stripping job waiting patiently in my garage, I had Joe ship me one of their soda conversion kits to see just how well it worked. Well, as is always the case with a new piece of Eastwood equipment, I was pleased with just how well it worked. So, with this in mind, I chronicled my Saturday afternoon paint-stripping job so I could share my experience. Take a look and see for yourself how another Eastwood product is making my home shop chores easier, less dangerous, and far less expensive than farming out to a professional shop.

SOURCE
Eastwood Company
263 Shoemaker Road
Pottstown
PA  19464
800-343-9353
http://www.eastwood.com
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