Media Blasting at Home?


Bigger Hammer
Aug 19, 2010
Willys Model
Willys Year:
Somebody please say so if I'm about to do something stupid:

I was thinking of buying this $800 compressor and this $220 blasting cabinet: ... 93274.html ... 93608.html

It seems this combination should be a more than sufficient for cabinet blasting and that cabinet looks big enough to handle most anything I'd want to strip in the garage. I'm also quite sure I'd spend almost that much or more trying to fabricate a similar cabinet. That compressor is the best buy for the money (cfm/psi) I've found and it gets good reviews.

My experience with blasting is this: I already have a 40lb pressurized tank sand blaster and about a ten year old 2.5hp, 25gal, 120 volt compressor. I've used the blaster on little stuff (obviously intermittently) but not for several years. I think I may have forgotten how miserable it was, blasting in the side yard, in the sun, in 100+ degree temps, sweat dripping, and waiting for the compressor to catch up.

I've been researching media blasting and there's a school of thought that any media blaster attached to a home compressor (even the larger 220v dual phase compressors) is a waste of money and time for stripping paint from vehicle bodies and large panels. And I think I get that -- I can see that being a lot of work and a lot of time. There's a shop near the house that soda blasts so that may be an option. I don't know what they charge yet, but I've read whatever they charge, it's worth it.

Even before I got the Willys I've always like to clean, polish and paint so I've wanted something like this for a long time, I just can't convince myself to feel good about buying this. It's a lot of money and even though we have some extra, there's just a lot of other stuff we could spend it on. If it'd be good for stripping the body and panels, it'd be easier to justify, but it doesn't sound like it.

Just my thoughts...I believe anything you buy at china frieght is throw away shit...and I doubt that the compressor is worth the price scrap metal brings...I have no problem with the cabinet. Blasting takes a lot of AIR and the compressor would over work itself and burn you would have to blast, let it build up pressure, blast, build up pressure and then wait till it cooled down. Going thru that type of cycle would short live the unit. Check to see what they charge for blasting. Sanding works for me, although time consuming too...I have a 60 gallon Ingersal-Rand (one lunger) I bought at Home Depot for less and I wait for the cool down and change/check the oil often. Good Luck!
I've bought two blast cabinets of of craigs list, one top opening, one side opening. Side unit is larger and seals better. Neither one was mor than $60, nor used much. You can find compressors on CL too.
If you soda blast make sure you neutralize. The guys who blasted my truck $700 interior/exterior, said primer/paint will peel in 1 to 2 years time.
Also blasting outside may expose you to environmental laws....
Been using 30 gal home depot compressed for 5 years, paint, blasting etc without problem. It was $250 or so with set of air tools
While I might have to agree with Kevin regarding some of Harbor Freight's stuff, I've also had good luck with a lot of their stuff as well. My air compressor in particular has never given me an ounce of trouble, and my brother-in-law uses HF stuff extensively in his furniture shop and swears by the stuff. If you think it'll meet your needs, go for it.
Of course you're right about the products of the Chinese economic war. I really try not to shop at Mao-Mart and places like HF, but begrudgingly sometimes I do. In this case, the similar compressors I'd seen by other manufacturers were significantly more. Plus I have a 20% off coupon for HF and I saw this on one of the reviews, "This compressor is made in the USA by the same company that makes compressors for alot of brand names such as Bel-Aire..." I don't know if that's true but I figured I'd look at it when we go to the city.

While typing this, I did stumble across this Bel-Aire that's about the same specs for about the same price:
...with free shipping. That might be alright.

And this Campbell Hausfeld at Lowes (which is weird, because I've been to their site several times recently and hadn't seen it before): ... _sold%7C1#

I guess the $800 for the HF one isn't that smoking of a deal. Well, you got me to broaden my focus and I thank you for that -- I do have priors for tunnel vision.

My original plan was to sand much of the paint to the metal until I read in a "how to" book on painting that using mechanical sanders to remove paint to the bare metal make scratches deep enough in the metal that primer may not fill them in. This author recommended using paint stripper (aircraft stripper). I could buy a lot of stripper for $800. I just can't see using stripper in some places where it will be next to impossible to remove for painting or overhead like the inside top of the cab. (Book: How to Paint Your Car on a Budget by Pat Ganahl)

I've been watching Craigslist almost daily since last winter. I've seen no usable compressors and only one blast cabinet, a small one, which was gone when I called on it two days after it was posted. I don't live in a densely populated area. In fact we're not required to smog our vehicles and we're even allowed to burn wood in stoves and fireplaces, so I don't think the so-called "Environmental" Nazis will find me should I media blast in the driveway. I will check into the price of having the pickup blasted. It's a flatbed, so I would hope it wouldn't be too much. I have heard that if metal is soda blasted, it must be properly prep'd to insure paint adhesion. I did read (I should stop that, huh) there have been some extremely rare cases of paint not sticking at all, no matter how much cleaning and prep amid speculation that the blasting somehow statically charged the car.
Brian, I would have to say that everyone here is making valid points and you are obviously in line with them. That said, I have a couple of inputs.
1. I love the idea of a blasting cabinet in my garage. Just don't have the room. For body panels I say no. For parts and pieces...oh yeh.

2. I don't think HF is a bad place as long as you go in with eyes wide open. I have bought several items from them for a one time (maybe two) uses and still have them. Years of use and all is good so far. They obviously are not "quality" items, but are doing well for what I need.

Here's the BIG ONE:
3. Have you considered renting a sand blaster? I know it's a bit harsh but here's my thinking. I stripped my first Willys down to nothing, then rented a sand blaster, went in to a field behind a friends house and was done with the whole truck in less than two hours. For the rental and materials I think it cost me around $200 and that was that. Of course this was in the mid 80's so i'm sure it's gone up a bit, but still not a bad deal. In my opinion a nice paint job can still be had after blasting as long as the prep work is there. Unless you are looking for a show winner and never plan on taking the thing off road, it's a good choice.

Willys trucks and wagons are one of the most unique vehicles out there, but they aren't trailer queens. I recently went to the Fall Willys Reunion here in Missouri. There were 3 vehicles (local vehicles) still on trailers. WHY? Because they're afraid to drive em'. Several were parked that (to me) looked just as nice and I knew they were driven and used. Why make 'em SO NICE that you're afraid to take it down a dirt road? Primer, Sealer and a good paint will can still look great after a good blasting. It'll save you time and enough money to take the spouse mouse out to dinner after shaking the sand out of your shorts. Think about it.
Thanks all for the posts, info, experience and perspective. And thanks Steve for that last post. I have a personality flaw that tends to ruin most of my projects and that is I get Type A-ish about doing stuff perfect, often to the point where I either never finish the project, or it just takes forever. I didn't realize it, but I was already starting to think this way. I do want to drive and use the Willys. That's the fun of it. My father in-law used to restore show winning Model-Ts in his garage and would drive them -- once from Missouri to Alaska and back! That's where I want to be. I want to enjoy using it, not just enjoy having it. I was already losing that perspective (stupid me!), so thanks.

My lovely spouse is coercing me into making the dreaded trip into the city today, so I guess I'll look at some compressors, but I don't know that I'll buy one. I'll take a look at that blast cabinet too. If I do buy a compressor I have a better idea of what to look for.

If anyone else is a dumb as me about compressors (which I doubt) here's the best write-up I found about buying one: ... 0002309894
He gives advice like, "You'll never complain you bought too big a compressor." And if you need 90 psi at the tool, you may need as much as 120 psi in the tank at all times (due to air restrictions and air demand of the tool I guess).

I did find a place or two where guys talked bad about compressors from Sears, Campbell Hausfeld and Husky. I don't know that what I found justifies avoiding these brands, but guys did seem to complain about them enough to make a fellow wonder.

I still need to check into to commercial blasting and renting a blaster.
Last time I looked at Sears compressors they were a repainted Devilbiss, and I found the same compressor with Porter-Cable paint and stickers with free 3/8 air ratchet, 3/8 air gun, hose and quick connect kit at Lowes for about $75.00 less. That has been about six years, but not a hiccup from the compressor yet. And I would second the no such thing as too big a compressor. So buy what you can fit in your workspace and remember the HP ratings on all compressors is a lie, just like shop vacs and most other stuff they rate in HP. Compressor you linked to in the first post is just under 3 HP by the volts x amps / 746 formula.
Yeah, I think I was catching on to the HP thing. I was also thinking an 80 gal tank would be really nice, but after seeing how fat and chunky they are, space will be a problem.

So we did go to the city today and I looked at the CH at Lowes and the HF ones. I wasn't able to get anymore information at the store regarding the units than I could on the web (like stainless steel valves, steel cranks, etc.). Of the two comparable units, the HF had a better looking pump -- more refined casting. They both still look like Hecho in China stuff though. I didn't feel particularly good about buying either one of them though, so I didn't.

I did look at the HF blast cabinet and honestly, for HF stuff it looks pretty nice. The panels seem to fit well and it feels nice and sturdy. Even the paint isn't the usual HF pinkish-red that turns to a chalky pink after 48 hours in the sun; it's actually red. I didn't buy it though as I'm still figuring out what I really want vs need and what's really most practical for me. (I hate indecision, but I'm so good at it...)