Many people can benefit from a sand blasting cabinet, also known as a Mediablaster®, in a home-based shop. These machines are incredibly handy for all kinds of applications including restoring classic cars, etching glass, and rebuilding a motor. A blasting cabinet is truly an all-in-one tool when it comes to rebuilding because it removes all the years of surface coatings to preparing for new paint or powder coating, and it can also simply clean, polish, and seal metal surfaces to restore the original look using Wet or Dry Cabinets.
Which Sand Blasting Cabinet is Best for a Home Shop?
Choosing the right cabinet is more than deciding how much you want to pay and cross checking the cost of blasters online. In fact, buying on price alone is an almost guaranteed way to be disappointed. Below you will see the four key tips that can help you buy the right sand blasting cabinet for your application.
- Know the electrical power you have access to. The electrical power you have is the first and most important factor in which sand blasting cabinet you purchase. And we mean the electric power to run the air compressor, not the electrical power to operate the blasting cabinet. Almost all Home Shops use 220 single-phase power, or what you find standard in every home. This limits the air compressor size you can operate and also limits what is available to purchase at your local Big Box Store. Normally the largest cfm air compressor you can purchase will be in the 18- to 25-cfm volume. Understand this volume of compressed air creates more frictional heat than a 10- to 12-cfm compressor. When you double the air volume you clean parts 3 times faster. Check the main electrical panel and see if you have space for a 220 single-phase circuit breaker. If you purchase the maximum compressor cfm, you will need to install a 30 amp 220-volt single-phase electrical circuit breaker and supply line. Remember: a smaller air compressor means much slower part cleaning and large parts, even if they fit, don’t really belong inside a cabinet operating on 25-cfm or less. (Check out these 5 tips for buying compressed air for home shop blasting cabinets.)
- Be realistic about the part sizes you will be cleaning. If you have larger parts, find a local sandblasting job shop and pay them to process the part. They will be using a huge air compressor volume, up to 100 cfm, and process your part very quickly. You might be surprised at how little the large part can cost in a local blasting shop. Hand-held parts are really what belongs inside a 25-cfm cabinet.
- Estimate the daily usage that might occur. Most inexpensive cabinets found online and sold by tool houses are rated at less than 1-hour usage per day. This is known as the DDC, Daily Duty Cycle, and it will be connected to the blasting cabinet dust collector and the dust storage size of the dust collector filters. Thinking the cabinet will only operate on the weekend is not wise. Blasting all day on Saturday means the machine needs to be well over 50% DDC. If not, you will be cleaning the cabinet dust collector every 20 minutes, 3 times per hour, and 24 times for one day. We rarely find anyone who is willing to perform that much maintenance, it’s much more likely the cabinet will get really messy. Even if you’re only using the cabinet once a year for 8 hours on that one day, you need to consider that continuous operation as your DDC.
- Decide on the budget last. Deciding on the budget first and buying a machine normally results in poor machine performance, and never-ending disappointment because your expectations cannot be met. The speed of that 10-cfm gun size using a vacuum blower motor with no separator reclaimed to clean the abrasive, can almost be slower than a wire brush.
ProTip: Frictional heat differs even when you keep the blasting pressure the same. Doubling the cfm used will really increase the frictional heat just like pushing down on electrical sanders’ sand faster, so will using more blasting cfm volume at the same blasting pressure. For more information about compressed air, check out our Compressed Air: 101 blog.
To Sum It Up
Most of the machines you will find online today will be cabinets being sold by Tool Houses. Tool Houses know the selling price for the machine but very little about blasting applications. Asking questions like, what is the DDC, Daily Duty Cycle of the equipment can set you up to silence when shopping using these retailers. If you plan on using the machine all day, buy a machine that can operate at least at a 50% DDC. This will have a separator reclaimer, self-cleaning dust collector with a large cabinet cfm blower to produce visibility, and lots of dust collector filter area to hold enough dust to allow the unit to operate at least 2 hours before dust collector cleaning is required.