Let’s face it we’re all on a budget and there’s a good chance when you’re shopping for tools you have the conversation with yourself on “do I really NEED this?”. The answer is usually “yes I do” but that doesn’t always mean your budget is in favor! When it comes to media blasting it can get expensive quick when initially buying the equipment and supplies needed to get going. Luckily once you’re up and running the consumables last a while and are quick inexpensive so you the sting of the initial investment will go away over time. But if you are at a crossroads and have decided that you can only purchase one type of media blaster right now you may need to weigh the pros and cons of each to help determine which you will need. We’ve put some pros an cons about each below to help you make that decision a little easier.
Stand up or stand alone pressure blasters use a pressure pot or tank that holds the media and the compressed air all together. When you pull the trigger on the blaster nozzle the pressurized air and media are forced out the hose and do the lords work of removing old paint and coatings. This means that the media will go EVERYWHERE. And we mean everywhere. If you’re looking to use this type of media blaster you’re going to need to do it outside of have a dedicated, sealed bay in a workshop to blast in otherwise the media will get into and onto everything. The nice thing about a pressure blaster is that you’re free to walk around large parts and manuever yourself and the blaster versus having to spin or flip the parts all the time. This is really great for large objects like wheels, frames, suspension parts, etc. Just wheel the blaster over to where you need to work and go at it! Generally a pressure blaster works best with a larger compressor. The more air/cfm you can put to a pressure blaster the better since you want to keep that pressure pot full at all times. Filling and changing the media in a pressure blaster is easy since you’re outside and you can tilt or pick up the blaster to drain it. Filling is usually done through the top and you can just drop a funnel in the opening and dump your media right in.
A good blast cabinet is necessary in most any automotive repair, restoration, or hobbyist shop. With a blast cabinet your media is contained inside the cabinet and is recycled. This means you can reuse the media over and over again until it breaks down and looses its grit. Usually 1-2 50 pound bags will fill most cabinets and get you working for months (or years depending on your use) without having to change the media. Simply dump the media right into the top of the cabinet and you’re ready to work. Blast cabinets are also nice because you can do small, delicate parts and you can hold them in the rubber gloves hands inside the cabinet. This allows you to really efficiently clean small and delicate parts as well as larger ones in a comfortable setting in your shop. Now size issues are a problem depending on your blast cabinet. You can only fit so much in a cabinet and your space constraints and budget are the only thing holding you back. When choosing a cabinet we suggest thinking of the largest items you’d most commonly blast and try and get a cabinet to hold those. A common task is to blast automotive or motorcycle wheels in a cabinet and in that case you should get a cabinet that can house the diameter wheels you’ll most commonly strip. Emptying a blast cabinet is a bit messy and time consuming as you need to open the trap on the bottom and let it all drain into a bag or box for disposal. This will likely get some residual media on the floor or in the air so it can be a little cumbersome to do this change. Luckily most hobbyists only change their media 1-2 times a year so it isn’t something you have to endure often.
Hopefully this little breakdown of the pros and cons of each type of blaster has helped you decide which you will need for your workshop. As with any pneumatic tool we advise to check the CFM requirements for your next blaster against the air compressor you currently own. Even the most expensive media blasters will be subpar in performance if they’re powered by too small of a compressor.