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Want to sandblast signs

Discussion in 'Dimensional Signs' started by trimitbyrich, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. Hey all, I would love to start offering sandblasted signs. I'm familiar with some of the basics like plotting the mask material, needing a two stage air compressor and such. Although I feel confident in trying one where's a good place to start? What equipment would I need to get started? I can glue up the boards no problem, purchase foam board etc. please pass along some wisdom so I know where to start.
  2. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

    Jan 2, 2010
    Mitten State
    You'll want a rotary screw compressor. Sandblasters are real air hogs and your two-stage won't be able to keep up.

    In the meanwhile, you can outsource much of that work and mess and just do the design and sales of sandblasted signs.

  3. Do the people you outsource to generally know what to do when it comes to making it look sign worthy?
  4. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

    Jan 2, 2010
    Mitten State
    I believe that's your job. You send them the cut file, they stencil and blast and ship it to you. You do the painting and finish work.

    We do our own sandblasting, but our specialty is cemetery monuments, rocks and bricks.

  5. Very cool stuff. I'd love to do it all in house.
  6. sinetist

    sinetist Member

    Jul 2, 2009
    Gabriola BC, Canada
    I laminate and prepare the panel, mask it with the resist then take it to a tool rental place's sandblasting booth. They supply the heavy duty compressor and blasting equipment, sand, fresh air positive vented mask and gloves and a single car garage sized room where the blasting is done. Saves me the cost of all the equipment involved and the clean-up of the sand. I only do three or four a year though.
  7. That's a great idea. Would sure love to find one like that in my area
  8. Jillbeans

    Jillbeans Major Contributor

    Dec 24, 2003
    Butler, PA
    I would definitely sub it out or do as Sinetist suggests.
    Especially what he says, that way you will know whether or not you enjoy it.
    I personally do not, it makes a mess and it's pricey, then people try to nickle-and-dime you.
  9. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

    Sep 29, 2003
    Wetumpka, AL
    Do the math first. The honest math (not that math people use when justifying buying a printer).

    Unless you're selling the bejesus out of some sandblasted signs you're gonna have a hard time justifying the expense.

    The few I do I simply design, mask, and take to a local commercial sandblaster. Any blasting guy worth a snot knows how to adjust feed size and air pressure and whatever else they do to handle different materials. Find one who knows what he's doing and blasting wood won't be a big deal for him. Mine has blasted everything from granite, to slate, redwood, hdu, pine floor planks, and canoe paddles. If he's never done it just ask if you can hang out while he does the first one you can talk to him about depth and such as he goes. My guy blasts my stuff at the end of the day for what amounts to beer money.
  10. rjssigns

    rjssigns Major Contributor

    Jun 4, 2007
    Home Office
    The local monument place does them for us. I bring them the masked panel, tell them the depth and leave. They call when it's done.

    If you've never done it don't get the equipment.

    Rotary screw compressors are mainly diesel driven. Do you know how to correctly maintain a diesel cooling system?
    Little thing called cavitation that will knock the bottoms out of the cylinder liners right at the o-rings. Then you get coolant in the oil which eats the bearings and will seize the motor. You need an additive that prevents this along with the Ph strips to continually check balance.

    What about algae build-up in the diesel fuel? Proper procedure for priming a fuel pump and bleeding the lines if you itout of fuel?
    What about injector pump and injector lube because of present day "dry" fuels?(not as much of an issue if you get a new unit) Did you know that a rotary screw needs to have it's oil and filter changed? Are you willing to buy gallons(yes gallons) of diesel oil and expensive filters for the drive engine?

    What about a refrigerated or dessicant air dryer to keep all moisture out of the blast pot and lines?

    I could go on but you get the idea.
  11. tbullo

    tbullo Superunknown

    Apr 5, 2012
    We do all of our own gluing and masking and then take the signs to our local boat yard. We have been using the same blaster for 25 years. 25 years ago we took him a sample sign to show the depth of blast and he has worked out super for us ever since. In fact this one man blast prob. 90 percent of the signs in our area. We average 4 for 5 signs monthly.
  12. All great advice. Sounds like I need to find the right guy in our area.
  13. Mosh

    Mosh Major Contributor

    Oct 19, 2009
    HELLO 1980's...I have a tips blaster, cost me $800 and then found out I had to buy a $2500 compressor to run it....that was back in 1989. We did alot of redwood signs from 1989 to 1995-96, not even had a call for a blasted sign in 10 years....out-source. Trust me, it is a messy thing to do.
    If people know you have one they are going to be bugging you to blast all sorts of stuff. You need a big area outside to do it BTW, or the neighbors will get pissed.

    It is a job in itself! My advise, make the blank, mask it and take it to a local monument shop and have them blast it. then paint and seal it after that.
    Like grave monument places are a good place to look.
  14. Graffy

    Graffy New Member

    Apr 29, 2011
    You can have a lot of fun with a 60 gallon Lowe's/Kobalt compressor and a 100 lb pressure pot. I use mine all the time for small projects. Clearly its nowhere near optimum for a full time production environment, but we probably average an hour of sandblasting per week and it does just fine. (You can do a LOT of blasting in 1 hour) Most of the time is spent in the setup, and clean-up. So, IMO, its safe to say its a great starter system.

    We did 20 brick pavers a few days ago and this configuration had no problem keeping up. Everybody has to start somewhere. I'm very hands on and would rather have in-house entry level tools versus outsourcing. It gives you the luxury of getting creative and experimenting with scrap HDU, wood, and bricks. Plus, like most folks, you'll find that you can make good daily use of that compressor for grinders and other pneumatic tools, as well as clearing dust off projects before paint. For those reasons, I bought my Kobalt compressor. Then added the pressure pot later to start playing with sandblasting. (Yes, dry air is a must. But its not too big an issue if you blast only an hour or two a week. I drain my tank before any sandblasting, and have both a desiccant filter and a coalescing filter inline to trap the moisture)

    For anyone dead set on outsourcing, I'd investigate local CNC shops as an alternative to sandblasting. Sandblasting requires a talented/experienced hand to ensure a consistent depth and pattern across your substrate. CNC requires vectoring software and skills to build the project with your computer. But once you are happy with your rendering, you can have peace of mind that you'll get very consistent results, even with entry level CNC operators. And, the best part is that your electronic copy of that pattern can be utilized for years to come. Just edit the text and you can produce a whole new sign for another client.

    With all that said, I feel sandblasting signs is virtually an obsolete practice. But having a small system in-house, the 100 lb pressure pot, along with a couple decent filters, you'll find plenty of "other" projects to justify the cost, and have the luxury of blasting the occasional sign when necessary.

    For me, the decision ultimately lies with whether or not you have space for a dedicated area to do your blasting. Partition a small area to keep your sand and dust isolated from the rest of your production area. An entirely separate room, or outside is far better. If having the dedicated work space is an issue, then I'll throw my hat into the outsourcing ring as well.
  15. SignProPlus-Alex

    SignProPlus-Alex Member

    Dec 12, 2011
    Bluffton SC
    Same with me. Small sandblasting cabinet max size 24x48. But it will add convenience to your shop. I don't have to wait then is commercial blaster available today or in three days and a lot of times my projects under 2 sq ft. Plus I etch glass.
    well my experience goes to if you want to start sandblasting go with cabinet if you limited on space, blasting media (coal slag or aluminum oxide) and compressor with minimum of 18 cfm at 90 psi and 40 or more lb blasting pot.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  16. SD&F

    SD&F Very Active Member

    Oct 4, 2009
    I can advise you that unless you are getting jobs regularly, it's not worth your $$$.
    You need a blast booth(OSHA Approved- should they decide to drop by), you need a great compressor($$$), you need to be able to get rid of blast in an enviromentaly sound way...these are the beginnings. You also need to be certified for the mask/suit that you will be required to wear while blasting. We have been doing it for years and the blasting is not the difficult part, it's keeping everything running perfect and complying with regs. GOOD LUCK
  17. I've blasted for twenty years until I bough a CNC.

    Our air was and electric twin screw with a 11' blast cabinet which I made. As good as it was all of blasting and prep work is time consuming and dangerous.

    Now I set the file up and let the router do the work at night while I sleep. The compressor, pot and cabinet sets out back, abandoned.

    Joe Crumley

    Attached Files:

  18. Keith Jenicek

    Keith Jenicek Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    We have a CNC and a sandblaster. The sandblasted signs take more time as far as prep and cleanup. Instead of sandblasting, we try to sell textured backgrounds: smalt & cnc textures.

    All in all, I would much rather not do sandblasting, but some insist on it so it is worthwhile to offer. As suggested, develop a relationship with a sandblaster & outsource. You may be able to find one at your local garden store if they offer sandblasted stones.
  19. Keith,

    Have you given your CNC any wood texturing jobs? When I caught onto texturing with my router, the sandblast work was a thing of the past.

    There are several not too expensive programs available. Although it takes time to learn. I can post a few examples if you would like.

    Joe Crumley
  20. Keith Jenicek

    Keith Jenicek Member

    Sep 6, 2010
    Sadly, we have Enroute Software and router bits ready to go. We just need some time to learn it!

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