Glass beads vs Sand

Updated to add: I probably should mention that I habitually use the term “sandblasting” as a generic description regardless of the blasting media used. Sort of like calling any brand of adhesive bandages “band-aids” or any cotton swabs “Q-tips”. Sorry if that created any confusion. /Update

In comments, Fred Carter mused:

Just thinking out loud-would glass beads work better than sand? I have used both and like glass better. I had access to a shop full of equipment and did the work on lunch break. Today somebody would probably call swat.

I actually have about 50 lbs of aluminum oxide that I could have used, but what I have I think is probably too coarse. I decided to go ahead and buy something a bit more fine and, since I was buying new anyway, I figured I may as well go with glass.

Glass is a little less aggressive than aluminum oxide and leaves more of a “matte” finish rather than the more “grainy” appearance left by aluminum oxide.

Sand, I don’t use at all. I used to use sand years ago (it’s probably been close to ten years since the last time I used sand). The main reason that I stopped had nothing to do with how well it works…it works fine. The problem is that sand is hazardous. I don’t have good, sealed equipment and my work area is my garage. The dust created by sand contains silica. Silica causes silicosis. Silicosis is bad.

Even wearing a good respirator (which I do), I can’t afford a completely sealed blasting cabinet. Some dust escapes into the garage. With sand, that dust is hazardous long after the blasting operations are done. For weeks after blasting, I’m still sweeping dust up and stirring it into the air.

Glass beads are non-toxic, do not contain silica and, although breathing the dust should be avoided and I still wear a respirator, cause no known long-term health effects. That’s the main reason I chose glass over sand.

I just thought that was important enough to put on the front page.

I finished parkerizing last night. The parts are soaking in WD-40 as we speak. I was very happy with the way the parts came out. We’ll see what they look like after soaking in oil for a while, and I’m planning on trying (fair warning…the following link is light text on a black background…gives me a headache every time I look at it) Xavier’s trick of baking the parts in grease for a while to really impregnate the finish.

The parkerizing process was easy and effective, but time consuming. I’ve still got to complete the conditioning of the finish, polish the feed ramp, adjust the sear to hammer engagement to clean up the trigger pull, weaken the magazine catch spring and reassemble the whole thing.

I may start posting pix before I finish the whole thing, but I’ve still got quite a few steps before I’m done.

BTW: I went ahead and bought a new blasting nozzle for my pressurized sand blaster rather than try the siphon feed one…I’ve never had much luck with the siphon feed system. Also, I’m certain now that I’ve lost a pin. I have no idea how that happened. I’m very meticulous about handling the parts and keeping them organized. The fact that I had some pins in with the wrong parts speaks volumes to the fact that I was tired and not paying enough attention. I searched my work area again after I finished parkerizing…no joy. I’m going to have to make or buy a replacement.

Oh well. Not a disaster. Just an inconvenience.


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