May 2015 – Final preparations for media blasting
When I’d stripped the car, I hadn’t removed certain items I’d figured could stay. But now that I’ve decided to sandblast (actually, media blast, more on that below), pretty much everything that can come off needs to come off. That now includes the fuel lines, the windshield wiper linkage, the grille support, and various clips and retainers that would’ve been fine painted but which now cover up a surface that needs to be blasted. Like painting, the effectiveness and result of media blasting is all about the completeness and quality of the prep work.
Sandblasting is often used as a general term for what should technically be termed media blasting; there are many abrasive media available at quality blasters. What I’ve decided to use is a plastic media, which is basically crushed up shirt buttons. The great thing about the plastic media is that it doesn’t heat, warp, or otherwise distort the surface of the metal like sandblasting can. It also doesn’t harm the surface of the metal, so plastic media-blasted panels don’t have the same tendency to flash rust like sandblasted metal does. While plastic media removes paint very well, it isn’t particularly effective on rust, so any plastic media job will likely also require the use of a more aggressive abrasive in certain spots after the plastic pass.
I’ve done a lot of research over the past few days, and one thing became clear quite quickly: you get what you pay for. Cheap media blasters can warp or distort panels in a heartbeat, many won’t even use the best abrasive for the job. A good blasting job requires expertise and a thorough understanding of the mechanics at work; the right technician will balance stand-off distance, pressure, and speed to achieve a great result. That kind of expertise costs money, but in my opinion, it’s money well-spent.
After making several calls, I narrowed the field down to two contenders: National Sandblasting and Pacific Coast Powder Coating (PCPC). I learned about National Sandblasting from Jim Hall at Jay Leno’s Garage (one VERY smart man), and Pacific Coast Power Coating is a shop Hot Rod Magazine and Popular Hotrodding have used repeatedly. With those kind of endorsements and after talking with representatives from both companies, I felt confident either shop would do a great job. Both were priced within about $100 of each other at a total cost of $1,500; ultimately I decided to go with National Sandblasting because they’re closer to San Gabriel, whereas PCPC is out in Palmdale. The advantage to using PCPC, though, is that they have the capacity to immediately powder coat the entire body with epoxy primer, covering every inch, immediately after the car is blasted. That is a huge benefit if you can swing the added $800 cost because it removes the fear of flash rust from the equation. In the end I couldn’t justify the cost, especially since the $1,500 cost of blasting wasn’t in the budget to begin with, but I’d strongly consider it on a future restoration.