To Blast Or Not To Blast
If you own any wrought iron patio and lawn furniture, a wrought iron weather vane, or any number of other outdoor home adornments or implements, then you really should consider sandblasting the next time you need to refinish. If you'd like to read a comprehensive article on home maintenance and repair, I suggest visiting http://www.dotcomtucson.com/tucson_arizona_real_estate/selling_your_desert_home.html.
The term 'sandblasting' is taken from the initial processes of forcing solid particles across a hard surface under pressure, at very high speeds for the purposes of smoothing, shaping and/or cleaning said hard surfaces. When the process of sandblasting began, the solid particles used were grains of sand. This made sense as sand was easy to get a hold of, inexpensive, and did the first sandblasting jobs quite admirably. The sand, in this blasting scenario, is called the 'abrasive.'
Today, there is a wide range of materials used as the abrasive for sandblasting. The two top abrasive options today are Aluminum Oxide and Silicon Carbide. Aluminum Oxide is the less expensive of the two, and it can be reused many times before needing to be replaced. Silicone Carbide is the most costly abrasive, and can also be reused numerous times before replacement. Unlike Aluminum Oxide, Silicon Carbide does not generate much static during use. The dust created when using either of these abrasive substances should not be breathed.
Most people think of sandblasting as something outside the normal consumer's realm. This is simply not the case anymore, and as you will quickly see, overlooking it as a viable option can be a big mistake. Now, back to your wrought iron furniture, et al...
If you've ever been faced with repainting wrought iron furniture, you've taken on a daunting project. The painting part isn't so bad, it's the preparation of the incredibly winding, groove-laden, sharp-in-places, uneven metal surfaces that takes all the time - and creates all the stress. (The kind of stress that makes a good man take up drinking.) The process can take many, many hours - and without the use of special tools and/or chemistry (in the form of paint/finish removers) the chances of getting the surface properly prepared are slim at best. But take heart - there's hope!
Load those furniture pieces into a pickup and take them to anyplace in your town that sandblasts. In larger cities there are many options, and you can even price shop. Usually, you can make an appointment for the pieces, drop them off that morning, and pick them up that evening. And they will be completely and utterly devoid of old finish. They will also be smoother than they were originally.
One big advantage to sandblasting the metal before painting it is how much better the paint will adhere and work. If you have just a small patch of rust or old finish caught inside grooves or low spots, those spots may 'break open't in a very short time - again causing the need for refinishing. The new surface treatment you are applying can only adhere to what it is put onto. If it is put on rust, it simply won't remain in place for very long.
If you're concerned with the cost difference, it's not really very much - if anything at all. It depends on how much equipment and how many supplies you'll need to buy to perform the same project manually. And don't forget to factor in that if you sandblast and then apply a quality primer and finish, it will look many times better, and also last many, many times longer.
For smaller items, such as weather vanes, antique padlocks, antique milk cans, antique electrical equipment, etc. you can have the work done in a small chamber that is designed for blasting smaller objects. These chambers, often called 'sandblasting cabinets,' are installed at professional sandblasting places. This makes sandblasting a lot cheaper, and yet it is just as effective and fast - and stress-free.
One other thing that sandblasters will do admirably for you - and this is done inexpensively in a sandblasting cabinet - is totally and thoroughly clean the grills from your barbecue pit.
Sandblasting is inexpensive, incredibly effective, very fast and saves a whole lot of hard manual work. So the next time you're faced with refinishing some of your outdoor or other metal items, don't forget to look into sandblasting. You'll be glad you did.