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CruZin Magazine August 2000

Plastic Media Blasting.... A Better Way To Go!

By David Martin

Why plastic media blasting? Why not hand stripping, dipping or otherwise chemical stripping? These are among the critical issues faced by every enthusiast embarking on extensive restoration or project.

We selected plastic media for the CruZin' 1956 T-Bird project because of past experience. On one past project, we had the doors chemically dipped while the balance of the project was blasted. The most horrid of all problems eventually surfaced on the doors, but never re-appeared on any of the "blasted" parts.

Embarking on the CruZin' 1956 Ford Thunderbird project, we solicited the services of Alternative Blasting in Marysville, Washington. Jon Wilson, owner of Alternative Blasting is a lifelong auto enthusiast. Jon retired from a major national corporation about four years ago, took his life savings (retirement) and purchased the blasting company because he believes this method of stripping is far and away the best.

"Basically there are four methods out there," Jon says. "You can hand strip, you can paint on a chemical stripping agent, you can dip your part in a chemical solution, or you can blast with the appropriate media."

  • Hand stripping is tedious and labor intensive. If your paying someone else to do an entire car, your looking at many hours; in addition, if your sanding away paint to a bare metal surface, you're going to scratch (break) the surface of metal. That sets up a place for rust to start again. This is especially important in ground-up projects, because rust can start during the time the part is in the shop.
  • Painting on a chemical stripping agent, besides being very messy, means that you have to rinse away every trace of chemical. Even with tremendous water pressure, you are not going to get an absolute clean rinse.
  • Chemical dipping brings with it the same problems as painting on chemical-stripping agent. Some droplet of chemical is going to remain in some nook or cranny and will eventually cause a "rust situation."

"We just had another 1956 Thunderbird in our shop," says Wilson. "The car had been restored about 20 years ago. One of the doors had been hand stripped and there was virtually no rust.

The other door had been chemically stripped and it was completely rusted out. That is because it is literally impossible to get every trace of chemical out of the assorted bends and welds in metal, no matter how much water pressure is applied. The fact is, when you seal remnants of rust that have been hand stripped or blasted the rust dies. When you seal remnants of rust that retains chemicals under the seal, the rust will live and grow."

  • Plastic media blasting, unlike hand stripping, does not scratch the surface of the metal. If a part is going to sit in the shop during the restoration process, you don't have to worry about rust taking hold.

Alternative Blasters uses a variety of media, depending on the job at hand. On the CruZin T-Bird 12/16 urea plastic did the job beautifully. The fiberglass hardtop was stripped with 30/40 grit acrylic, also appropriate for Corvettes and other fiberglass applications. When cleaning pot metal or light steel the 12/16 urea is just right, while light aluminum gets the 30/40 grit acrylic.

"We have three employees on each three shifts, and we're blasting 24 hours a day 7 days a week," says Wilson. "We are doing cars from throughout the Northwest and we know what we're doing. We have the right media for any given situation and we stand behind our work 100 percent."

Yes, Jon Wilson's retirement is anything but retirement. He logs so many hours he scarcely has time for his own projects. In fact, his wife's Rennie's 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo coupe, has been sitting for three years while Jon's own 1932 Plymouth Four Door Flatback is in many pieces awaiting time and attention.

"We'll get there," Jon says. "Meanwhile, we're having a blast."