Monday, January 30, 2012

Ask Auntie EM

By now I would hope you all had heard about the new weekly blog post here on the EtsyMetal blog. Ann Hartley of Hartleystudio and, Sue Szabo of lsueszabo , will be answering YOUR questions in a weekly post we are calling "Ask Auntie EM". EtsyMetal has over 100 members with vast amounts of knowledge and far reaching interests and capabilities. We figured if we couldn't answer your questions...someone on the team could! "What can we ask?" Great question! Ask anything! Metalsmithing, enameling, raising, stone setting, cooking, childcare, got a question, we probably have an answer! To ask a question, email it to Who knows, you may get it answered next week!

This week's question comes from Pamela-
Do you know of any texturing wheel or tumbling media that can achieve a sandblasted look?
I recently purchased the small benchtop pencil beadblaster from Rio Grande. So far, I am not happy with the results and my purchase as I was initially oblivious to the fact that I also needed an air compressor. Now, having used this new machine, I am having second thoughts about keeping it. It's loud and pretty toxic as far as having those tiny particles (aluminum oxide or silica) out and about, they find their way out. The beadblaster and air compressor take up room and now I need for someone to either talk me into or out of it. Any thoughts?

Why yes Pamela, turns out I do.

First let me say that I love my sandblaster. I use it for lots of things besides a final finish on metal. It can be used to prep and clean metal for other processes, like coloring with prismacolor pencils, paints, and gesso. It can be used to blast off enamel on a piece that was ruined in the kiln or didn't come out the way you'd hoped.

Yes, the air compressor can be loud but so are many things that go on in a metals studio- I'd advise you to use a set of good ear plugs if it bothers you. Your beadblaster should not be leaving much silica or aluminum oxide around your studio. Have you check for air leaks?- the lid and the holes where the gloves go in are prime areas for small leaks. How do you do this? The same way you check for leaks on your tank- mix a dilute dish soap and water solution and take a paint brush and wipe it around all the openings. Turn the machine on and watch for any bubbles- if you see them, you've found the leak. You really should not be seeing much of the blasting medium outside the machine, if you are, I'd contact Rio and ask them what to do about it. I don't think I've ever had to sweep the counter where my blaster is. If you really like a sandblasted finish, don't give up! There is truly no other way to get a sandblasted finish. Having said that, I've got some ways to fake it that you might like.....

Here is an example of my work which is a true sandblasted finish-

I went to our team and asked others for ideas for getting a faux sandblasted finish. I got a lot of good suggestions.

Shannon, from rubygirl uses these low grit 3M radial discs to achieve a sandblasted look.

Here is her result-

Shirlee, of shirleegrund, also uses this same technique and offers this as an example of her work-

Laney, of silentgoddess had a great idea- she runs her metal through her rolling mill with different grits of sandpaper to achieve a faux sandblasted finish. Remember though that you will need to put your solder on the inside of the seam or use a cold connection. You cannot file or sand on this surface without destroying it so plan accordingly if you plan to use this technique.

Danielle, of daniellemillerjewelry, uses a "vibro-graver" to get this finish-

Inbar, of inbarbareket, uses a
texturizing wheel for this finish. Rio Grande sells a similar one. Get the one with the bent steel brushes.

Want something low-tech? How about this suggestion from Sarah, of jujubysarah, uses a 3M scotchbrite pad by hand. While not a true sandblasted finish, it makes an awfully nice brushed one. I use this as well.

Finally Konstanze, of Nodeform, suggest this- "If I want an even matte surface finish without any directional lines I sometimes drop a piece after polishing with steel shot into the barrel with the abrasive plastic pyramids for half an hour. It is not really exactly looking like sandblasted but close."

Well Pamela, I personally would not give up on your sand blaster! My guess is you will find other uses for it as time goes on and I think if you fiddle with it a bit you can get it to run cleaner. If you want to return the beadblaster, well, you now have some suggestions from some of our team members on how to achieve a similar finish without one.

Hope that helps. Until next week, keep those questions coming and happy metalsmithing.


1 comment:

Marie said...

I lurve this blog and especially these ask Auntie EM posts! thank you!

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