Sand blasting is the process of blasting a surface with tiny particles to etch on or clean a surface. Sand blasting is often used to prepare a surface for painting, because it creates an extremely clean, smooth surface. Sand blasting is also a method used to etch onto glass or other smooth, hard surfaces. Anyone can sand blast, because it is a relatively simple process involving an abrasive, an air compressor, and a blaster nozzle. If the purpose of sand blasting is to etch a small object, a workstation is also needed to hold the object in place. It is also a good idea to wear a mask and goggles, because the process of sand blasting creates a substantial amount of dust and debris that can cause lung issues from prolonged exposure. In order to etch a surface by sand blasting, a resist is used. A resist is a piece of vinyl or rubber that serves as a pattern for etching. The desired pattern is cut into the resist, and then it is placed over the item to be etched. As the sand is blasted at the item, it only etches the exposed parts of the item- the parts that are exposed through the pattern. Afterwards, it should be washed very carefully with water to prevent scratches.
Almost any hard surface is a good candidate for sand blasting, except diamonds. Surfaces that are commonly cleaned by way of sand blasting include metal, brick, wood, and some plastics. Surfaces that are sand blasted for decorative purposes are stone and glass.
Sand blasting was patented in 1870 when Benjamin Chew Tilghman observed how wind-blown sand affected windows in the desert. The parts that are used today were designed in the early 1900s. The biggest changes since then have been the medium used to do the actual blasting, since sand raises many health concerns. Since then, quartz, aluminum, silicon carbide, oxide, walnut shells, fruit stones, plastic abrasives, and glass beads have been used.