A media blaster is the type of tool that you may not think you need at first, but once you have one, you can continually find new uses for it. Most race shops lack a full-blown media blasting station, and they don't need one. In that case, a small handheld blaster, such as Craftsman's "Handheld Abrasive Blast System" (Item # 18635), may be just the ticket.
Craftsman's blaster is a self-contained unit that requires only an air source. Load up to 4 pounds of abrasive media into the plastic tank at the bottom of the tank, attach to an air compressor capable of supplying 5 cfm at 90 psi, pull the trigger, and go. For our tests, we purchased a sack of fine, dry sand from a local cement supply company as our abrasive media, but the gun also works with glass or plastic beads, which are less aggressive on metals. Except for the media tank, the rest of the gun is all metal, which should provide good durability.
For an air supply, we used a Craftsman Professional 25-gallon compressor with a 3.5hp compressor motor. We found the gun worked best with the compressor providing 90 psi of pressure. Under continuous use, you have to take a break every five minutes or so to allow the compressor to build back pressure.
During our testing, we tried the media blaster on everything from rusted engine pulleys to parts of a chassis. The gun worked best at stripping away rust and paint, as you can see from our cylinder head example in the photo. It is especially handy at getting into those crevices and tight spots that a grinding wheel cannot reach. We can see a tool such as this being very useful for many jobs around the race shop-from stripping paint away from welded joints on a chassis to checking for cracks to cleaning parts in preparation for paint. For small stripping and cleaning jobs, a lightweight blaster such as this one can be hard to beat. Just be aware that while this blaster may look small and lightweight compared to the industrial-sized units out there, it can be just as damaging to unprotected skin and eyes. When using any media blaster, make sure to use adequate face and eye protection along with a thick pair of gloves.