I have wanted a soda blaster ever since I saw one demonstrated. Being on the tight budget that I am, I cannot afford the trailer mounted industrial unit that I saw demonstrated. For those of you not familiar, Soda blasting is similar to sand blasting but is used primarily for paint removal. It uses baking soda as the media which is environmentally safe,quick clean-up and can be blasted on glass and chrome without damaging it. A quick search of the internet found several in the $1500 range which was still way out of my financial league. Not long after I saw that Eastwood was introducing an entry level blaster for about $300. The requirements for this blaster were beyond my compressors ability. The Eastwood base unit requires 7 CFM at 80 PSI My compressor at the time was a small (21 gallon 1.5 horse) unit that just wasn’t up to the task.
I got lucky one day and walked into my local Lowes and found that they had a 20% off sale going on compressors. I was able to pick up a 60 gallon 3.7 hp compressor (model 221565) that puts out 11.5 CFM at 90 PSI and 13.4 CFM at 40 PSI.
Shortly thereafter I was perusing my favorite “made in china cheap tool store” website (Harbor Freight). For giggles and grins and typed “Soda” in the search window. I was surprised to see that 2 soda blasters and 2 grades of media popped up. They sell 10 lb and 15 lb portable units for $99 each and blast media made by Arm and Hammer at $29 for a 50 lb bag. I didn’t have the money right then so I waited and later got a flier in the mail advertising the 10 lb unit at $79 I went ahead and ordered the blaster and a 50lb bag of XL media (they carry Medium and Extra Large grit). The small Harbor Freight blaster box says it needs 8 CFM at 90 PSI so it looks like the Eastwood unit may be slightly more efficient as well as being able to hold 10 times the volume of media (admittedly for 3 times the price).
The blaster arrived in the mail double boxed (display box inside a cardboard shipping box)and the soda came in the traditional 50 lb “flour bag” boxed in a heavy cardboard box. Both were packaged great and when I opened the box the blaster appears to be well constructed with minor exceptions. I will detail out the assembly of the unit and will see about having my son Tom try it out tomorrow weather permitting. (for those of you that are unaware I just got out of surgery and will be down for a while so Tom gets to do all the fun stuff.)
Assembly and review of the Harbor Freight 10 lb Soda Blaster (item 65902)
For assembly you will need some Teflon tape, a 9/16 combo wrench some slip joint pliers and a 5mm allen wrench.
First pic is of all the parts and tools laid out. The blaster is small and loading is done by removing the regulator unit from the top and filling with a funnel. If doing a large project then refilling this unit may prove tedious. It seems to me that a separate “filler hole” should have been added to the unit to facilitate filling it without disassembly. If the unit works out well I will add one later.
First take the 5mm allen wrench and remove the 2 socket head bolts from the bracket attached to the tank. Then using the 2 socket head bolts attach the brass colored bracket with the tab protruding from the bottom. This will be the last time you will need the 5mm wrench.
Next pick up the filter unit. You will note that on each end are the large threaded holes for the air lines and that on the face and back of the unit are a large threaded hole (face) and a small blind hole (back).
Remove the red plastic ring from the top of the filter by unscrewing it. Mount the filter in the bracket you just attached to the tank with the air line holes to each side and the large threaded hole out. GENTLY tighten the red plastic ring with the slip joint pliers to secure the filter to the tank bracket.
For the rest of the instructions, make sure you use Teflon tape on ALL of the threaded joints EXCEPT the pickup tube. For brevity sake I will not say “put Teflon tape on……..” if it is threaded….tape it; EXCEPT the pickup tube. Additionally all of the directions (left right, etc) will be as you are looking at the unit.
Attach the pressure gauge to the front of the filter and then attach one of the two “quick disconnect” couplings on the right side of the filter.
In the air inlet on the left side attach one of the two shut off valves included and then attach the included male coupler, or one of your own to fit your system into the shut off valve.
Now we are going to assemble the media flow regulator.
First pick up the flow regulator and hold it with the big brass flow control knob facing you and at the upper half of the regulator. There will be another large brass colored adapter and a hole in what will now be the bottom of the regulator. Into the brass adapter on the bottom attach the other “quick disconnect” and tighten.
Into the REAR of the regulator attach the pressure bleed-off or pop-off valve.
Into the TOP of the regulator attach the other cut off valve.
Go back to the bottom of the media regulator and you will see a large threaded hole with a smaller threaded hole inside. Inside a separate package you will find a black iron adapter and an O-ring. Attach smaller end of the adapter into the regulator. I used my slip joints to gently tighten, if you wish to use the right tool for the job then get an open end of the appropriate size.
Insert the threaded end of the pick-up tube into the black adapter and thread it into the media regulator. There is no need to over-tighten this piece.
Invert the regulator and lubricate the O-ring lightly, slide the O-ring over the pick-up tube and seat it in the groove in the base of the black adapter nut.
Insert the pick-up tube into the top of the blue cylinder body and making sure the o-ring stays in place spin the hex nut up onto the adapter to assemble the regulator to the tank. Make sure the media control knob is facing the front/filter side of the tank. I would not go crazy with over tightening this nut and go to a firm hand tight, just enough to seal the unit. (You will have to loosen and remove this nut to refill the tank)
Attach the small blue tube to the 2 “quick disconnects” by pushing the tube into them. If you need to remove the tube push in on the blue ring on the “quick disconnect” and pull the tube out.
Attach the main media hose to the on/off valve on top of the regulator and you are done.
To fill the unit you unscrew the media regulator from the tank. I think the idea from the factory was to unscrew the Pick-up tube from the regulator and leave it in the tank but I found it is easier to remove the blue hose from one of the “quick disconnects” and remove the regulator as a whole. Again… it would be MUCH easier to have a secondary filler opening in the top of the tank to accomplish this. Use a small funnel to pour the media into the tank. The media (I got the extra large) is about the consistency of granulated sugar.
Once the tank is filled about ¾ of the way reassemble the regulator to the tank (we only put in 3 -12 oz cups for testing) . Purge your compressor of moisture via the drain valve, then turn on the compressor and allow the tank to fill. Set the compressor output to approximately 90 PSI. Before connecting the compressor to the blaster make sure the shut off valve on top of the regulator is turned OFF. Attach the compressor line and adjust the pressure at the filter by lifting the knob on top of the filter and turning it until the gauge on the blaster/filter reads 90 PSI.
Before we go any further it would be wise to make a point of safety. At a minimum a set of full coverage goggles and a dust mask is advisable. Tom put on his airsoft goggles and an old paint mask as well as a hat to keep the media out of his hair. We found out later that XL baking soda traveling behind a 90 PSI blast stings the hands. Get a pair of leather gloves as well. To turn the blaster on simply point the ceramic nozzle at the target and turn the media control valve between the hose and the regulator to ON.
This is a pair of Tom's engine covers that obviously need stripped and painted
Here’s 2 videos of the blaster in action. Keep in mind this was the experimental stage and although the videos look like they were not removing much when we moved the nozzle closer , about 2 “, the paint really started coming off.
soda blaster :: Blasting vid 1 video by Bumblebee604 - Photobucket
soda blaster :: blasting vid 2 video by Bumblebee604 - Photobucket
After about 2-3 minutes of work on the worse of the covers we got several fins stripped. I figure 15 minutes of work would strip the entire panel.
We also tested the blaster on rust (which it is not rated for) and on a plastic bumper). Each got about a 5 second blast, below are the results:
After 5 seconds
After 5 seconds
We made a few mistakes during the process, but on a very small budget it works well. If I had to do it all over again I would save up and get the Eastwood unit ($300). All in all I am not unhappy with the unit for use on small hard to strip parts and areas. One other thing the Eastwood unit has that is $10 extra from Harbour Freight is a “dead-man valve” this lets the media flow as long as you are squeezing the handle on the hose and turns it off when you stop squeezing. This is a standard feature on the Eastwood unit.
All in all here’s a few observations.
1: Remember that the media flow rate is adjustable. It works just as well at half open as fully open and doesn’t eat up the media as fast.
2: Put a very large drop cloth or tarp on the ground you can reuse the media as long as it is not trashed up with large particles of debris or dirt. This means big $$$$ savings.
3: if using on rubber bumpers keep the nozzle moving…..it will eat plastic.
4: With the small nozzle size on the blaster progress is slow. I would not want to strip an entire car with this unit. As a plus this unit would be excellent for hard to reach or sand areas such as the inside of wheel well flares (where rust always forms), door jambs, door hinges, drip rails, around windshields, etc.
5: Although not recommended for rust removal the soda blaster did an admirable job of knocking it down.
On a grade scale I would give the Harbour Freight unit a solid B/ good, a few changes could make it a B+/very good but the A grade/exceptional and above would be reserved for a larger unit which would strip large areas of a car without difficulty.