Most hard surface materials can be treated or "cut" with this technique. The only substance that cannot be used is diamond, simply because diamond is harder than the abrasive material that is used to cut the pattern. Not only is the technique used for decorating areas of the home, such as the glass in the front door or the house number carved into the concrete walkway up to that door, but it is used for such applications as gravestones and cleaning old metal and painted wood surfaces.
The application is accomplished by using a pattern cut into the protective sheet in the design that will end up as the decoration. The pattern can usually be cut with simple cutting tools like x-acto knives or razor cutters. Once the pattern is complete, the protective sheet is placed over the surface that will be etched. By using air pressure, the particles of abrasive media are blasted into the decorative pattern, etching into the hard surface. The closer the air blasting nozzle gets to the surface, the deeper the etching becomes. Moving closer also narrows the area being etched, allowing more intricate work. Etching away more of the surface in small areas gives more depth and texture to the finished work. The part of the surface that is covered is not etched at all. The end result is a pleasing decoration that will last a lifetime.
While hard surfaces can be treated with this technique, you can also etch surfaces of materials that are not as hard and get decorations that are smaller. Basically, the harder materials include the above-mentioned glass, stone and concrete, but steel, aluminum, silver, and other metals can be decorated. The most common softer materials that are etched include wood and plastic. Oddly enough, the abrasive materials used for the soft substrates can even include glass beads, plastic pellets, and walnut shells. Common use of softer surfaces that are treated like wood and plastic are commonly seen as wall decorations or even as art. House numbers etched in wood and painted make a nice decoration displayed next to the front door. Many restaurants have used this type of decoration to display a theme for their establishment such as numerous hangings throughout the restaurant with seafood and ocean scenes.
Using this blasting technique can be a cost saver for commercial enterprises like restaurants. The patterns are easy to cut, and can even be designed by a graphic designer on a computer and cut into the desired patterns by a computer aided design application. Of course, this is all done by a commercial operation that specializes in such designs, but the cost-savings really can be significant while producing decorations that are specifically created with that restaurant in mind.
Stewart Wrighter recently worked with a sandblast resist firm as he sought quotes for an abatement project. For more information about sandblast resist go to
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