by GCA Member Robert Garr
Like most people, we all do things the hard way until we wake up and smell the roses, the light bulb goes on, or we have an epiphany. Or we just get fed up doing things the hard way and break down and spend a few bucks.
Well, for me I just couldn’t stand the thought of killing my hands and fingers and wasting hours of time any more when I would prep an old gun for bluing, DuraCoating or any of the other types of finishes that would entail stripping the current finish, rust or other mystery coverings from the metal.
As most of us know, years, heck, decades of working with your hands eventually can take its toll on them. Usually in the form of arthritis, carpel tunnel or tendonitis. Your surely not going to stop doing what you love, but man, it ain’t no joke! And spending hours with little pieces of steel wool, Scotch Brite pads and Emery cloth trying to get into every little nook and cranny to get every bit of crud, rust or finish off the job at hand can become very tedious if not painful.
So, about ten years ago I had that epiphany, nah, who am I kidding. I’m Scottish, I just didn’t want to spend the money. But seriously, I realized that I could save SOOO much time, which translates into money if I got an air compressor and a media blasting cabinet. Well the first thing to do would be to research each item and not only get an idea of cost but the requirements for my particular needs.
I decided that the best place to start would be the compressor. I had to come to terms with the reality that unlike guns and scopes I did NOT have to have the biggest and best. So as much as the thought of getting an Ingersoll Rand top of the line model or ones like we used at work was very appealing. I needed to be realistic and get something that offered the most for the least. Hours of research had me looking at Harbor Freight. Now I chose to get the compressor first because it was something that could fulfill a multi use roll. I’ve been pleased with Harbor Freights products most of the time. I get they aren’t Klein Tools, Milwaukee, Delta or even Craftsman. But you get a good generic product at an excellent price due to no brand name markup or advertising. I felt their 21 gallon, 125 psi, 2.5 HP model would be sufficient and suit my needs. And at about $150 it didn’t break the bank. And I’ve got to say, it does everything I’ve needed it to do, I cannot complain, it’s done stellar service so far.
Now, after lots of research I found a company’s website that seemed to fit my needs to a tee. I don’t think that you can go wrong with them if you choose their products. Their catalog leans towards automotive, but they have many generalized products that suit gunsmithing just fine. They go by the name of “TP Tools and Equipment “. There are many blast cabinets to choose from. For my needs I went with their model – 800 – T Top Load Trig Abrasive Blast Cabinet. I’ll explain why I chose this one. First, it is a complete setup. Blast cabinet, vacuum /filter unit, hose, gun, extra nozzles, interior light fixture and 25 lbs of their excellent 40 – 80 grit Skat Magic media. Sure, you can buy things individually, but this setup is the perfect combination of items for most any gunsmithing needs. Everything is of excellent quality and well made. Nothing flimsy here,it’s all heavy duty. The Vac – 40 vacuum recovery system has a HEPA filter and a hose for exterior venting. It’s quiet and does a great job.
You can go two ways with the gun. A foot switch or a trigger controlled unit. One thing to keep in mind is that the nozzles have a limited life. If the media can remove finishes from work, they can do so to the nozzles. After a few hours the steel nozzles wear down, but you can rotate them 90° which gives you four times the use from each nozzle. Replacement nozzles can be purchased that are interior coated with ceramic which lasts 3 times longer and carbide which lasts nearly 30 times longer than the ceramic. But they are priced commensurate with their durability. The gun model is the S-25 which comes complete with great instructions and information on nozzle and air jet size selection.
Some specs for this cabinet are as follows, overall size 36″ w ×23″ D × 54″ H, work area is 34″ W × 22″D ×20 1/2 ” H, requires 10 – 15 cfm @ 80 psi, 125 psi max. 115 vac, 22 ga steel, weight 146 lbs.
This setup has greatly cut the time to prep a barreled action from the better part of an afternoon to 20 minutes or so. And it comes out perfect every time. Not only a huge time saver, but a blessing for my hands.
One needs to understand the maximum size work that can be put in the cabinet diagonally, if you work on barreled actions 36 ” or longer, they won’t fit. But fear not, end cabinet adapters are sold to extend cabinet size. Or you could do as another GCA member has suggested in an article he posted.
Now for the moment of truth, the painful reality, the cost. Let me say that if you have a compressor, your ahead of the game. If you go this route and get the media setup described you can easily make back the cost in no time at all. And not only save time and your hands but turn out a professionally finished job. So when I got this about 10 years ago it went for $799.00. But with a Promo special and free shipping to the East cost the total only nit me a very reasonable $699.00.
If you think you may wantto go this route and have this ability, you should look into it. You can find TP TOOLS and Equipment online at www.tptools.com
All in all I’m very pleased with this setup. And it will make things easier for you , MUCH EASIER!