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Particle Bead Blasting
by Steve Rossi

As an enthusiast of restoring pre-war trains and metal toys, I use a glass beading system at the start of the restoration process. The glass beading system has many advantages over a chemical stripping process. First, a few words on how it is done.

Glass beads are a type of abrasive used to strip paint, rust and scale. Recycled automobile and clear glass is crushed into a fine consistency forming the abrasive used for the process. The system is similar to sand blasting but in a closed cabinet environment. Under air pressure, these beads are aimed at a metal object using a type of spray gun.
With glass bead stripping, old paint, rust and scale are stripped from the metal with more efficiency than with a chemical process. Tight areas are not a problem since the beads can be worked into any crevice cleaning it completely. Unlike the chemical process, glass beading emits no dangerous fumes or odors and is non-corrosive. Also, the use of potentially dangerous flammable solvents is avoided. No residues are left behind and the item is never subjected to any structural stress. The resulting finish is ready for primer without any additional sanding or preparation. This system certainly saves the restorer a great deal of time!

While there are a few types of abrasive media available for use in this process, my favorite is the irregular glass bead. This media does a fantastic job of removing any rust or corrosion in the metal. I have learned from my brother Joe who is in the auto body business that unattended rust or corrosion will eventually ruin even the finest restorative efforts. Irregular glass beads cut through old paint completely and the resulting finish is left with a slight etch. This is important, since a primer coat will adhere better to a slightly etched surface than one that is satin smooth. I feel this is critical because I operate my restored pieces and I want to avoid the eventual chipping that can occur running such large heavy trains. A good bond between the primer and bare metal is the best preparation for the color coats that eventually follow.

Steve offers his glass bead stripping process to hobbyists with tinplate needing restoration. He may be contacted by email at

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