Sandblasting vs. beadblasting?

Hi all, What are the difference btw sandblasting and beadblasting?
I’m under the impression that sandblasting is more powerful. Is
that so?

What are the considerations when deciding which piece of equipment
to buy?

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992

Elaine, The main difference between the 2 is the sand is more
"aggressive" than beads. The sand will remove more metal than
beads, as the beads actually just peen the metal, the sharp edges of
the sand removes material.

Many of the blasters can be used for either or both. Get one big
enough to do what you want. Get a good air filter/cleaner to keep
the cabinet air clean. Sand will tend to be more dusty than beads
but beads will start to get dusty with use, partially form breaking
down and partially form contamination with investment.

I would recommend using beads if for jewelry just because it will
clean the work very well and not remove much, if any, metal.

Hope this helps.
John Dach

Hi, Elaine, My sense of it is that “sandblasting” is used as a
general term for using compressed air to shoot abrasive grit at
something. “Bead blasting” is a type of sand blasting in which,
instead of one of several mineral abrasives (sand), tiny round glass
balls (beads) are used. It is very gentle, and doesn’t remove much
if any metal, but gives a velvetty surface. It appears matte, and
the surface burnishes off easily, a good thing or bad thing
depending on what you’re trying to do. I love the effect on anodized


Sandblasting is done with coarse sand. Bead blasting is done with
glass beads. I liken the differences in effect as felt is to satin.
The sand will tend to gouge on a microscopic level and the beads pein.

Continuation of the same thread…

Is it ok to switch between sand and beads in the same blaster? I’ve
just bought a new machine and I think I’m going to prefer using
beads, but I’d like to try both But, I don’t want to risk
contaminating one or the other. Thanks, Jessica

Hi Elaine,

What are the difference btw sandblasting and beadblasting? 

The difference between the two are basically the media & as a result
the type of finish produced.

Sand blasting is a system of using clean, sharp sand or other media
like garnet, silicon carbide, aluminum oxide etc. propelled by a
high pressure air stream. The stream of air & media is directed at a
surface to abrade it for cleaning or to texture it. Typically, if
the finish is important, the media used is graded by grit size to
give the desired finish.

Bead blasting typically uses glass beads instead of the other media.
It is also graded by size.

The big difference between the two types of media is one of hardness
& grain shape. The glass media is lighter, softer, rounder & has
fewer sharp edges. For a given air pressure, it leaves less of an
impression on the surface being blasted.

Both types of media can use the same basic machinery for


Hi Elain:

Another interesting point we have found about sand vs glass beads is
that because the individual sand particles are irregular and
sharpish in shape, they will leave a mirror shaped or reverse image
(irregular and sharpe) in the metal being blasted. Because of this,
dirt will adhere to the surface being treated more readily compared
to a bead blasted surface. The indentations in the latter do not
seem as deep and because of the smooth nature of the glass beads,
will not retain dirt as readily. For these reasons, we will not
apply a sand blasted finish to rings. I hope this helps you.

David Tranter
Aurum Design
Cape Town

Elaine, What are you trying to do? Are you removing material or just
texturing? What material are you going to blast? Sandblasting removes
material, although not much from metals, and leaves a dull matte
finish. Bead blasting removes no discernable metal and leaves a
matte to sparkling finish depending on the glass bead size, volume
of media flow and air pressure. I do a lot of both. If you want to
send me a small piece of what you hope to blast I can do a 220 grit
silicon carbide sand blast and a 70 - 120 grit bead blast to show
you the difference. Email my off list and I’ll give you my address.
John Flynn

Yes, you can change media, if you clean very very thoroughly
between media,. especially when going from coarser to finer.
There are many to choose from, and I had a lot of fun using aluminum
oxide (I think-- or was it corrundum?) on glass to etch deeply into
it and do 3D things. I didn’t pursue it, but it clearly had
potential. I’ve always meant to try that technique on, say, rose
quartz, but never got around to it (so far). Quartz is pretty hard,
so it might not work, but should on maybe turquoise or other "soft"
stone… NOT malachite, that would be too toxic! Anyway, have fun!
By the way, anything resilient and rubbery will work well as a
resist: rubber cement, Elmer’s glue, watercolor frisket, masking
tape, paint marker, stickers, electrical tape (which is stretchy and
will conform to a domed surface) plus, of course, the tapes made for
the purpose such as “buttercut” which is expensive and not so easy
to find. Yikes! I’ve given you an earful you didn’t ask for. Pity my
poor students! Noel

I use glass beads in my bead blaster, but in different grits. I
throughly clean the cabinet and the nozzle prior to adding my
different grit and I would assume the same is safe for you. You can
blow compressed air through your nozzle to clean it out, but I found
taking it apart to clean it was more effective. Depending on the
type of nozzle you use, I would check the grit size of the sand vs.
glass beads to make sure they will work well with the nozzle

Studio C Designs

It’s not a problem as long as you completely clean the machine
between compounds.

Hi Jessica, The biggest problem you may run into is cleaning the
media out when switching from a course/rough media to the fines. If
you can live with a little cross pollination that shouldn’t be too
much of a problem.

You may have to switch nozzles in the gun & adjust air pressure, but
neither of these are show stoppers.