I was chatting via e-mail today with a couple of friends about cleaning old aluminum cases, covers, carbs, heads, what have you … Soda blasting came up and how none of us has ever had this done and a bit later in the day one of them sent out a link which I’m sure many here have to have seen though I’ve never seen it referred to… I’ll post the link at the end. This guy decided he wanted to soda blast some aluminum himself without any fancy ($$$) gear so he just grabbed what he had sitting around his shop and got to work. My friend Ben was in his shop when we were e-mailing back and fourth and a short time later he sent me a pic and we were all surprised to find that this method works quite well at removing crud, grunge, and corrosion from aluminum. All you need is some regular old arm & hammer baking soda, a compressor and a couple feet of vinyl hose or fuel line or whatever…Ben used the hose and nozzle trick per the link we were sent but I have one of those cheap harbor freight gravity feed “sand blasting“ guns that I bought for something like six bucks a while back so I figured I’d give it a try. The compressor I have right now is cheap and no better than one from harbor freight. I'd be surprised if I get 5 or 6 cfm @ 90 psi. It was late when I started so I only spent about 15 min. on this but I was very pleased by the results. This piston had the gun pointing at it for NO LONGER than 5 seconds. I was crouched down on my patio almost in the dark because the main light outside had JUST burned out as I was getting ready to blast and by this time my safety goggles had fogged up to the point where I just said EFFIT! and pulled the trigger and just kind of waived the gun around at what I thought looked like the piston. Then I took off those damn Foggles and brought the piston back in for a look. I think the nozzle was probably somewhere around 6 inches away give or take and I was @ 90 psi. I thought this was a pretty good result for a rather quick and careless test so I grabbed my rocker cover to see if I could do something about the corrosion between the fins. It wasn’t that bad but if I wanted it gone it would have been a pain in the arse to do by hand.
Here’s the gun
Would it be safe to use this method on my 72 A-65T cases followed by a thorough hot water rinse? I am ready to begin re-assembly of the lower end but I want to clean the cases better first. How about the cylinder head? Would it be ok to soda blast it like this? I know that this would never measure up to professional soda blasting but for just getting things cleaned up it seems to work really well. Any thoughts? Here is the link we were sent:
Abrasive grit blasting using soda as the abrasive would be fine. There are really only a few things that you need to consider when choosing the abrasive medium. 1) errosion rate 2) cleaning 3) hardness.
Soda will work fine as long as the bits to be cleaned have been degreased and are dry. There are a lot of things that will do the job from diamond through ground nut shells all the way down to dry ice
I just wanted to make sure I would not damage anything by doing this. Usually when something is this cheap and easy to do... It's the wrong way to do it. I'll post some pics of the cases and head when done for anyone else who might like to try this.
Soda blasting is not new.. but I think you may find the cases come out a tad "white" looking. In that case.. when your S.O. is away, put them in the dish washer with just a tiny bit of normal dish soap. The cases will darken nicely, and the finish seems to hold up well.....
Thanks for the tip Ron. I haven't done the head or cases yet but I’ve bought the Arm & Hammer and taken some detailed “before” pics of everything. I also threw together a scrap lumber blasting table facing the yard. I might not get to this until Mon. as this weekend is ROCKERS vs. MODS here in Dallas and I’ve been doing some much needed maintenance on my 68’ Lightning. It has been a bit neglected since I started on this 72’ Thunderbolt project. The chassis is almost done and ready for the motor.
Yeah, I guess I did use up a whole 1lb (fridge size) box on just that little test but I was a bit clumbsy with it. I had to sort of shake it around a bit because it clumps up into big chunks after being in the box for a while I guess. I’m sure that wasted some. I have a small spegetti strainer that I’m gonna use to sift it into a BIG plastic cup which I can use to refill the “blaster” as needed. That should make things easier. Heck, a 1lb box was only a dollar so even if I spend $10 or $15, I would have probably spent more cleaning them any other way. I know they’ll never end up looking like they were in a shaker for a day or too but I’m fine with that. Right now every dollar I don't spend making it look shiny is another dollar I can spend making it run.