Having a blast with Dad

 In projects

There comes a time in a daughter’s life when her father must teach her how to propel pressurized sand at a piece of wood. Well, at least it’s inevitable when you grow up in a sign shop specializing in cedar sandblasted signs.

Suited up for sandblasting.

Suited up for sandblasting.

I’ve been helping run the sandblaster since I started the summer after I finished university. I’ve wanted to learn how to actually blast for a while, but Dad and I were concerned (and rightfully so) that I wouldn’t have the arm strength. There was a particular incident where I was propelled down the wood shop by a belt sander to back this up… Anyhow, hefting countless pieces of cedar, lifting 50 pound bags of sand and sanding, sanding, sanding day in day out has rid me of my undergrad flab, as has my much improved exercise routines. So we finally decided to give it a try, especially since Dad recently tore his rotator cuff, and it’s become pretty obvious that someone else around here should probably know how to sandblast. You know, seeing that it’s our livelihood and all.

When I was a house painter, I used to handle a paint sprayer (which came with the sunny warning that if I pointed it at myself, I could forcibly inject myself with paint and die). The sandblaster is pretty similar. For starters, it’s also really not a good idea to point a sandblaster at yourself, and it requires the same even strokes and steadiness of hand. There’s a lot more force, but you’re pointing downwards so it’s easier to control (and get very sore arms).

You need a special suit to sandblast. A helmet that looks like something from a ’50s sci-fi is also required so you can breathe in something other than glass and cedar dust, not to mention avoid having thousands of grains pinging your eyes and face. I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t smell pretty in there. It has that sweaty man smell (sorry Dad). Nor does it fit me that well… bloody manufacturers make everything man-sized. I have no idea why they can’t anticipate that a small 26-year old young lady is going to be using their helmet from the costume-sale of Robinson Crusoe on Mars. So unaccommodating!


Me sandblasting, Dad screwing up the picture.

Anyways, feeling like a life-sized bobble head figure, I proceeded to practice blasting on test wood. Easy as a breeze. Then it was time to practice blasting my first real sign – a wedding gift for my best friend’s sister Lois. It just seems like the other day I was babysitting her, nostalgia etc. Of course, Dad had been doing big signs all day, so we didn’t have anything in place for securing a small sign. Bloody thing wouldn’t sit still. In the picture (note Dad’s thumb covering part of it), everything looks ideal. The reality is that we ended up wedging it on the ground where I tried to hold it down with one foot while trying to see properly out of my oversized helmet and grip the hose with my ham-hand man-sized gloves. The suit may have been blasting pressurized ice-cold air at me (with the lovely roar of SSSSSSSS in my ears), but I was definitely breaking a sweat trying to do this thing properly.

Of course, the sign turned out beautifully. Well, actually I ended up blasting a hole right through it. But, as Mom pointed out, the border was way too thin so it wasn’t surprising something like that happened. Like most things around here, we blamed Dad, since he designed it. Poor Dad. With two women around, he NEVER wins. Fortunately, I’m a genius at rebuilding wood, so Lois will never know (until she reads this blog post).

sandblasting hole

There’s a hole in the sign, dear Liza, dear Liza

Learning to sandblast was fun, but I don’t plan to take it over anytime soon. It’s awfully hard on the arms, and we’re going to have to invest in a woman-sized helmet before it becomes my primary duty if I have anything to say about it. But it’s good to have a back up sandblaster just in case.

As for Lois’s wedding, it was a gorgeous affair at Charis Camp in Popkum, BC. She and her sweetie are real outdoorsy people, so the sign really suited them both. A lovely sign for a lovely couple!

wedding sign

The wedding sign (from Lois’s facebook page)

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