Someone asked me the other day how to remove paint from toy trains without chemicals like paint stripper or oven cleaner. It can be done, but there’s a reason a lot of hobbyists like me use chemicals.
Without using chemicals, you have to use abrasive methods to remove paint. That usually means sandblasting or bead blasting.
Advantages of removing paint from toy trains without chemicals
There’s a speed advantage to using abrasives rather than chemicals. Sand or bead blasting removes the paint and rust in one step, and it also etches the surface, which makes it excellent for paint adhesion. Paint bonds better to the etched surface than it would to a chemically cleaned surface. I still recommend that you prime it, but the primer and paint will stick more readily. There’s no noxious fumes, no chemicals to dispose of, and you don’t have to keep any scary-sounding chemicals around the house in between projects either.
In large quantities, it’s cheaper too. You can use the blasting media over and over again, so you don’t have to buy new supplies with each project you take on.
Disadvantages of using abrasives
The biggest disadvantages of using abrasives instead of chemicals to remove paint from toy trains is also related to cost. You’ll need a blasting cabinet and an air compressor, along with enough space to put it.
Blasting cabinets vary in price. You can get an entry-level cabinet at Harbor Freight. A bench-top cabinet costs around $120 and a floor blast cabinet costs $180. A higher-quality cabinet can run several hundred dollars. Even if you buy your cabinet elsewhere, you may want to get your glass beads at Harbor Freight because of the low price, and my coupon hacks make it even cheaper.
That’s why a lot of hobbyists put up with using chemicals. It takes several projects to make a blasting cabinet, media, and air compressor pay for itself. For the $300 you may spend on equipment, you can buy a lot of cans of paint stripper. But if you do these projects in large quantities and want professional results, having a blasting cabinet really helps.