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Who Invented The Sandblasting Abrasive Process?

There are few processes more effective at smoothing stone and creating even textures than sandblasting.

A form of abrasive pressure washing, sandblasting works by firing abrasive particles across a hard surface at high speeds, inspired by sandpaper and natural abrasive processes found in sandy areas.

The beauty of it is the versatility of the process, as whilst sandblasting is the most common, there are variations of sandblasting that use plastic, glass beads, corncob, walnut shells and even metal shot if high levels of abrasion are needed.

The process is somewhat older than one might think, with the first patent being issued in 1870 and credited to Benjamin Chew Tilghman.

Born in Philadelphia in 1821, Benjamin Tilghman was the son of a surgeon and whilst he would garner a law degree, he would ultimately never use it, pursuing his passion for travel, studying chemical works, mills and laboratories across the continent.

By the time he returned, the American Civil War had begun in earnest and he joined the Union army, eventually rising to the rank of general.

Allegedly, during the war, when stationed in a desert, he saw the wind blow against the windows of one of the places he was staying in, and upon seeing the smoothness of the result was inspired to try and apply it to an industrial process.

This led to the patent of the invention, multiple medals for innovation and multiple refinements of the technique.

However, what turned the system into the success it became was Thomas Wesley Pangborn’s application of compressed air to the system.

This perfected the system, and since then the evolutions of sandblasting have been less about changing the system but making it more versatile and more reliable, with the addition of hard-wearing metals such as boron carbide for the nozzle as well as a wider range of shapes and sizes to suit any type of job.

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