Concrete and metal are the most common surfaces to abrasive blast, but they are by no means the only ones where abrasive blasting can be done effectively – in other words so that undesirable impurities and rust are removed cleanly with no or minimal surface damage.
These days, even antiques and porcelain can be gently abrasive blasted. One of the keys here is what abrasive medium you use. Garnet, the safer alternative for sand used by many responsible abrasive blasters, is excellent for industrial type work. It comes in different grades for different levels of finish, and as it is used and reused, the grains become finer. However, for really fine work a softer medium such as crushed walnut shells may be the way to go.
The abrasive blast operator has a good deal of control as well, and a good one will not simply blast away at a precious object the way that is required when cleaning large industrial installations. Machine parts and automotive bodywork can be cleaned very effectively with abrasive blasting while preserving the functionality and visual appeal of the item.
When it comes to restoring vintage cars or building hot rods, it is worth bearing in mind that, while modern cars tend to have quite soft bodies, the body panels of those older cars are usually quite robust and well able to withstand a bit of abrasive blasting. More often than not, abrasive blasting is the best way to get rid off residual paintwork to prepare the metal for a new coat of paint. One of the advantages of abrasive blasting is that it gets into the nooks and crannies that are hard to reach with any manual method.
Household items such as enamel baths, historic pitchers and copper work lend themselves very well to abrasive blasting as part of the restoration process.