Niles man blasts quickly out of retirement with new business

Published 6:28 am Monday, April 17, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Bill Stewart first started working on cars when he bought a 1949 Ford at age 14.
Two years later, he had his first solo job painting a 1947 Chevy.
The lifelong Niles resident did not let the results discourage him, though. After working 17 years at Simplicity Pattern Co. Inc. and owning a gas station on U.S. 12, he continued to work around cars as a salesman at Don Medow Pontiac Jeep Inc. in South Bend, Ind. until his retirement only weeks ago.
Stewart's time away from work was short-lived, though, as he was back to the grind a few days later getting his new business, Stewart Soda Blasting LLC, ready to go.
The soda blasting process is similar to sand blasting, except pressurized baking soda is used instead of sand, Stewart said. The blasting baking soda holds similar qualities to the household item, but comes in a form that looks more like salt.
The soda is pressurized by a large, yellow John Deere diesel compressor Stewart tows behind his black pick-up truck. From the compressor, the soda is shot out of a connected hose and aimed at the desired surface.
Because of the softness, soda blasting is safe for removing paint and rust from cars, Stewart said. The friction of sand blasting creates more heat and can cause metal to warp.
Sand blasting can also be used on the delicate gelcoats on the hulls of boats and to remove grease from stainless steel food processing equipment. The process has also been employed to clean-up the outside of log cabins, Stewart said.
Soda blasting is an option for removing graffiti as well, and Stewart said he has already given an estimate to the city of Niles to remove graffiti along the river walk.
Stewart said the city of Chicago also uses soda blasting to remove graffiti from its structures.
Like its sand counterpart, soda blasting can produce a lot of dust, which Stewart said can be controlled by “tenting yourself in.” As far as the clean-up process, Stewart said the soda does not stick around like sand and is easily washed away with water.
Stewart said he picked up on soda blasting last November in Las Vegas while at the Sema Show, a large convention highlighting specialty automobile parts, tools and components.
Stewart said the process works for removing paint on older vehicles, such as his 1950 M38 Military Jeep, as well as new models, like his 2004 supercharged GTO. Regardless of the year, make or model of the car, truck or boat, Stewart said he is betting on the soda blasting business to keep him busy through all seasons.
Stewart Soda Blasting can be found online at