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Blast-A-Way pulverizes paint

Wadena native James "Buck" Foster sandblasted the homes of the rich and famous during his 14-year stay in California. Now, with his new business, Blast-A-Way Sandblasting, Foster seeks to share his passion for pulverizing peeling paint in his home town.

Foster learned his sandblasting craft from his brother after moving to California when he completed high school. He started on the bottom as a helper taping windows and shoveling sand before gradually working his way up. After a year with his brother he began sandblasting for his wife's father.

While working for his father-in-law, Foster said he worked on the homes of quite a few stars. He sandblasted for Merv Griffin, Peter Falk and even a Charlie's Angel. He spent three days sandblasting the wood beams of Whoopi Goldberg's Malibu home. The star was there every day during the project and gave him an autographed 8x10 picture.

"She was really nice," Foster said about the dreadlock-wearing actress.

The lure of Minnesota eventually proved irresistible to Foster and his family. He returned to Wadena in 1995 and started working for Minnesota Valley Irrigation, where he is currently a foreman.

The chance to begin his own business presented itself last winter when his brother offered to sell him a sandblasting truck. It was a "golden opportunity" Foster said he couldn't refuse.

Foster works full-time at Valley and squeezes in sandblasting work on the weekends. He also does all of the sandblasting work for the irrigation company. His boss, Bob Kempenich, lets him store his truck there and use the company's fork lift.

"He treats me really good," Foster said about Kempenich. "I'm really grateful for him."

Foster enjoys his work servicing wells for irrigation pumps, but said he would eventually like to devote more time to sandblasting. He works as many as 80 hours a week during the busy spring months. He travels to farms throughout the United States.

Foster would like to find a place in an industrial park so he could sandblast all year long. It's noisy, dirty work but Foster said he loves donning his respirator, hood and earplugs to blast surfaces clean.

"You go up to a job, there's peeling paint, and it looks horrible," he said. "It's really satisfying to make it look nice."

Foster specializes in sandblasting wood. It takes a special talent to work with wood surfaces, he said. Foster also works with many other surfaces. He sandblasts brick, concrete, metal, trailers, pools and beam ceilings. Foster works on interior and exterior surfaces and does residential, commercial and industrial jobs. For estimates give Foster a call at (218) 631-4932.

Foster also wants potential customers to know that he does cleanup, too. He even promises to tidy up the flowers as best as he can after he empties his 600 pound sand pot and lays down his 500 feet of hose.

"The cleanup and preparation is half the job," Foster said. "I do a nice cleanup."