So it turns out sandblasting is for more than just distressed blue jeans! This was news to me, but my brilliant contractor husband Kris told me it can be done on a large scale to remove old paint and rust from wood, metals and other materials.
Our house is a 1961 post & beam architectural style, and the previous owners restored the top level. They uncovered the original beams on the ceiling and had the whole thing sandblasted to its original glory. As we're renovating the downstairs level, we want to do everything we can to restore what is there and make it match the upstairs so the whole house flows together.
The big truck showed up filled with a tank of sand, and the whole process took about 5 hours. We couldn't be there to see it, not only is it messy, but the workers have to wear protective gear because the silica and particles in the sand can be harmful. (This is why several years ago there was a lot of attention on the dangers of sandblasting to factory worker's health in the clothing industry - many brands banned sandblasting, most notably Levi's.)
I'm happy to say the sandblasting worked like a charm and the beams look gorgeous!