For decorating, engraving or cutting wood, glass or
other hard materials -- using air or steam for pressure -- a stream of
fine sand is projected upon a hard surface. Also for removing scale
and/or rust from iron and steel.
Historically, sandblasting emerges in the latter part of the 19th-century as a technique used in mining or in other applications, such as etching glass. An anonymous article "The Sand-Blast and Its Powers" -- in the periodical Living Age III, Issue 1432, page 405, gives brief details of the invention of the technique by the Philadelphian, Benjamin Chew Tilghman (1821—1901).
As a technique in woodworking, sandblasting's first application is not known but, given the range of applications the article above notes, sandblasting as a means of shaping wood seems logical.
The example on the left, from Making of America database, is for 1880. (My Barnhart Etymological Dictionary and the OED claim the first use of "sand-blasting" circa 1871: see above.)
Source:[Anonymous] "The World's Work", Scribners monthly, an illustrated magazine for the people. 20, Issue 3 July 1880 pages 476-479.
Our first adventure into texturing was in the mid-1980s, when we were making wooden fruit, mainly apples.... [A]n order to make 500 apple-shaped boxes in applewood for the New York Times (the Big Apple), with "New York Times" engraved on them. Sandblasting seemed a possibility for the engraving. ... While trying out sandblasting as a technique for putting letters on wood, we realized it had a greater potential for surface decoration. We explored the effect on various types of wood, both side grain and end grain, looking at pattern and texture, trying different types of masking and stencils, creating surfaces that ranged from a weathered driftwood look to finely detailed designs with crisp, hard edges.
& Michael O'Donnell, Decorating Turned Wood:
The Maker's Eye.
New York: Sterling, 2002. Page 128
[temporary image -- sandblasted bowl by my friend Ron Grant]