brynnb

Best type of belt sander for bladesmithing?

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I've noticed there's two major types of bench-top belt sanders.

Ones like this:
http://www.amazon.co...13938725&sr=1-4

and ones like this:
http://www.amazon.co...13938927&sr=1-3

In many of the books I've read, they recommend at least 2 inches wide and I think 48 inches long. I don't understand what the benefit of a longer belt is and which type would be more appropriate for grinding/sharpening knives. The 1" wide (first one) has the benefit of there being a table attached to rest the blade on and has a longer belt, while the second is a lot wider.

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Both are flimsy underpowered Chinese junk they contain plastic parts that will not stand up to grinding steel. You would do better buying a few good Nicholson files and filing your knives by hand. At least you will acquire better hand skills in the process and own a few good tools. Good quality belt grinders are in the $500 and up range. Longer belts last longer, wider belts produce up to a point a smoother finish because you can grind larger portions of the blade at once with out the edges of the belt dinging in to the knife blank.

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Brynnb,

If you intend to do some serious knife grinding don't buy some piece of garbage just because the price is cheap. Good tools last a lifetime and retain their relsale value. Buy one of those you linked to and it's like flushing money down the potty in more ways than one.

Most of the smiths I know including bladesmiths use Baders. Yes they cost alot (you can find them used) but you can make them do just about anything you want them to with all the different accessories available. And you can always make your own accessories.

Check out the bench models.

http://www.stephenbader.com/

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I know a lot of people who've gotten by with the Grizzly until they could upgrade to something better, and who don't regret it.

I am not a big stock removal guy, and my experience with belt grinders is fairly minimal, but I can tell you a few things.

Longer belts wear longer and don't build up heat as fast. 2"x72" belts come in a wider variety of grit and belt options than just about anything else.

The wide, horizontal sanders are made for wood and aren't designed to allow plunges. Also, the wider belts are more limiting if you want to do other than wide, flat surfaces. I think just about any maker I know would prefer the upright style Grizzly to the horizontal woodworker's sander.

To give you a sense of the range of things, here are a few examples of real knifemaking grinders:

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=7j9nkzbAsms
http://www.youtube.c...h?v=BYllaxuzMk0
http://www.youtube.c...h?v=BYllaxuzMk0

A nicer option if you're going with the simple, upright style of grinder is the Coote. The cost of a Grizzly will get you a good way to a Coote,http://www.cootebeltgrinder.com/, except that once you have the Coote you still need a motor. Used motors are usually scroungable at a decent price, occasionally even free if you're really good.

High quality commercial grinders are very expensive, and not within the budget of the majority of hobbyists. There is a great deal of DIY activity when it comes to belt grinders, ranging from Tracy Mickley's No-Weld Grinder, to a kit made by Polar Bear Forge, to all kinds of individually designed on-offs. The Internet is chock full of plans, many of them free. A good grinder can definitely be made at home, even if you lack welding skills, but you'll still spend a substantial amount of money on it. If nothing else, you'll just about have to buy the wheels (unless you have a decent lathe and know how to use it).

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Thanks for all the replies. I know the machines I'm looking at are not professional quality and will break eventually. I'm only just now starting out, however, and don't want to spend/invest a ton into parts/machines until I feel like it's something I'll stick with. As MattBower said, I know many people who have used both types just fine for small hobby knife making, but I was unsure which type would be better. I'll stick with the upright model as Matt said.

I'm going to be giving the Gingery metal shop books a shot and those larger belt sanders look like something I could make with a lathe/milling machine.

I'll also invest into a set of files as you mentioned southshoresmith, but I'll have to do some reading to see which types I will need since I've never looked at them before.

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I have an old Mead Bandsander, which has eliminated my need for a bench grinder. They do exist on the used market, and can occasionally be found at garage sales and on Craigslist. That Coote is a very similar device. Better quality machines are also rebuildable for much less money than replacement.

For draw filing (and many other surface filing operations) a single cut 12 inch mill file with a proper handle will take care of you. Drill a golf ball and ram it on if you must, but put a handle on, this is for both control and safety. Nicely shaped wooden handles are better. When the file wears out, turn it into stock and reuse the handle on a new one.

Phil

I take that back, the coote looks like a lot more machine than my meade.

Phil

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On the subject of worn out files, I have heard great feedback about these guys:http://www.boggstool.com/. I can't quite exact prices, but I'm told it's much less than the cost of a good quality new file.

I have a variety of files from needle files to 14"+ mill files, in a wide variety of shapes, almost all bought used for a buck or two each, most by good makers -- Nicholson, Simonds, Grobet, etc. For a rundown on file types, tooth coarseness and use, see here: http://www.evenfallstudios.com/woodworks_library/nicholson_guide_to_filing_2006.pdf

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I just bought a Grizzly. It has a few downsides, but I dont regret it at all. It is by far the best tool you will get for the price, it is very solid and very powerful. If you can afford to spend more on one, though, by all means go for it. I've heard good things about the KMG and the Bades.

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I have a 1 by 32 from hrabor freight, it works pretty well, it needs the platten straightened, or wrapped in friction-less fiber, I have a Delta 1 by 32 with a 5 inch disc, (it works about as well as the harbor freight one), and an old sears and roebuck co. 4 by 32, with 8 disc. (took the disc off, that thing spinning sharpening a knifes, a bad idea)

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On the subject of worn out files, I have heard great feedback about these guys:http://www.boggstool.com/. I can't quite exact prices, but I'm told it's much less than the cost of a good quality new file.

I have a variety of files from needle files to 14"+ mill files, in a wide variety of shapes, almost all bought used for a buck or two each, most by good makers -- Nicholson, Simonds, Grobet, etc. For a rundown on file types, tooth coarseness and use, see here: http://www.evenfalls...filing_2006.pdf


Thanks, that guide is useful!

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A lot of makes use the disk more than the belt for doing flat grinds.

However as mentioned trying to use something designed for wood to work metal is sort of like trying to use your car as a boat!

It would be unfortunate if you decide you don't like knifemaking just because the tools you were using made it much more difficult to do a good job.

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On that note I'll add that everyone I know who has used one of those 1" belt sanders for knives (blades, that is, not for shaping handles -- they're OK for that) has hated it. Stock removal with those is verry slow.

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On that note I'll add that everyone I know who has used one of those 1" belt sanders for knives (blades, that is, not for shaping handles -- they're OK for that) has hated it. Stock removal with those is very slow


Beats hand files though :) Picked one up from craigslist today for $20. Works well so far and even if it winds up being garbage I can still use the motor for other applications.

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I know a number of beginners who rough out with an angle grinder and then file to close and then go to silicon carbide paper on a hard block for finishing.

Filing can be very meditative it also teaches you to forge as close as possible to finished form and the necessity of good hammer control---once you can see how *1* bad ding from the edge of the hammer can cost you an extra hour filing you *make* the effort to get it right!

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I believe i heard Peter Ross say "10 minutes at the forge will save you an hour at the vise"


I know a number of beginners who rough out with an angle grinder and then file to close and then go to silicon carbide paper on a hard block for finishing.

Filing can be very meditative it also teaches you to forge as close as possible to finished form and the necessity of good hammer control---once you can see how *1* bad ding from the edge of the hammer can cost you an extra hour filing you *make* the effort to get it right!

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This is also why we suggest folks learn to forge before they start on knives. Too much time/stock wasted because they can't hit true and even!

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I tested out my $20 harbor freight upright belt sander and was pleased with the results of only a few minutes gentle work on a quite rusty rail road spike:

uw8fnl.jpg

80 or 120 grit belt, I forget which. Some random cheap AO type. Semi-mirrored polish on top real quick. In terms of stock removal it's not super fast, but sharpening the end to an edge sharp enough to cut myself was easy. I wasn't able to press hard enough to stop the belt. I imagine a 40 grit ceramic belt will work really well at stock removal.

Quick question though: Is it bad to use the area of the belt that isn't pressed against a back plate? It's a lot quieter and easier to use there.

Thomas: I'm starting blacksmithing classes in a few weeks which will hopefully give me the foundation to start working on tools and knives.

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They're great for sharpening.

As far as using the slack belt, it's there for a purpose. It's not bad to use it as long as you don't expect to get a flat surface out of it. It'll round off grind lines and the like. But it has its uses.

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If you have never run a real belt grinder it is hard to compare what you have with what is out there. Having poor tools can be frustrating but learning skills is what is important. If you get a chance find someone local to give you a hand and maybe you can run their grinder. I built a 5hp belt grinder and I call it the meat rake since I tend to shred my fingers on it occasionally

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Eye protecting is good for any work, but if your metal is getting hot you can ruin your temper. If you are wearing gloves you arre just begging to get them caught and pulled into the grinder. Hold with your bare hands, less chance of slippage this way. If it gets warm just cool in water and dry off a bit (I wipe on my apron, some belts do not like water) and resume.

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I wear gloves and eye protection with mine :) The metal got pretty hot (too hot to hold without gloves)

NOT good to wear gloves, If the belt touches the glove it is more likely to grab the glove and suck it into the machine bringing your hand with it, if it touches your hand then you just loose a little skin. :wacko: Also if your doing knifes or things you dont want to get hot and ruin the temper then , well you dont want it to get hot, :o learn to cool the part in water often before it starts to heat up. ;)
Rob

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