Bench grinders are the most versatile power tools in your workshop. They are ideal for precision sharpening, shaping, and cleaning all kinds of small objects. But trying to find out where they are manufactured can take some time. (Below) after doing some research, I’ve put together a helpful list with pictures of bench grinders made in the USA and conveniently available online. In addition, I also provide some valuable tips and techniques for better results when sharpening a chisel with a bench grinder.
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Understanding Wheel Grit for Bench Grinders (In a Nutshell)
Bench grinders come in various sizes with different configurations in motor and wheel sizes, with the most popular wheel size being 6″. The grinding wheels on a bench grinder usually have different grades. For example, most grinders have 36 and 60-grit wheels that are considered medium-grade. A 36-grit wheel is ideal for sharpening garden tools such as shovels or axes or sharpening and removing metal quickly. The 60-grit wheel is suitable for more delicate grinding applications, such as chisels or drill bits.
There are many different grades of grinding wheels available for even finer or more precise grinding. Despite the bench grinder’s name, this machine is not limited to sharpening. For example, a convenient addition is to replace one of the grinding wheels with a brass or steel wire wheel. You can quickly clean rusted parts, remove paint, and clean welds without damaging the part you are trying to clean.
Bench grinders are also used in polishing applications. Polishing kits are available with spindles and polishing cloths that fit your bench grinder and screw directly into your grinder. Combined with the suitable polishing compound, it’s easy to get a shine on just about anything.
A bench grinder runs at high speed, and some standard models can run at about 3000 RPMs. Although bench grinders are equipped with clear guards and shields, proper guarding must be worn to protect against wheel debris. Much more than just a grinder, a good bench grinder can be the most helpful thing you screw on your workbench.
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Bench Grinder Fundamentals for Sharpening a Chisel
If you already know how to use a bench grinder properly, it can be the fastest way to shore up your chisels and your plane irons for honing. You can also use it to restore a severely damaged edge on a tool you may have picked up at a flea market and prepare it for honing. Alternatively, you can completely reshape the edges into brand-new tools.
Many people give up on the bench grinder because they get uneven results and burn the tip repeatedly, turning the steel blue and removing its hardness. But there’s no need to strain yourself; I will show you an excellent old-school tip for sharpening more accurately and quickly. Before we get into the technique, we need to cover a few things on setting up a bench grinder the right way for you to be successful.
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How to Adjust the Bench Grinder for Sharpening a Chisel
Make sure your grinder has one of the new wheel styles. For example, look for the word friable on a wheel, which is what you want. That means that as the wheel wears, the particles begin to break up, exposing new, fresh edges. At the same time, the grinder wheel runs cooler, which is very important.
Install a Better Bench Grinder Rest
Suppose you notice that the grinder holder is not suitable. In that case, you can buy a better bench grinder holder with more adjustment directions.
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Slightly Round the Bench Grinder Wheel
Here is the trick that will make all the rest of your grinding technique possible. It’s all about how you dress the wheel. I used to think that the grinder wheel should be flat on the front. To my surprise is that it works much better if it is slightly rounded with a high point in the middle. For example, get a flat diamond grinding wheel and then taper the edges of the wheel a bit to end up with a nice smooth curve on the front side. Now the grinder is ready to go, and this is the most common way you will use it.
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Start Sharpening the Chisel with a Bench Grinder
Now is the point where you’ve done a lot of honing and resharpening on the chisel’s cutting edge. Those polished areas are now too large to touch up on your fine stones efficiently, and now it’s time to resharpen the entire cutting edge. But first, readjust the angle of the grinder holder to your liking. If you are happy with the angle at which your chisel is sharpened, you can even it out by placing the chisel on the holder with the grinder turned off. Then adjust it slightly go down and have a look. You want the wheel to hit the bevel halfway along its length.
Next, slide the chisel up on the wheel and rub it from side to side. Next, flip it over and watch the scratch pattern on the chisel to detect the high spot on the bevel that needs more sharpening. Next, turn on your bench grinder, and here’s how easy it is.
Place the chisel in the holder and slide it into the wheel. When it starts to grind, use your backhand as a depth stop against the back of the holder. Start moving the chisel from side to side, letting the high point of the wheel go gently over the edge for consistent results. Flip the chisel over to take a look to make sure the wheel is hitting the bevel somewhere near the center. Then turn it from time to time to check your progress.
It is easy to sharpen a little more in some areas to even out the bevel. But sharpening lightly is one of the big keys because the very fine point of the chisel is vulnerable to overheating. So when the chisel starts to get close to that point of overheating, you should begin to dip the chisel in water from time to time. Then you’ll know you’re done when the freshly sharpened area covers the entire bevel and small burr forms along the back of the tip that looks and feels perfect.
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Sharpening a Bad Chisel with a Bench Grinder
Now let’s talk about a chisel that you have somehow inherited or picked up at a flea market, and it is really in bad shape. If the chisel has a rounded tip, you want to start from scratch. You want the tip to be 90 degrees straight, use a square and a fine point marker to make a reference line on the chisel’s edge.
Then the first thing you need to do is set the tool to rest at about 90 degrees to the wheel. Now start blunting the tip until you reach the reference line. Again, all that is needed is a very light touch. Since you’re sharpening the tip almost instantly and blunting, heat shouldn’t be a problem if you use a light touch. Next, go back to the tool rest and set it up as you would if you were using it for a good chisel to get the bevel angle you want. If not, there are a couple of good ways to set the tool rest from scratch. You can buy an angle gauge or make one yourself out of cardboard.
Since the chisel sits firmly against the tool rest when sharpening, put the bottom of your angle gauge against the wheel. And because the tip is blunt and you’re reshaping the entire edge of the bevel, this sharpening process will take a while. So continue to sharpen and shape and check that bevel constantly. After removing a lot of metal, use a light tap and start dipping the chisel in water to cool it as the edge begins to become thin and sharp, and the blunt edge starts to disappear.
Once the grinder marks get to the tip, you will see the blunt edge disappear. And the good thing is that you can use that blunt tip to track your progress and make sure you’re sharpening evenly. You’ll know you’re done when the blunt tip disappears, feels sharp, and feels that slight burr along the back of the edge. And there you go, now you know how to sharpen perfect bevels quickly and accurately every time.
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