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Q & A: Best Grinder for Woodworking


Q & A: Best Grinder for Woodworking


I’d like to buy a grinder that will handle a variety of maintenance projects and also be good for sharpening my woodworking tools.What should I look for?


Finding a bench grinder that’s good for general home use is easy; finding one that’s right for woodworking isn’t. For under $50 you can find a reasonable 6-in. grinder, one that’ll run at 3,400 rpm or so, with a worklight, medium and coarse wheels, and general- purpose tool rests.For sharpening woodworking tools, the best setup is more specialized. You don’t need a larger, 8-in. or 10-in. grinder, but the majority of experienced woodworkers would recommend:

Stiff, fully adjustable tool rests. It’s impossible to sharpen plane irons so the edge is straight if the tool rest flexes under your fingers. It should also be adjustable in and out (necessary for safety as the wheel gets smaller) and for different angles.

A friable fine-grit wheel. Normal gray wheels have a vicious tendency to overheat the thin edges of chisels and plane irons, even with careful attention.The symptom is a blue color, and the problem is that the temper of the tool is removed, making the edge hard to sharpen. The softer, friable white or pink wheels are much more forgiving. These wheels are available from specialty retailers for $30 to $50. Buy a medium (180) grit for general tool sharpening.

Low-speed. Normal grinders operate at 3,400 rpm, because the grinding is more aggressive, and the motor is cheaper.However, a speed of 1,750 rpm or so is much less likely to burn your tool edges. However, grinders that operate at this speed are harder to find and generally, but not always,more expensive. In practice, many woodworkers are successful on high-speed grinders, as long as they’re equipped with a friable wheel and good rests, and are used with a light touch.

Here are three machines you might consider: The Craftsman 6-in.Grinding Center, which has good tool rests and a variable-speed motor that will slow down to 2,000 rpm, sells for only $60.Add a friable wheel and you’re still under $100. Delta sells a massive 8-in. grinder with good tool rests that comes equipped with a friable wheel and sells for $170. And Highland Hardware sells a slow-speed, 8-in. grinder with basic tool rests and friable wheels for $190.

Finally, equip your grinder with a good wheel dresser to keep the wheels straight and clean. There are several styles of dressers. They all work, but our favorite is a T-shaped diamond dresser; you can get one at for under $20.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker Tool Buyer's Guide 2002.

Tool Buyer's Guide 2002

Purchase this back issue.