Many woodworkers fear the act of grinding. And “fear” might be too kind a word.
I’ve had several woodworkers send me tools to grind for them (please don’t do this). Other woodworkers spend hundreds of dollars on fancy tool rests or other grinding jigs to ensure that the tool will not catch fire, steal their spouse then go on a tri-state killing spree.
Grinding is easy, fast and totally a necessary skill. You don’t need a lot of money to learn to grind. And you don’t have to attend Grind U. (Which is not a college about tools. Well, maybe it is. Well maybe we should just get on with the rest of this entry.)
For some woodworkers, the fear of grinding relates to electric grinders. They have heard tales of how a fast-speed grinder will ruin their tools. So they spend extra money on a slow-speed grinder and fancy grinding wheels. Other woodworkers use a water-cooled grinding system, which is entirely too slow for the way I work.
Here’s the truth: Any dry-grinder can remove the temper from your tools and soften the steel. And if it does, then so what? Should you grind away the discoloration until you get back to good steel? Heck no. Finish your grinding job, hone the edge and get back to work. Yes the steel is softer and yes, it won’t hold an edge as well, but it is still a workable tool. Eventually, you’ll work away the softer steel and return to the good stuff.
I have an old Disco-era Craftsman fast-speed grinder that I use at work. And now, thanks to woodworker Bill Anderson, I have a nice hand-cranked grinder as well, which will be great for home. If you can grind on a machine, picking up the skills to use a hand-cranked grinder are cake. It doesn’t take much coordination. And the hand-cranked grinders work fast. They’re not as fast as a 3,450 rpm electric grinder, but they are much faster than a water-cooled grinder.
Plus, a hand-cranked grinder is variable speed. You can work as fast or as slowly as you like.
Hand-cranked grinders are widely available, fairly inexpensive and they accept modern grinding wheels. I have a Norton 3X wheel on mine – the same wheel as on my electric grinder. It’s my favorite wheel.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The music from this video can be downloaded for free here.
Grinding and sharpening resources
• Larry Williams at Old Street tools is a grinding savant. Read his take on the process on the Old Street Tools web site.
• Ron Hock has written a great book on sharpening called “The Perfect Edge.” It covers, grinding, honing and polishing of all woodworking tools.
• See how I grind and hone a fore plane iron in this free article