What is the right belt grinder for making knives?
With so many options out there, how do you know what to choose?
If you are new to the journey that is knife making or already experienced in this addiction and looking to upgrade, it is my hope that this guide will give you insight to the options out there for those of us pursuing this art. This list is not a complete list of every grinder for knife making known to man but does cover some of the most common belt grinders that knife makers often use.
The most common sizes chosen for knife making grinders are listed below in ascending order with pros and cons.
1x30 Belt Grinders
- Small and compact they have earned a stable position in almost every shop.
- They are able to be utilized to grind bevels and perform any task that is thrown at them at a very affordable price point.
- The belts are often pretty reasonably priced at lower brand levels scaling accordingly.
- Affordable means the winner to a lot of folks.
- These grinders often do not have adequate power for some of the tougher steels. That translates to a lot more time spent in front of the grinder trying to get the bevel just right.
- Due to the size, the 1x30 wear through belts a lot faster than larger grinders such as the 2x72
- Many brands are poorly constructed and are not entirely reliable.
- The belt changing is not user friendly and takes a bit of time to switch between.
Due to the low price point the 1x30 grinders are often a chosen starting point for the budding knife maker. They will certainly do the job but there are better choices if you are focused on efficiency and long-term cost. Since these grinders go through belts quickly, that cost quickly adds up. In addition, many of the 1x30 grinders are manufactured with cost efficiency in mind which impacts quality. The lowest bidder is supplying these parts so, just like the military, some of the parts aren't of the highest caliber.
1x42 Belt Grinders
- Just like the 1x30 Grinders they are small and compact
- Longer belts mean longer belt life for these little grinders
- They work better than wider belts to get into fine detail areas.
- Can alternately be used a sharpening system.
- Slightly larger surface area on belts over a 1x30 grinder.
- Just like its little brother, these grinders often do not have adequate power. That means you may want an ergonomic pad to stand on. You’re going to be there awhile.
- Small work surface area means more repetition in grinds which again means more belts.
- Not user friendly for belt progression.
Just like its little brother the price point on these units usually fall within the cheaper range and can definitely be utilized while learning and beyond. Narrower belts are pretty easy to work with in tight spaces compared to 2x72 belt grinders. If you had the choice of a 2x42 grinder, it would likely be the better option since the wider belt allows more surface area to be covered and it offers more stability at roughly the same price point.
Eastwood makes a good grinder that you can shop for here.
We also carry a selection of 2x36 grinders that are comparable that can be found here.
2x48 Belt Grinders
- Wider belt surface area provides more stability than a 1x30
- Longer belts mean more life and less heat build up
- These units typically have more power than its smaller cousin the 1x30
- More affordable than a 2x72 belt grinder.
- Due to its small size it takes up less room in the shop.
- The 2x48 doesn’t remove material as fast as a 2x72 belt grinder.
- These don’t handle challenging materials as well as 2x72 grinders due to lower power.
I’m sure there are more cons but not having used one personally I’d be reticent to guess. Overall the 2x48 seems to be a pretty good choice for the up and coming blade maker. Landing at a lower price than the 2x72 models, this can be a great knifemaking grinder addition to any shop.
4x36 Belt Grinders
Instead of going into the pros and cons of these I think its best to just tell you. I have one. I thought getting it would be a good investment toward making knives. I was wrong. Can they be modified heavily to help with knife making? Sure they can, but they will never be up to the job like any other grinder on this list. 4x36 grinders were made for handling wood and plastics. You can find them everywhere and the belts for them but overall its just not worth throwing your money away on.
2x72 Belt Grinders
<insert trumpets playing for the royalty/> - kidding. Maybe..
These machines are the current pinnacle of knife making. I only say current because someone will eventually design a beast of a machine that displaces them but it would have to be one HECK of a machine.
- Long belts mean long life and in turn means you’ll save money in the long run
- The wider surface area allows for great stability.
- Heat is dissipated more quickly from a 2x72 belt since it has longer in rotation
- Most models come with variable speeds allowing you to dial in the right speed for the material and or finish you are working on.
- They’re big, but not too big. Most models fit decently on your workbench and don’t take up a ton of room.
- Attachments for the 2x72 grinders are plentiful. More tools means more options means more fun.
- More weight. Doesn’t seem like a pro until you accidentally knock over your 1x30 grinder while its running. With weight comes stability and that means you’re going to have a rock solid machine to produce the best work you can.
- They aren’t just for steel. You can grind anything with these. Wood, plastics, ceramics, your knuckles by accident.
- They’re expensive. Most models you will not be able to touch for less than $1000 and the models that you are able to won’t have the options available like the more expensive models.
- They’re heavy. Not really a con unless your planning on putting it in the back of your honda and driving to your buddies house, then it’s a problem.
- They don’t do anything to keep your significant other from yelling at you about con #1.
No matter where you are on the journey of this knife making you will want to get a grinder of some sort. Ultimately it is up to you to decide what you need at what point in your journey. Each size of grinder, and these aren’t all of them out there, has its pros and its cons but they all can assist you in making knives. The 2x72 is obviously the king of grinders for blade making but you can make them with a file and patience. A lot of patience. I hope this guide has provided some value for you in your knife making journey. Now go and make a product with soul! Forge ahead.