Work tools can be dangerous. For instance, it’s estimated that around 400,000 emergency department visits are the results of work tool-related injuries every year.
It’s no surprise really. After all, these tools often have hot, fast-moving pieces of sharp, flying metal, whizzing around all over the place. They eat fingers and thumbs for breakfast.
Bench grinders are one such tool that can do some serious damage if you aren’t careful. These tool-sharpening, metal-shaping, material-altering machines are literally designed to be rough and abrasive.
Anyone can own a bench grinder in their workshop. But without the proper know-how, injuries are all-too-possible.
Just bought yourself one? Well, keep reading.
We’ll go through everything there is to know about how to use a bench grinder safely.
How to Use a Bench Grinder: 7 Top Tips
You’ve got your hands on a grinder and can’t wait to get to work on all your home projects. But wait! First, you need to know how to use it properly. Here are 7 tips to help.
1. Use the Right Wheel for the Job
You might think you can simply press the button and go with your grinder.
And you could.
But you probably shouldn’t. Instead, first, fit the appropriate wheel for the job. The wheels come in different grit ratings. A rule of thumb is to attach the coarsest one possible for the job. As a quick guide, 36-grit is best for most of your gardening tools; 60-grit will do the trick for your chisels; use 80 or 100-grit wheels for your delicate jobs.
To do the grinding itself, hold your soon-to-be-grinded item at an angle of around 25 degrees to the wheel. Be sure to keep it moving across the grinder as you go.
2. Tru and Dress the Wheel
New to grinding?
Then you may never have heard of truing and dressing. Both are vital. Let’s start with the former.
Truing of grinding wheel is the first thing to do after fitting it to the grinder. The mounting process inevitably creates eccentricity (i.e., it deviates from the circular) and helps to establish concentricity. There are other benefits too.
Once mounted and trued, you can dress the wheel. It’s a good idea to dress your wheels frequently. The term describes the process of squaring the wheel face. Over time the surface can alter as a result of contact with the materials you sharpen.
Over time the space between the grit fills up and the surface actually dulls. This makes it less efficient and inclined to overheat.
Dressing the wheel (with a wheel dresser) unclogs the grit and resharpens the surface.
3. Have Cool Water on Hand
It’s a good idea to have a container of water nearby.
Your steel tools have a habit of overheating when being sharpened. When they get too hot they don’t hold an edge as well. An overheated tool means you risk ruining the edge.
Having some water to hand means you can cool the metal after using the grinder. Dip the metal into the water container after every move across the wheel.
4. Adhere to Safe Practice
It’s all too easy to get into bad grinding habits.
You use it for a while without issue and become overconfident and complacent. You start taking greater risks with it. That’s when injuries happen. Always adhere to safe practice. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, fit the right guards, and use a quality tool rest.
Take the time to learn and understand the best grinding practice. For instance, don’t try to grind small items (such as screws) using your hands. Instead, keep your hands far from the wheel and hot metal by fitting the screw into a pair of locking pliers.
5. The Sparks Will Fly
This one’s a top grinding tip for all newbies
The sparks you create offer a clue to the sharpness of a tool. Sparks fly regardless. However, blunt tools send sparks showering downwards, beneath the tool. As it sharpens, the sparks begin to come over the top and towards your hands.
Remember the need for water to protect from overheating? Well, be sure to stop grinding when the sparks come topside. Sharp tools overheat exceptionally quickly (because the edge is so thin).
Grind. Watch the sparks. Stop grinding when they move from bottom to top.
6. Create Wooden Sharpening Guides
Grinding beginners need all the help they can get.
You’ll get better at sharpening tools with practice. But without due diligence, you’ll go through your fair share of them unnecessarily in the process. And tools, such as chisels, aren’t cheap.
Do yourself a favor and make the sharpening process as easy as possible. You want to create the correct bevel angle. Simply holding and hoping for the best won’t cut the mustard at the start
Make up some wooden sharpening guides instead.
Take a small wooden block and cut an end to the correct bevel angle. Next, make a hole for a clamp to secure the guide in place when in use. Make as many of these as required (to match the angles of your different chisels, plane blades, and other wood-turning tools, etc). Oh, and remember to label which is which!
7. Make it Multifunctional
Your grinder can be used for different workshop processes.
It’s a great way of getting the most out of your investment. One handy alternative use is as a metal polisher. You simply fit a wire wheel next to a cotton buffing wheel (both are cheap and cheerful purchases) and get hold of a polishing compound.
With all that in place, you’re good to go with cleaning and polishing your stuff.
Time to Grind
There you have it: everything you need to know about how to use a bench grinder.
Work tools demand respect. They’re big, hefty, practical machines with lots of fast moving parts. There’s always the potential for injury when not used properly. Heck, there’s even the chance of injury when they are used properly!
It’s essential that anyone new to grinding understand how to go about it. Hopefully, the information above will help you do just that!
Like this piece? Love your DIY? Click here to read all our DIY-related pieces.