Love making sparks fly? So do we. If you're here for romantic advice, you're in the wrong place; if you're here to quench your thirst for knowledge, read on.
Bench grinders are some of the handiest tools you can have at your disposal. From grinding to reshaping to sharpening, they're workhorses when it comes to caring for and repairing metal implements of all kinds. Sharpening knives, chisels, lawnmower blades, axes, scissors, and more is a breeze with one of these helpful machines in your garage or shop. Here, your friends at WEN have put together some helpful pointers on how to choose and use a bench grinder.
Grinders are usually broken down into two types: wet/dry sharpeners or grinders, and standard bench grinders and buffers.
Wet/dry sharpeners are usually used for sharpening tools that don't need a lot of heavy corrective work. They incorporate an onboard water storage tank to cool a fine-grit abrasive stone, and many often include a leather stropping wheel for final honing and burr removal.
The WEN BG4270T 10-Inch wet/dry sharpening system is a quiet, precise, all-in-one sharpening center.
Wet/dry sharpeners are great for sharpening kitchen knives, woodworking chisels, scissors, and axes to a razor-sharp finish. They usually run at a slow speed and use a very fine-grit wheel, meaning they don't take off much material at a time, but offer superior control.
These are the bench grinders you may have seen in your high school shop class, and are the type of grinders we'll be focusing on for the rest of this article. They usually consist of a central motor housing, a sturdy cast-iron or cast-aluminum base, and grinding or buffing wheels on each side of the motor housing.
The WEN BG4282 bench grinder being used to sharpen a wood chisel.
Bench grinders usually incorporate a series of tool rests, as well as wheel guards and eye guards, to offer better control and help guard against sparks and flying debris. They usually come with aluminum-oxide or other abrasive grinding wheels, and are used for heavy material correction and removal. Usually, they include a low-grit (often 30 - 40 grit) and a medium-grit (often 60 - 80 grit) wheel. Replacement wheels and other accessories, such as wire wheels, are readily available.
Buffers and polishers usually eschew guards and tool rests in favor of an open design, which offers excellent access to their woven-fabric wheels. These machines are great for finishing, buffing, and polishing metals, plastics, and some woods, and usually require their wheels to be charged with buffing compound before use.
When choosing a bench grinder, make sure to take a few factors into consideration.
Bench grinders are usually measured by the diameter of their wheels. For example, a 6-inch bench grinder uses 6-inch-diameter wheels; an 8-inch bench grinder uses 8-inch-diameter wheels.
Generally speaking, 8-inch bench grinders are larger, heavier, and often both more expensive and more powerful than their 6-inch counterparts. They usually offer more working area and a stronger motor, and are best suited for heavy-duty or professional jobs.
6-inch grinders are versatile, compact, portable machines that are great for most general-purpose tasks around the house, but they may not hold up to the demands of a production environment. However, they're usually less expensive than their 8-inch cousins, and take up very little room on your workbench.
Bench grinders' motors are measured in amps - the amount of current they're rated to handle in operation. Generally, more amperage equates to more power to handle heavy-duty grinding tasks.
Choose a bench grinder with an induction motor - they run cooler, quieter, and much longer than other motor types.
Most bench grinders run between 3450 - 3600 RPM, but slow-speed models are also available. These units offer maximum precision and control, and because they run at a slower speed (usually around 1725 - 1800 RPM), they tend to cause less heat buildup in the workpiece being sharpened. This helps with longer edge retention and longer life for cutting implements.
The WEN BG4286 3-amp 8-inch slow speed bench grinder runs at 1725 RPM, offering maximum control and minimum heat buildup.
Variable-speed models, such as the WEN BG4280 and BG625V, are also available. These models use electronic controls to precisely dial in the motor speed so that it's perfectly tuned for the task at hand. However, this precision and versatility means that a variable-speed model will usually command a higher price than an equivalent single-speed model.
The WEN BG625V 6-inch variable-speed bench grinder is great for sharpening lawnmower blades, knives, chisels, scissors, and more.
Other features to keep an eye out for include:
Always make sure to read your owner's manual completely and follow its instructions. Below are some general tips.
One other tip - if you're sharpening an existing edge, consider marking it with a permanent marker. That way, while keeping a consistent angle, you can see which parts have already been ground and which have not - marked sections will need more attention.
Thanks for reading! We hope this has been a helpful guide on your journey to choosing a bench grinder. If you have any questions about WEN bench grinders or wet/dry sharpeners, or need help deciding which one is right for you, please give us a call at 1-847-429-9263 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support team.