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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Kalamazoo Belt Grinder, continued

In between baking a cheesecake and resting my tired bones (seriously, I've had enough of winter. the shoveling is killing me), I took some time to get my belt grinder set up.
I'm already in love!

Temporarily set up in my work shop. This machine will be heading for the basement. I don't want to grind where I work on wood.  I purchased a switch, box, and cable to set up the power cord. The table top is just cheap coated fiber board. It's heavy and absorbs vibration...which is what counts.

Laid back.

With a machinist's square, you can set the rest up nice and tidy. It's a simple rest, but it's straight, and that's what matters. As time goes by, and projects require, I'm going to make some custom rests. I also have a Veritas grinding rest that may find it's way into this set up eventually.
So...if you came up to me and said, " need a belt grinder." I would recommend this thing right away.
Here's what I like:
Sturdy, seriously, this thing has thick thighs and biceps

Simple, a single allen wrench and a 1/2" combo wrench are pretty much all you need

Versatile. What I mean is that I am not limited to what the machine tells me I can and can't do. If I change to a three step pulley, all of a sudden I have variable speed. I used a 1725 RPM motor, but I could have used a 3450 motor as well. I can run horizontal. There's a decent enough selection of belts for both wood and metal.

It's a Kalamazoo. It's fun to say, and made on the other side of the big lake (for the non Milwaukee folks...that would be Lake Michigan).

Price. $279. Some other motorless grinders are twice that. It fit my budget AND my needs. That doesn't happen every day. Hardcore grinders can run you over $2000. Mind you, that's a full tilt 72" grinder with a 240 volt motor and variable speed...but only the most hard core folks can justify that expense.

Here's what I don't like:
Limited belt selection. Ok...through no fault of its own...the 48" grinder doesn't have the selection of belts available that a 72" grinder has. However, in defense, I can do what I need.

That's it. There's nothing to really not like about this belt grinder. The guards keep you safe from OSHA scrutiny while not getting in the way. It doesn't make a bunch of racket. On and on and on.This isn't about bang for the're getting KAPOW for the buck!
If you have a little more cash to spend, you can get one with a motor. There is also a 72" version of this grinder (both with and without a motor). Options, options, options.
As much as I would have liked to buy a super grinder, I believe that I am going to be stoked on this thing for quite a while.


  1. What do you intend to use it for? Metal working or woodworking? Or a bit of both? I'm wondering how this compares to a 6-8 inch grinder for shaping plane irons or similar woodworking tools.

    1. Ralph- One of the great things about a belt grinder is that you can use it for wood or metal. Unlike a 6-8 grinder which can grind only steel, I can use this for steel, aluminum, wood, you name it. All I have to do is put on the appropriate belt for the material.

      My primary purpose is for shaping knife blades. It's something I've been wanting to get into for a while.

      As of now, I've only made a couple of quick touches on the belt. I was impressed with the speed at which it can remove material, compared to a standard grinder. It will work very well for regrinding primary bevels on woodworking blades. If you like to hollow grind plane irons, the grinder can be set to the horizontal position and you can position a rest in front of the contact wheel. The contact wheel on this grinder is 5". This would make a more pronounced hollow grind than a normal bench grinder.

      Just as I can change belts to fit the material, there are obviously different grits. Right now I have grits ranging from 80 to 600. That grit selection will allow for grinding up close to the cutting bevel of a chisel or plane iron and then finishing by hand.

      Hope that's not too long winded. As I get into some more serious use, I will continue to post about it.

  2. Not long winded at all. It seems to me this would a lot more versatile then a grinder.

    1. Ralph, I believe it is more versatile.
      I have some plane irons that need the primary bevel reground. I've avoided it for a while because the bench grinder seemed so slow. I'm going to run a few of them through the belt grinder and see how it goes.
      One thing that I know I'm going to like is that if I have a lot of metal to remove from an iron, I can use a coarse belt to remove most of the metal, and then switch to a finer belt for the finish.