If you Had to choose...

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Matt Lucas, Jul 4, 2020.

  1. Matt Lucas

    Matt Lucas

    May 11, 2020
    I’ve built 10 or so knives now and feel I may be ready to graduate from hand files to a belt grinder. I have read multiple times that the only “real” belt grinder for making knives is a 2x72”. This is just a hobby for me and I really don’t want to invest a small fortune into a grinder that size. I understand a 2x42” will not be quite as effective and belts won’t last as long, but wouldn’t it be better than a jig and hand files? It takes me, at the very least, 2 hours to grind my bevels with a file. Having never used a belt grinder to grind bevels I’d assume a 2x42” would still be a good bit faster.

    If you had to choose between hand filing bevels using files and a grinding jig or a 2x42” belt grinder, which would you prefer? If hand filing is a better option I’m willing to stick with it, but I would prefer to have a machine help reduce some of the grunt work involved with hand filing. Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    I did the 1×30 disk grinder combo as my first powered grinder.

    Then stepped up to the 2x72

    I've not used the 2×48
  3. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    I got a 42x2 after filing
    Now I want a real grinder.
    Yes it is an improvement and faster but I clean up with 220 grit stones after grinding.

    It saves a lot of time but is no way near the kind of machine you want if you get serious.

    Either save more or be happy to save time while you make knives to sell and buy the real machine
  4. Branson1369


    Feb 17, 2019
    Buy once cry once

    I suspect if you decide to stop making you could probably sell 2x72 fairly quick

    have a GREAT 4th
  5. john april

    john april KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 27, 2006
    the 2x42 i have seen do not have the attachments, wheels and tool rests that the 2x72 does. does the model you are looking at have the capability ?
  6. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    A 2X48 grinder would be just fine - "IF" (note that is a really big "if") you could get the selection of belts, and most important a variable speed. Are you open to building a 2X72 grinder? Not hard and all you really need is a drill press. Then for $600 ($700?) you can have a really nice VFD grinder. If you won't wish to build, I'd order the Reeder frame ($700 shipped) order wheels for $125 or so, (Reeder can add for $200), then $165 for 2hp 3 ph motor and around $70 to $80 for a Chinese VFD. That's a total of $1100 to $1200 for one of the best 2X72 grinders on the market. You will need 220 vac to use the Chinese VFD.

    Let's face it, $1200 to spend isn't all that much on a hobby that can bring in a bit of money. Think about how expensive motorcycles, golf, or bass fishing are.
    Hengelo_77 and razor-edge-knives like this.
  7. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    Ken, while I understand what you're saying here, I'm going to have to disagree. When a large portion of the population is un-empolyed with really no idea on when they will return to gainful employment, $1200 could be a few months rent, food, etc...

    Hi Matt. Welcome to the addiction. My opinion is to stick with the hand work. But I am considered a Luddite by many. Yes, it may take more time, but if this is a hobby, and you enjoy doing it, then you should really think hard about why you feel the need to upgrade to power tools? Yes, they can speed up the work significantly, but until you learn how to use the tool, you can/will also screw things up a lot faster.
    If this is a business, then it's worth the investment in the long run so that you can crank out more knives per week, and increase your income, provided you have a market for your knives.
    If this is a hobby that you enjoy, then stick with the hand work, enjoy not having to wear a respirator or hearing protection, not having grinding dust all over the shop, and the pride you will take when you show off your work and brag that you did it all with hand tools.
    And...when the $#!t finally hits the fan, and the failing power infrastructure finally gives out, you will be able to continue to make knives and all those who rely on power tools will be up the creek....
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2020
    WValtakis likes this.
  8. Willie71

    Willie71 Warren J. Krywko. Part Time Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 23, 2013
    For what you will spend on a 2x42/48, buy the kit at polarbear forge. Then get some longboard wheels, and the drive/tracking wheels. Run it with a single speed motor until you can afford the VFD and three phase motor. Use a 1700rpm motor until you go VFD. The downside to single speeds is running too fast.
    Flatlander bowie and Ken H> like this.
  9. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    @Billyo, you're right $1200 is a good bit of money. I can well remember when our food budget was $10/wk. I poorly worded my statement to comparing the expenses of knifemaking to golf, motorcycles, or especially bass boats.
    tkroenlein likes this.
  10. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    Sorry, Ken. I didn't mean for you to feel you had to explain. I understand what you're saying, and agree, for the most part. And IMHO (whatever that's worth....:oops::rolleyes:), I bet there are a lot of (us?) out there where this started as just a hobby one gladly paid to do that eventually progressed into a hobby that could pay for itself. I hope this isn't taken as 'preachy' but IMHO (again:rolleyes::)), this is where one approaches the slippery slope of bringing the concern over $ into the 'hobby'. Which, while not an insignificant thing to think about, when it becomes the driver...
    Ken H> likes this.
  11. Scaniaman


    Jun 15, 2012
    Continue doing stuff with hand tools untill you can afford/want to spend on a variable speed 2x72 with horizontal mode as well.
  12. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016
    How long have you been making?
    How many knives per year do you see yourself making for the next few years?

    If you make or plan to make 5-6 a year the 2x42 may just work for you. If you plan to more than double that, ponying up for a 2x72 would be worth it.

    I made my first 10 or so with a hammer, forge, and a grossly under powered 4x36.
  13. A.McPherson

    A.McPherson KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 27, 2012
    I'm gonna agree with some of what @weo is saying. Stick with hand tools.

    Were I to do it all again, id just save up the money and buy the Reeder straight up. Instead, I wasted money buying a 4"x"24 or something like that, then built a grinder, then bought the Reeder.

    I should have just saved, then used my tax refund to buy one.
    Ken H> and Scaniaman like this.
  14. Jrmysell


    May 18, 2014
    I agree. Stay with hand files until you can go to a variable speed 2x72. I started on a little 1x30 sander and files would have been better. The 2x72 is night and say different. My dad has a 2x42 and it would have the same issues as the 1x30. If you can find a used motor somewhere, go with the cheap vfd until it burns out and by then upgrade to a KBAC and buy one of the grinder frames (I bought a pheer and they frame isn't much). Bought the vfd and motor elsewhere but Pheer sends wiring diagrams even if you don't buy the motor or VFD from them.
  15. Drew Riley

    Drew Riley Riley Knife and Tool Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2007
    A 2x42 will be faster than hand files, for sure, but IMO, it’ll be too fast. I know lots of makers have started out with the 2x42/48 grinders, and I’m sure many still use them. That said, there’s a lot more options these days for a relatively inexpensive 2x72 to get started with, and you can save even more if you’re able to build. Save what you’d spend on the 2x42 and put it towards a 72. Also keep in mind they’re good for a lot more than just making knives.
    Hengelo_77 likes this.
  16. Storm W

    Storm W KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 19, 2019
    Walter Sorrals did a video where he used a right angle grinder to do most of his grinding. I wish I would have thought of that and got several years of knife making ahead of me before I bought a 2"X72". Make sure you have good support and if it were me I would use a flapper wheel. Be really careful not to go to far and the use your file jig to clean up the final bevels. That should go a long way toward speeding things up and you can keep saving until you can get the machine that you want.
  17. Lee Hester

    Lee Hester

    May 4, 2011
    I bought a 2x42 first, hated the results I was getting, and bought a 2x72 before finishing my first knife. The first few I tried to grind on the 42 went straight in the scrap bin. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of things. Me blaming my tools for lack of know-how and skill. A complete and utter lack of machining/shop skills. Overestimating how easy grinding would be because I saw some people do it on youtube. Not securing the grinder to my workbench, and not building a bench that put the grinder at an appropriate height for grinding with any control. I think now, with more experience, I could grind a decent knife on a 2x42, but it would take a bit more set-up to get the machine into a secure position that worked well for me. I have no regrets about getting my 2x72 though, and if you can swing it, I doubt you'll regret it.
  18. Richard338

    Richard338 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2005
    I made a couple of knives using files and a 1/3 hp disc grinder. I was excited to get a 2x72, but the first time I tried it was a big disappointment. I assumed that I would grind perfect bevels right off the bat, but I quickly made a mess of my first attempt. I almost went back to the disc grinder since I could at least control a straight bevel.
    Anyway, I stuck with it and soon somewhat got the hang of it. Even now I feel like I got lucky if I produce a grind that I'm happy with.
    Lee Hester likes this.
  19. Matt Lucas

    Matt Lucas

    May 11, 2020
    Thanks for the input everyone. I think I will stick with the grinding jig. I may invest a little into better files and think up some ways to improve the jig. I will probably make less than 10 knives in a year so I will just spend a little more time on each one. I’ve gotten to where I can get nearly perfect bevels with this setup so I may as well stick with it.
    Natlek and weo like this.
  20. Flatlander bowie

    Flatlander bowie

    Jun 23, 2020
    I see you made a decision and I think it was the right one. I have a 2x48 Kalamazoo that I was given. I have cut the platen to have a 2" wide section so I can actually get plunges. I have rebuilt the tension release lever. I had to fix a loose ground that was the reason it was free. I have ground on Burr King, Black Fox One, Wilton Square Wheel and KMG. VFD is the way to go and I'm saving for a 2x72 myself and spend about 3x as much time just finishing plunges than I spend grinding the entire blade.

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