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Sharpening Wheels

Jun 6, 2001
I am looking for a way to speed up the process of sharpening and I believe the solution lies in the use of paper sharpening wheels. There are several manufactuers of said paper wheels. Has anyone had any experiences with this system, and if so where did you purchase them? What R.P.M. was used? I have spoken with the maker of one type of paper wheel and he says that 3450 is suitable. I have heard others say that this R.P.M. will damage the temper if not careful. I watched a man sharpen some knives at The Bass Pro Shop in Nashville, TN, and he demonstrated on a cheap knife that within seconds you can ruin the temper of a blade if not careful; he heated up the tip red hot. I believe Gollnick(I am not sure if that is the correct spelling) gave some useful information about the effect of heat on the temper in a previous post. Thanks in advance.
I personally would recommend something like the Edge Pro or Spyderco 204 for the vast majority of people over any powered sharpening system.

Remember that the same power that speeds the sharpening process up also increases the speed at which mistakes result in ruined knives.
Your post stimulated a thought in my tiny little mind. I'm now trying to figure a way to mount a Dremel Tool with a Kratex (sp) wheel in a Lanskey type jig. One could then obtain an exact angle on the edge of the harder steels and the Kratex would establish a more polished edge. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a steady enough hand to sharpen/polish an edge freehand on a muslem or Kratex wheel.
Of course one would have to go slowly at the lower speed settings and cool the blade between passes. I might experiment with a POS knife and see.
I had a knife shop I use to go to to get my knives sharpened.IT was some kind of paper wheel with diamond abrasive rouge he used.THe knife looked great,edge nice and high polished,smooth edge etc.The knives however had no edge holding.In fact they felt sharp by feel,but cut terrible.Maybe the edge was to thin,who knows?Heat is a major concern,I think he used to keep dunking it in cool water.Well anyway,I would go with the advice of some of the other formites,paper wheels aren't that much faster and still require skill and practice.
Power Equipment is MUCH faster. Yes, there is a learning curve there. Ask your favorite knife makers what they use to put an edge on their knives, and MOST will say a belt grinder.

power IS faster. you can put convex or "flat" bevels on an edge with a belt sander. The learning curve is there, but easily overcome. I made a knife for my sister's boyfriend and had to sharpen it in one hour and ship it ASAP. After SCRATCHING the blade with my Razor's Edge kit, I FINALLY pulled out my grinder to sharpen the knife. I practiced on some sunk fixed blades I have on hand for, oh, six pases, and went at the blade with my dreaded power equipment. After 3 minutes of grinding the edge (dunk between each pass in water) AND buffing, I did 10 strokes on the white spyderco ceramic Sharpmaker stones, and the knife was THE sharpest knife I ever had.

Don't be scared off by the power!! Cars are hulking, powerful monsters, but with a little practice you can drive them like a pro. Power equipment is the same way.
In the July 1999 issue of Tactical Knives Steven Dick did a review
on sharpening with fiberboard wheels he got them from knife maker Melvin Dunn. He seemed to have good luck with them but did have a mishap with one knife he was sharpening as it was tore out of his hand while sharpening it and flew 12 feet in the air and hit against the ceiling!You have to be careful with power equipment it is the only way to go with todays steels I use a one inch belt sander it takes about a minute to reprofile a knife and it doesn't make any difference what steel it is! Mine turns at about 1750 rpm Not the 3450+ that most small wood working ones do. I think they 3450+ rpm ones are to fast to be used to sharpen knives.
William8 and Crayola,

You both present a convincing arguement. Where did you buy a belt sander to sharpen knives with; where could I find one with a 1725 speed? All the ones I have seen are pricey.
You can use ANY belt sander for sharpening, so go to your local hardware store and pick up a small 1x30 for your needs! But, here's the trick:

MAKE SURE YOU CAN GET BELTS FIRST!!!! I have to order belts I need because le local stores only have belts upto 120 grit, which is too coarse for sharpening. If it means ordering belts, that may not be all that bad if you use those belts just for sharpening. Belts in 320 grit and 400 grit will do you greatly. You can add a 600 grit belt too if you want.

I suspect the wheels work too, though a consistent angle will be MUCH easier to hold on a belt grinder and there will be MUCH less of a tendency for the power equipment to tear the blade out of you hand. MUCH less! I'venever had my belt sander "grab" my knife, though my buffer has. Good thing I was able to control things, but any spinning wheel is quite dangerous.

Good luck.
Carl I've had my little one belt sander for about ten years I bought from an in a knife magazine ad I don't think that one is advertized anymore but their are others out there you should look at www.kovalknives.com/grinders.htm the 1sm is a nice one or the 2fsm is good possablity I would still stay in the 1450 rpm range. Once you reprofile on them you will never look back on hand powered devices!I get the main bevel on one inch sander and then work off the burr on the Spyderco Sharpmaker then go through the different stages of the Sharpmaker to sharpen and use the Sharpmaker for touch up and edge maintance.
I've tried many different sharpening gizmos and do dads over the years but the belt sander for reprofileing and the sharpmaker to sharpen is the best set up I've run across It will save you a lot of money from buying things that don't work half as well. You will also save a lot of time!
I went down to the local Lowe's Hardware and saw a Delta 1X30" belt sander on sale for 80 bucks. It had a 3450 R.P.M., which Crayola says is O.K. while other's would say that is too fast. Is it necessary to buy a 1750 R.P.M. grinder? Would this Delta grinder be suitable? Thanks in advance.
SLOWER IS BETTER! But, that said I have a Sears 2x42 that i grind on. One speed. That is all. And I learned to use it. i bet my grinder is the same speed as the little Delta.

The important thing is belts. If you can't order them locally and don't mind ordering some off the net, you're good to go. I forget which maker (Slobodian, Engnath, one of those guys) sais: "Don't become a tool collector"

Your grinder will be less forgiving. You'll have to be more on your game while sharpening. If youa re cool with that, the Delta will be fine. Later if you want to order a variable speed Bader, go ahead! But the Delta will do you fine now.

Passes are quick, especially at the tip. Dunk in water (swish it in the water for a few seconds) after each pass. Dry off, and grind again. Relax, FOCUS, and you're good to go.

Go where you can get used kitchen knives for a dollar or whatever, and practice on those FIRST. You'll get tje hang of it quick. Oh, understand too that if you have an off day and slip, you can wreck a knife. understand the strengths and weaknesses of what you are getting into, and whatever decision you'll make will be a good one.

By the way, ever sharpen your lawn mower blade? If not, your delta will do that easily and it is quite nice how a freshly sharpened mower blade cuts grass. Axes, hatchets, all that stuff is great on a belt sander.

Oh, to repeat myself, I too use my sharpmaker with my belt sander. E-mail some makers and ask them how they use a belt sander. Jerry Hossom comes immediately to mind.
I think you are spot on with that advice Crayola.

Sears also makes a 1x30" belt sander in the hundred buck range. That little sucker is great for making medium and smaller knives at the hobbyist level.
I also have the 2x42" model you have.
A great beginning machine for the hobbyist.
The only drawbacks are they are both single speed(3450rpm) and you are somewhat limited to flat grinding or convex grinding your blades.
Not a prob for me as those are my fave grinding methods anyway.

When sharpening (or re-beveling) with one of these grinders, the tip of the blade is the danger zone, your grinding pass must not pause even for a second. It has to be a complete pass from base of blade to tip and I've found it helps to speed up a bit as you approach the tip of the blade and resist that urge to bear down on the blade as you approach the tip.

Also, there is a tendency to pause for a second as your blade first makes contact with the belt. Be careful of this as it will also burn the temper AND cause your bevel to be off as more metal is removed. Bummer.

Good Luck and have fun!
Carl, if you're buying a machine for sharpening, here is a word of advice. Nothing is more annoying for grinding and sharpening knives than a platen that sticks out past sides of the belt, especially if the platen sticks out past BOTH sides (at least for me it's the most annoying thing). I have a tilting belt arm Sears machine that has the platen stick out past the sides of the belt. Very obnoxious for sharpening. Ricasso tends to bump into the sides of the belt and its hard to get to the inside parts of the edge without tilting the blade and losing your angle control. The Delta's 1x30's and 1x42's I've seen at stores don't seem to have this problem though.
Since you'll probably be slack belting or platen grinding, it's the belt feet per minute rating that matters, not the motor RPM. Sometimes a machine with a 1725 RPM motor with a larger drive wheel will cause the belt to move faster than a 3450 RPM motor connected to a smaller drive wheel. Both models of Delta 1x30's are 3150FPM, and I think both use the 3450 RPM motors (1/5HP, and 1/4HP for the one with the disc sander as well). The Delta 1x42" with the slower rotating 1725 RPM motor goes 3000 FPM on the belt. Not much of a belt speed difference.
Depending on your sharpening style, it might not hurt to take a look at Delta's 1/3HP 4x36". As long as:
1.) You can get finer sanding belts in that size.
2.) You make sure the belt can reliably be tracked to the very end of the platen so the platen doesn't stick out past the sides of the belt on both sides.
The Delta 4x36" benchtop unit has a 2000 FPM belt I think. That will give you a lot more control and lower the risk of overheating the metal. I have never seen this machine in action, so you might have to ask for a little bit of information and check out the platen yourself.
That one is a good grinder for sharpening because:

you can get around the platen easily. Lots of room there might be important for larget knives/machetes, etc. So that is good.

And, it is good because the area above the platen can be used for slack belt sharpening: i.e., a good ol moran edge. Go for it. All you need is some high grit belts and you're good to go! Oh, and a bucket of water, a cloth to wipe the water off the blade, and some practice blades too.