using buffer safely?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Randydb, Oct 6, 2020.

  1. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    I have read a number of threads about serious injuries and even death from buffers grabbing a knife and throwing it back at the user.

    So what does it take to use a buffer safely? I know not to have a cabinet/backing behind it that the blade can bounce off off and back onto the buffing wheel to be thrown back at you.

    What else?
  2. tim37a


    May 18, 2010
    Buy a hand held buffer with a 7" wheel at Harbor Freight. Clamp the blade or handle in a vice and go after it. It's safe and you will get just as good a finish as a Baldor buffer. It just may take a little longer.
  3. JamesBro

    JamesBro Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2012
    Dont get in a hurry. Keep in mind what the wheel will want to grab and throw. Dont get in a hurry.
  4. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    What I do is use a 1/4 hp 1800 rpm motor with soft buffs. No grabbing with those, rather than grab the buff just collapse and doesn't grab a blade at all. Also, make sure the edge of blade is the trailing edge and NEVER the leading edge.
  5. Scaniaman


    Jun 15, 2012
    A buffer is great in the shop for polishing and deburring. With variable speed even more so.
    Look into a foot mount 3 phase motor, get one of those buffing wheel holding shaft attachments and just hook it to your VFD.
    As said above, pay attention and don't rush it. I wear my leather apron and protective glasses.
  6. scott kozub

    scott kozub Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 1, 2018
    I used a bench grinder. Last week I was buffing out a blade. I didn't realize it but when I turned on the grinder, it started spinning in the wrong direction. The tip of the blade grabbed (as I was expecting the rotation to be away from me). I was holding on tightly so there was no damage but it sure as hell woke me up. Fortunately it's weak and slow but it could have been bad. Especially since by the time I get to buffing my TBE is only 0.001 to 0.002" Time for a change I guess.
  7. matthewhoffman


    Nov 19, 2016
    Enjoy the buffer and don't be nervous about the endless warnings. A buffer is a great tool and perfectly safe (like any tool) if you follow directions and don't get careless. You can find safety how-tos all over the web. I use mine many times a day.

    I should add that it "did" grab a blade from my hands the first time I used it. But then, I lost a bit of thumbnail to the bandsaw and plenty of skin to the grinder. Every accident occurred when I was rushing ... but maybe that's just me.
    Ken H> likes this.
  8. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    IMG_3061.jpg So my dad has this bench grinder that he bought 10 years ago and has used once. It's 3450 rpm. Can I remove the guards and stuff and put some buffer pads on it? Or do I need to get real one that has slower rpm?
  9. Drew Riley

    Drew Riley Riley Knife and Tool

    Oct 17, 2007
    It should go without saying, but wear safety glasses and a respirator. Lock your elbows at your side and make sure your buffer is at a comfortable height, so that you're not overextending yourself, or straining in any way while buffing. Use a similar stance as you would while grinding.
    Wear a heavy apron.
    An anti-fatigue mat below the buffer can help reduce the chance of a "ricochet" off the floor.
    Let the buffing compound do the work. Try not to push your work through to the other side of the buff. ;)
    Loose sewn buffs tend to be more grabby than spiral sewn, though they can BOTH grab.
    Use the bottom front quarter of the wheel for buffing. You have far more control if the buff is "pulling" your work down than if it's pushing it towards you.
    Keep the area around your buffer clean and clear. If it's mounted on a bench, don't pile things beside or behind it that could vibrate into the buffs and get thrown across the shop. If you can mount to a pedestal, even better.
    If you're buffing an edge (or a knife/tool with an edge) always buff edge down and watch your points or other sharp areas that can grab. Keep a firm grip.

    One trick is to screw a blade blank to a larger and/or longer board and then buff it. Just make sure it's secure, then use the board as your handle. If you're buffing small parts, hold them in a pair of pliers or a hand vise. Just make sure it's not going to come out. I like using a Knipex pliers wrench, as they have smooth, parallel jaws that don't mar finishes very easily, and you get a 10:1 mechanical holding advantage.

    Never get complacent, and don't buff when you're tired.

    Some things in life are a matter of "when" not "if". I DON'T think getting hurt on a buffer is one of those things, as long as you respect the tool, understand its tendencies and limitations, and be intentional when your working with it. There's plenty of other things I worry about hurting or killing me in my shop before my buffers.
    allenkey likes this.
  10. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    That part about don't buff/grind/use power tools when you are tired or distracted. I make more mistakes with anything I do when I get tired or distracted. I've gotten to a point where I grind for about an hour and a half and quit. It keeps my mind fresh and I don't rush or make stupid mistakes then.
  11. SS369


    Nov 29, 2015
    Stop before you get into “Git-R-Done” mode. Like when you’ve spent an inordinate time sanding and sanding and ...
  12. john april

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

    Feb 27, 2006
    cut a knife profile out of 1/4" plywood and buff it to learn how the buffer grabs and pulls it. hang on to it very tightly while buffing the blade. it does not grab as often when buffing the handles.
  13. J. Hoffman

    J. Hoffman KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 1, 2011
    For me a slower buffer is the key. Mine maxes out at 1750 RPM and I usually run it 50-80% of that. I only buff handles.
  14. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    Randy - A bench grinder like the one you showed isn't really useful as a grinder for knifemakers ... and it would make a terrible and possibly dangerous buffer.

    I really like John Aprils plywood practice knife. Only thing I might change would be to cut it in some wood that would shine up, like a scrap of cocobolo or maple.

    Best idea is to get a buffing arbor and use a 1/3HP to 1/2HP motor to run it around 1000 to 1500 RPM max. A three step pulley on the motor would be even better.
    This one is excellent:
  15. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
  16. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 6, 2000
    $40 is worth getting the slower speed.
  17. Spalted

    Spalted My name is Britt Askew I like making knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 9, 2010
    To me this is the most important thing. The quickest way to get hurt is to try and use the top part of the wheel.
    Wyo Coyote likes this.
  18. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    I would have thought this was obvious to people. I can't imagine being able to have any control at all going off the top of the buffer.
  19. Hankins

    Hankins KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 7, 2008
    Mount it BACKWARDS... Spinning away from you. You will have to reach over to turn it on SO Pay attention. Never look away when using it or let someone or something distract you
    Used an 8" 3200 rpm buffer for years that way and only had two blades grabbed Both wound up slamming into the garage door not me! Respect them and heed the advice given here, you will be safer
  20. JamesBro

    JamesBro Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2012
    so you got the bottom of the wheel spinning into you and the top away...then you reach over it to turn off and many fingers left?
    Bill DeShivs likes this.

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