8 Best Belt Grinders for Knife Making 2021 – Top Picks & Reviews
There was a time when people made knives because they needed to rely on them for survival. Today, few of us use handmade tools that we personally crafted for daily survival. But the art of knife making is growing in popularity as a way to increase your skills, become more self-sufficient, and just have some fun making a tool that you’ll actually use.
Compared to some hobbies, knife making has a pretty low barrier to entry. All it takes to make a knife with modern equipment is a little instruction from YouTube, some steel, a few other basic materials, and a belt grinder. But the belt grinder is really the crux of everything since it will allow you to shape and form your knife.
While any belt grinder technically could be used for knife making, they’re not all meant for it or adept at doing so. You’re looking for something specific, which is why we’ve written the following eight reviews. Hopefully, they’ll help you narrow down the choices to the perfect one to help you start honing blades right away.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Bucktool BG2600 Belt Sander||
|Best Value||RIKON Power Tools 50-151 Belt Sander||
|Premium Choice||Shop Fox W1843 Knife Belt Sander||
|Porter-Cable PCB420SA Belt Sander||
|Jet Tools J-4002 Bench Belt and Disc Sander||
The 8 Best Belt Grinders for Knife Making – Reviews 2021
1. Bucktool BG2600 Belt Sander – Best Overall
The Bucktool BG2600 Belt Sander uses a 2” x 42” sanding belt; a size that many alternative belts are available in that is great for knife making. The belt housing swivels from vertical to horizontal, giving you multiple ways of using the machine. Adding to the functionality even further, the belt plate is removable, which allows for contour sanding.
Since you’ll be changing belts frequently while shaping and sharpening your knife, this belt grinder features a quick-release tension and tracking system that makes it easy to change belts in just a few seconds. All it takes is a few twists and the pull of a lever and you’re ready for a new belt.
Built-into this device is an adjustable eye shield to add an extra layer of protection against shrapnel. Unfortunately, it’s only for the grinder. But since this has a true grinding wheel rather than the sanding wheel on most belt grinders, you’ll be able to use it as a round grinding surface when making knives.
The 0.33-horsepower (HP) motor isn’t the most powerful, but it performed admirably. It never seemed to bog down or slow down while we tested it, even though other similarly-powered grinders did.
2. RIKON Power Tools 50-151 Belt Sander – Best Value
We were kind of shocked at how affordable the RIKON Power Tools Belt Sander is. Considering its low price, we were quite surprised when it turned out to be one of the best belt grinders for knife making for the money. With this belt sander, the barrier to knife making is much lower, making it easy and affordable for someone to get started.
Despite the low price, this is a quality machine with great features. It’s equipped with a brushless motor that will last for a long time, which is proven by the impressive 5-year warranty protecting this machine.
This belt sander uses a 1” x 30” belt, allowing for very precise shaping. It’s got a very stable base that keeps everything steady while you work, which is vital for knife making. The 0.33-HP motor isn’t the most powerful, though it’s more than adequate for getting started with this skill. Under high pressure, the machine will slow down a bit, but it didn’t hinder our ability to shape the stock.
3. Shop Fox W1843 Knife Belt Sander – Premium Choice
The Shop Fox W1843 Knife Belt Sander is an awesome product that will not get in your way when making knives. It’s got all the premium features you might ask for as a knife maker and loads of power from the 1-HP, 14-amp motor that outpowers every machine on this list by a wide margin. So, why isn’t it in the top position? Simple. It’s too expensive for most beginners and hobbyists. This is the machine you get when you’re dead-serious about your knife making, but the high price tag will prevent anyone else from considering it most of the time.
This machine uses premium 2” x 72” belts that are available in a wide variety of grits and materials for getting exactly the results you desire. Those belts spin at an impressive 4,500 FPM, or feet per minute, allowing you to get excellent results with minimal pressure.
Keeping this machine steady is its solid build that weighs in at a heavy 113 pounds. That means it’s always stable and dependable when you’re working with it. Belt changes are quick and easy with a single lever pull. Overall, it functions like the premium, purpose-built tool it is.
4. Porter-Cable PCB420SA Belt Sander
Next to the Shop Fox, this Porter-Cable Belt Sander was the most powerful with a 0.75-horsepower motor with a max speed of 3,450 revolutions per minute (RPM). At 51 pounds, it’s a stable machine that doesn’t move while you work, which is exactly what you need for knife making. It’s got a pretty compact footprint that won’t take up too much space in your workshop and the standard 3-year warranty that covers all Porter-Cable tools.
But this tool is quite a bit more expensive than most of the similar tools we tested, and a good warranty doesn’t warrant a price hike like that in our eyes. Especially since there are several other problems with this sander.
First, belt changes are a hassle. You have to remove safety shields to change the belt, adding time and annoyance to each belt change. We ended up leaving the shields off to make it easier. But the 4-inch belt is still a problem. It’s much harder to do precise work on small blades with such a wide belt. Considering all the problems we had with this sander and its high price, this machine wasn’t about to crack our top three.
5. Jet Tools J-4002 Bench Belt and Disc Sander
The J-40002 Bench Belt and Disc Sander from Jet Tools is nearly as expensive as the awesome Shop Fox machine that’s our premium choice recommendation. But this machine falls short in so many ways, it’s hard to understand why they’re priced so similarly. Take a look at the belt speed, for instance. The Shop Fox manages 4,500 FPM, while the Jet Tools sander only reaches 3,000 FPM.
Belt changes are another sore point with this device. Because of several safety guards, belt changes are a royal pain and considerably more time-consuming than with other machines. Since you’ll be changing belts so often while making a knife, this is a serious hindrance and a major waste of time.
But it’s not all bad. The 1-inch belt does allow for precise shaping and the belt guard tilts back so you can shape on the top wheel or the platen. Even with the 2-year warranty though, that’s not enough to redeem this machine and make it worth the inflated price.
6. Grizzly Industrial H6070 Disc Combo Sander
Grizzly Industrial is a well-respected name in professional and prosumer level tools, but their H6070 Disc Combo Sander didn’t do much to impress us. It does have some good traits that are worth mentioning though. To start, it’s a lot more affordable than we would have guessed from the name. We also liked the 1-inch belt that’s great for detailed work.
But our dislikes vastly outweighed the good things we could say about this machine. It’s much too small. A compact footprint is great, but this one is so small it’s hard to work on. Worse, it’s underpowered. Like many similar belt grinders we tested, this one has a 0.33-HP motor. But this one bogs down substantially when under pressure.
We also weren’t happy with the cheap, flimsy plastic parts that were used in places. In particular, the clamp lever, which you’ll be using frequently. If it breaks, you’ll be waiting for a repair. Altogether, it’s not the quality we’ve come to expect from Grizzly, and it’s not a machine we’d recommend.
7. Norse BDSG2x6 Belt Disc Sander Grinder
The Norse BDSG2x6 Belt Disc Sander Grinder is a decent tool, but it’s a poor choice for knife making. The 0.33-HP motor doesn’t make enough power for working with metal and it was constantly bogging down during use. Worse, the coarse-grain belts that we like to use for removing a lot of material and doing quick shaping work wouldn’t fit. There wasn’t enough clearance.
We did like how the belt arm adjusts from completely vertical to horizontal, helping you find whatever angle is best for you to work at. The belt speed was also pretty impressive at 4,480 FPM. Problem is, that’s a no-load speed. Once you add a little pressure, the speed drops dramatically.
But we haven’t mentioned the biggest problem yet. The pulley housing becomes misaligned when you tighten the belt. This caused the belt to want to spin off, making the machine nearly unusable.
8. Kalamazoo Industries 2FSM Abrasive Belt Sander
For the high price of the Kalamazoo Industries 2FSM Abrasive Belt Sander, we expected it to be a top performer. At the least, it should outperform models that are a fraction of the price, right? Well, that’s not what happened.
As far as good features, this machine has a belt housing that can be used horizontally or vertically. It’s also got a removable platen so you can get a bit more functionality from it. On paper, the 0.5-HP motor seems like an improvement over the weaker motors in cheaper machines. But in reality, this motor didn’t deliver much power at all and bogged down under any real pressure.
The overall quality of this device is what was the worst though. After a few minutes of use, the platen comes out of alignment, so you’re constantly making adjustments. Within a few months of use, the belt change handle had snapped off and was unusable. For this high price, we expected some high quality, which is not what we received.
There are plenty of belt grinders on the market, and many of them are excellent tools, though they’re not a great choice for knife making. This art requires machines equipped with a few special features.
To help you sort through the features you need and the ones you don’t, this buyer’s guide is going to take a quick look at each of these features to help you understand more about it.
Related reads: The 10 Tools every knife maker owns
What to Look for in a Belt Grinder for Knife Making
When you’re looking at different belt grinders and trying to decide between them, try ranking them on the following traits. These are the features you’ll need on a belt grinder for knife making. The better a grinder does with these features, the more useful it will be for making knives.
Knifemaking requires cutting and shaping hard, rugged steel. Steel can be a difficult metal to work with because it is so hard, which is why you need plenty of power behind the belt on your belt grinder. If underpowered, your belt grinder will slow down, bog down, and make it more difficult to get the kind of results you’re looking for.
The average entry-level belt grinder has about 0.33-HP. Compare that to the top-end professional belt-grinders with 1-HP, and it’s easy to see where some of the price difference goes.
Thinner Belts are Better
A lot of cheap, entry-level belt grinders are equipped with 4-inch wide belts. While you can shape a knife on a belt this size, it’s not the best choice. Thinner belts allow for more precise shaping. Ideally, you’re looking for a 1-inch or 2-inch wide belt for the best shaping abilities.
When you start applying pressure to shape your blade, the last thing you want is for the machine to move. Machines that aren’t completely stable can make it very difficult to create precise shapes.
Stability mainly comes down to weight and build quality. Heavier machines tend to be more stable with less vibration and less chance of moving. Likewise, machines with a higher build quality won’t have any give from the parts when you apply pressure.
Round and Flat Grinding Surfaces
In the process of making a knife, you’re going to need to perform some complex shaping. This requires having multiple surfaces to work with. Most belt grinders have a platen that provides you with a flat surface to grind on. But the best belt grinders also give you a round surface. They can do this by allowing the belt housing to tilt so that the contact wheel is exposed, allowing access for shaping on it.
Quick and Easy Belt Changes
While making a knife, you’re going to be changing belts constantly. If that’s a hassle or a time-consuming process, you’ll be wasting a lot of time along the way. For that reason, quick and easy belt changes are a feature that you should always prioritize when looking for a belt grinder for knife making.
Specs and Features You Don’t Need
We’ve covered the features you don’t want to be without, but belt grinders also come with features that you might not need for knife making. If these features are missing from your machine, don’t worry, you didn’t need them to make knives.
Dust ports are great for keeping your workspace free of sawdust. But you won’t be making sawdust when shaping a knife. You’ll be making metal shavings, which are too heavy for a vacuum to pick up anyway, making dust ports practically useless for knife making.
Work tables help you grind precise angles into your material and give you stability. That’s great, but the way a knife is shaped, there aren’t many times you’ll be laying it flat and sanding the edge flat. Instead, you’ll want to hold the knife by hand so you’re free to move the knife however you need to shape it. Remember, knife making is an art form. You’ll need to feel it out.
Lots of the belt grinders we tested had sanding discs built into the side. This seems like a great feature at first, and for some uses, it probably is. But not for knife making. You won’t need this feature when making knives, so don’t prioritize it thinking that you’ll be missing out without it. The purpose-built machines that are specifically made for knife making don’t have this feature because it’s not necessary.
If you purchase the wrong belt grinder, then when you start shaping your knives, its flaws will become apparent as they limit your progress and hinder your ability to make the knives you envision in your mind. We don’t want that to happen, so we’re going to repeat the recommendations that we made in our reviews, just so they’re fresh in your mind.
For most users, we think the Bucktool Combo Belt Sander is the best option. It’s a well-built machine that uses versatile 2” x 42” belts that are great for shaping knives. The belt platen is removable, and the belt housing swivels from vertical to horizontal giving you many ways to work on this device.
Beginners on a budget should check out the RIKON Power Tools Belt Sander. It’s got a 1-inch belt for precise shaping, a long-lasting brushless motor, a stable base, and an impressive 5-year warranty. All at one of the most affordable prices we’ve seen.
The Shop Fox W1843 Knife Belt Sander is the best choice for serious knife makers. It’s got a 1-HP, 14-amp motor that spins the 2-inch wide belt at 4,500 FPM, with fast single-lever belt changes and a dead-stable build.
More buying guides like this:
- Best Budget Belt Sanders Under $100 of 2020 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
- Best Variable Speed Bench Grinders 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks
- Best Belt Sanders of 2020 – Top Picks & Reviews
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 8 Best Belt Grinders for Knife Making – Reviews 2021
- 1. Bucktool BG2600 Belt Sander – Best Overall
- 2. RIKON Power Tools 50-151 Belt Sander – Best Value
- 3. Shop Fox W1843 Knife Belt Sander – Premium Choice
- 4. Porter-Cable PCB420SA Belt Sander
- 5. Jet Tools J-4002 Bench Belt and Disc Sander
- 6. Grizzly Industrial H6070 Disc Combo Sander
- 7. Norse BDSG2x6 Belt Disc Sander Grinder
- 8. Kalamazoo Industries 2FSM Abrasive Belt Sander
- Buyer’s Guide