Knife making extends back to prehistoric times, when having a good knife could make the difference between life and death. While knives don’t hold the same importance today that they did a long time ago, that doesn’t mean that knife making has gone away.
It survives as a popular hobby. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, aiming for beauty or for utility, you’re going to want to get a belt grinder. It will save you a lot of time that would otherwise be spent filing your knives.
However, not all belt grinders are meant to be used in knife making. To the contrary, many may set you back more than they help. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best belt grinders of 2019 for knife making. It should help you take some of the guesswork out of picking the right model for you.
Related reads: The 10 Tools every knife maker owns
|Porter-Cable PCB420SA||51 lbs||4.6/5|
(Best for the Money)
|Grizzly H6070||20 lbs||4.3/5|
|Kalamazoo Industries 2FSM||69 lbs||4.0/5|
The JET J-4002 is our top pick, blowing the competition out of the water in almost all categories. It uses a 1” by 42” belt, which is narrower than competing belt grinders, allowing for more precise work. The extra precision comes in handy when working with smaller objects, such as knives.
We know you’re going to love working with this model, which means that you’re eventually going to wear out the belt. That’s okay, because the 1” by 42” belts tend to be cheaper than competing sizes, and the JET-4002 makes changing out the belts simple and easy.
This model is easy to assemble right out of the box, and it has more than enough power to handle even the toughest knives. All that extra power means that this belt grinder is less stressed and runs more quietly than comparable models. While expensive, you can rest assured you’re paying for quality here.
Like the first entry on our list, the Porter-Cable PCB420SA is plenty powerful. Featuring a cast iron base that reduces vibrations, making sure that no wobbles interfere with your craftsmanship.
While it is nearly equal to the JET in terms of power, what keeps this model out of the top position is the fact that it uses a 4” by 36” belt. If you’re sharpening machetes, then this might be what you need. If you’re working with smaller or more delicate knives, then you’ll probably want to opt for a belt grinder that uses a narrower belt for more precise work.
This belt grinder does come with a dust bag, meaning you can easily convert to working with wood if you wanted to. It is also above-average among the belt grinders on this list when it comes to ease of changing out the belt.
The WEN 6502 is the best belt grinder on our list for the money. It features a similar design to the Porter-Cable we have ranked higher, but costs less. It uses the same 4” by 36” belt, and also has a cast iron base that will prevent the grinder from moving around while you use it, which is rare on models at this price point.
What keeps the WEN 6502 out of the top two is the fact that it has a weaker motor and slower belt. If you’re an inexperienced knife-maker, then this might be a plus as it will be harder to make mistakes on a machine with less power. However, if you want to spend less time on the project, you’ll want to go with something with a higher speed and stronger motor.
It is more difficult to change out the belt than on other units, meaning it will take up more of your time. Ultimately, this belt grinder will provide good value, especially if you’re a beginning knife-maker.
With the Grizzly H6070 you’re getting just enough power to get the job done, and not much else. While it does use 1” by 30” belt that will be better for knife making than other entries on this list, it does suffer from an underpowered motor, though, that’s what you’re paying for at this price point.
Lacking the cast metal body means that the Grizzly, while lighter, will vibrate more while you use it, make precision work more difficult. It’s also very loud for a grinder of its size. Unfortunately, many of the pieces are made from cheap plastic, making cracks and breaks a constant risk.
It is also difficult to change out both the belt and the disc on this model, meaning that you’re going to have to spend extra time on what should be a simple task. If you’re brand new to knife making, you might consider this model due to its low price, but you can find better value elsewhere.
The best thing about the Kalamazoo Industries 2FSM is that it has one of the best motors on this list. Unfortunately, it could be said to be too strong, with the potential to wear down knives faster than you can adjust. Using this model for knife making would require far more care than other machines.
Beyond the power problem, this model is difficult to setup and is also difficult to change out the belts. While the motor is certainly high-quality, the rest of the parts leave something to be desired, as they’re not as durable as those belonging to other units on this list.
The 2FSM is also quite expensive. While you might need it for projects that go beyond knife making, you’d be better served by one of the other entries on this list if that’s all you’re looking for in a belt grinder.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some things to consider that will help you pick the perfect belt grinder for your knife making needs. When you know what features you should be looking for, the process gets much easier. Of course, the relative importance of each feature is largely dependent on what you wish to do with the belt grinder. The best thing you can do in this process is figuring out what kinds of projects you’re going to do. Once you know that, making a selection is far less intimidating.
When we made this list, we considered a number of factors that separated the very best belt grinders for knifemaking from the rest of the pack. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a particular model might not be good overall, but that it might not have the right features to make it useful for knife making in general.
For instance, belt grinders with narrower belts give you a bit more control when you’re working with small objects, like knives. If you plan on working on projects beyond just knives, such as larger objects made of wood, then you may be better off getting one of the models that features a wider belt. While you’ll have to be more careful with your knives, you’ll still be able to easily complete your other projects.
Furthermore, you need to make sure that you have a belt grinder that runs at the right speed with the right power. If you buy a cheap model, then you run the risk of your belt grinder not being up to the task of filing down metal. This means that projects will take longer, and the extra strain on the motor and belt will wear them down faster, costing you more money in the long-run. If you get one with too much power, though, you may end up unable to finish projects very much finesse at all.
You also need to think about durability and ease of use. Some models are built with superior materials that means they will last for years to come. Others have cheap parts that may break inconveniencing you or making the entire machine useless. And, the easier a machine is to use and maintain, the more you will want to use it, and the faster you’ll be able to go. Both of those are big plusses in our book.
If you’re new to belt grinders or knife making, then it may be a good choice to go with one of the models that was easy to assemble. You don’t want to spend a lot of time assembling these devices, when it could be better spent learning the craft.
And while this isn’t always true, the easier a machine is to assemble, the easier it is to replace the belt. If you plan on using your belt grinder a lot, which you should when making an investment of this size, you’re going to end up changing out the belt fairly frequently. You want to waste as little time as possible with complicated models that make this basic task more complicated than it needs to be. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little extra money to save yourself a lot of frustration.
Assessing value in belt grinders can be a tricky task. It can get even more tricky when you add knife making into the mix. That’s part of the reason that we created this list. We want you to feel satisfied with your final decision.
If you’re not going to use your belt grinder all that much, then there’s no reason to invest in a more expensive model just for the durability. In that case, you’re getting bad value. Likewise, if you’re going to do a lot with your belt grinder, then you’re cheating yourself if you don’t purchase one that’s going to hold up well over time.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should buy the cheapest or the most expensive model, but rather that you should honestly evaluate your plans and make sure that you’re making a purchase that gives you the best value relative to the money spent.
It’s important to pay attention to how easy or difficult it is to clean up the shavings that result from your use of a belt grinder. You should never feel bad about having a clean shop or work area, as it’s likely to be both healthier and safer. When it comes to belt grinders, however, it’s imperative that you clean up the shavings.
Especially if you’re working with wood, the shavings have a change of getting inside the moving parts within a belt grinder and reducing its efficiency or causing it to stop working altogether. Most belt grinders provide some way of cleaning up after themselves, often ofting to have ap ort for integration with a shop vac, but they vary in both effectiveness and ease of use.
If you’re going to be working with wood on more occasions, then this is going to be more important to you. Buying a belt grinder that is hard to clean could greatly decrease its lifespan and increase your frustration.
The Jet J-4002 was the clear winner in our reviews of belt grinders. It has everything that you need for knife making, is easy-to-use, and cheap to operate long-term. The Porter-Cable PCB420SA is an excellent runner-up, with the only real downside being its belt size. The WEN 6502 has the best value for the money, trading away a bit of the power found in the first two models, but more than making up for it in price. The Grizzly H6070 is an okay choice for a beginning knife-maker, though pros should steer clear. Finally, the Kalamazoo Industries 2FSM would be a good choice for projects that aren’t knife making but fails in most regards when it comes to that activity.
We hope that these reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you make a better, more informed decision so that you can confidently buy the belt grinder that is right for your knife making needs.
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