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Tools

Best Bench Grinder

Bench grinders come in a variety of sizes and configurations. The most common sizes are 6 and 8 inches. This refers to the size of the grinding wheel itself. For homeowners, do-it-yourselfers, and contractors, 6-inch grinders are generally sufficient. The larger, 8-inch grinder is mostly for industrial applications. The major advantage of the larger wheel size is longer wheel life and a faster surface speed. While the motor probably turns at the same number of RPM, the larger diameter makes the outside of the wheel move faster, grinding faster as well.

Although bench grinders are rather simple tools, there are several things to keep in mind when looking at them. For the most part, motor size isn't a big deal, as every manufacturer uses motors that are large enough to power the wheels. Instead, look at the tool rest, as a good tool rest will make sharpening drill bits and other tools easier. Many only have a sheet metal rest, while the better ones are cast. The other thing you want the rest to have is a notch for drill bits, to hold them at the right angle to the wheel.

The biggest complaint most people have with grinders, regardless of how much they spend on them, is wheel wobble. This is mostly a result of poor manufacturing of the wheels themselves, not the grinder. Manufacturers don’t package the most expensive wheels on the market with their bench grinders. However, with a little bit of work with a wheel dresser (which every manufacturer recommends) this problem can be eliminated.

Wheel wobble can be reduced by three things that a manufacturer can do:

  • Using wider wheels, as there is more surface in contact with the arbor.
  • Using a larger diameter arbor, as it is more rigid.
  • Using machined washers, instead of stamped ones, for wheel backers.

Please note that machined washers are extremely rare, but if you have some basic metalworking skills, you can produce your own. The thicker they are, the better; just as long as you can still tighten the nut on the arbor.

Buffalo Tools BG8DL Bench Grinder

This is actually an eight-inch grinder which is really surprising at this price. The larger wheel makes the actual speed faster, as there is more distance covered on each revolution. Buffalo has included dual work lights on this one, so that you can adjust each of them independently to provide the best lighting for each wheel. The one thing that they missed is putting a notch on the tool rest for drill bits, although the tool rest could be replaced with one of your own manufacture fairly easily.

SKIL 3380-01 120-Volt 6" Bench Grinder

This is the first bench grinder I've seen that's using LEDs for work illumination as they typically use small incandescent lights. The LED means lower power consumption and longer life, as they don't wear out like incandescent lights do. This grinder uses a 2.1 amp motor, which probably means it's providing about 1/3 HP like the other 6-inch grinders. It comes with medium and coarse wheels, has sheet metal tools rests for both wheels and adjustable eye shields.

Grizzly G9717 6" Bench Grinder with 1/2" Arbor

Grizzly typically makes industrial-grade tools so it’s a bit surprising to find they have a bench grinder that qualifies as a budget tool. This 6-inch grinder comes with a 1/3 HP motor, turning at 3450 RPM. It can use either 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch wide wheels. The safety shields are oversized on this grinder, providing an added measure of safety for to keep sparks out of your eyes. The motor is fast starting and runs cool enough that you can keep using it all day long.

Shop Fox M1051 6" Bench Grinder

I picked this Shop Fox mostly for its name, a bit surprised to find that they made one which fit into this price range. Shop Fox makes great quality tools, mostly for industrial applications. This is their smallest bench grinder, with a 1/3 HP motor and taking six inch wheels. The wheels used must be for a 1/2-inch arbor, which is a bit unusual, as most are 5/8 of an inch. It will also use wheels that are 1/2 to 3/4-inches wide. Just a note on that, a 1/2-inch wheel will usually have more wobble than a 3/4-inch one, so you’re better off with the 3/4-inch. The only thing I’d fault this grinder for is not having a work light.

Nieko 3" Mini Grinder with Flexible Shaft

I had to include this grinder from Nieko, because of its uniqueness. This combines the benefits of a bench grinder, with a flex-shaft tool, giving you much more capability in one package. The grinding wheels are only 3-inches in diameter which is a bit small but they’ll still sharpen your tools. On top of that, they provide you with a flex-shaft tool for doing detail work making for a rather nice combination. The unit is variable speed, running up to 10,000 RPM, which makes it much faster than other grinders.

Craftsman 21162 Professional Variable Speed 8'' Bench Grinder

This is an upgrade from the six-inch grinder that I had on this list last year and at that time, I didn't know they made an eight-inch version of it. I’ve used Craftsman tools for years, although I don’t often rate them the highest on these lists because while Craftsman makes great tools for the homeowner, there are professional grade tools out there which are better. Not in this case.

Dollar for dollar, I believe this is the best grinder on the market. The most impressive feature on this grinder are the tool rests, which are sturdy and come with an attachment for holding drill bits at the right angle for sharpening. There’s an integral water cooling tray which is necessary when sharpening tools so they don’t overheat and lose their temper. It’s also variable speed with a control from 2,000 to 3,450 RPM. It even comes with a wheel dressing tool and oversize spark guards. Oh, and don’t forget the integral work light, so that you can see what you’re doing.

Delta 23-197, 8" Variable Speed Grinder

Delta has a great reputation as a professional tool manufacturer. While you don’t see too many of their tools in home workshops, you see a lot of them in professional cabinet and furniture shops. All of their equipment is well built, rugged, and designed to last. This eight-inch, cast-iron grinder comes with variable speeds ranging from 2,000 to 3,400 RPM and the tool rests have a slot milled into them for sharpening drill bits. Like the Craftsman grinder, this one also has wide spark shields and a flexible working light. It also comes with a five year warranty.

JET 577103 10" Industrial Bench Grinder

If you need a heavy-duty grinder for industrial applications, this is the one for you. This Jet model is a real powerhouse, with a 1-1/2 HP motor, much more than the others we’ve looked at. It also uses 10-inch wheels, which are larger than out other selections while also wider to cut down on problems with wheel wobble.

The grinder has been designed with sealed, pre-lubricated ball bearings for long life and minimal wobble. It also has a rubber mount, which is rather unique but it really helps in keeping down vibration. Additionally, the wheel guards, dust vents and tool rest are all cast-iron for a long life and trouble-free service.

Palmgren 9682081, 8" 3/4 HP Bench Grinder

This model is an upgrade from the six-inch grinder the same company makes and it caught my eye because of its unique design. These are the only grinders I’ve seen which have a built-in port that ties into your dust collection system. The tool rests are machined, although they didn’t put a groove in them for sharpening drill bits. They also used sealed pre-lubricated ball bearings for long life.

Metabo DS 200 8" Bench Grinder

Metabo is a little known company which produces some excellent tools. They’re mostly known in the automotive field, especially for body shops. This 8-inch grinder draws 4.8 amps, runs at 3750 RPM, and is designed for low noise and low vibration. There's an emergency stop switch for safety while the protective covers are bayonet mounted for quick removal and easy wheel changing. Workpiece supports can be adjusted without tools and the only thing missing here is a light.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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