View Full Version : Power tool question and a few others

10-26-2010, 12:48 AM
From what I've read it sounds like a belt sander and a drill press are a couple of the most useful power tools for knife making. Is this true? Which do you think is more important?

I'm planning on getting a Craftsman 2x48 belt sander from Sears; sounds like a great entry level sander. Would it be worth buying a drill press as well? What would be a good entry level drill press?
I've was looking at this one...

I plan on shipping my blades out for a professional heat treat... or at least the first few :biggrin:. Would O1 be good or should I look into something else?

Also, I'm a bit confused about pinning the handle slabs to the tang. What would be the best way? Should I use a threaded screw or just round stock?

One more thing.. just out of curiosity, why is the 2x48 1/3 hp belt sander recommended over something like the 4x36 belt sander. Is it harder to find belts for the 4x36, or is it easier to work with the 2x48, or both.

Sorry for all the questions, I just want to get it right.

Thanks in advanced guys.:)

10-26-2010, 06:59 AM
Personally, I think the Sears 2x48 with only 1/3 hp is going to be a waste of money. It's woefully underpowered for grinding steel, and it's going to cause you more problems than it will solve. I know they are expensive, but even the cheapest 2 X 72" grinders are a FAR better choice. A GOOD belt grinder is the most important tool in any knifemakers shop. Save your pennies and get the very best one you can....if you do, you'll never regret it, and it will last you a lifetime.
A drill press is also a "must have" in my book, but for different reasons.....in order to get clean tight fits on your knives, the holes you drill must be true and square....it's nearly impossible to do that with anything other than a drill press.
I understand that we all have to start somewhere with our machines....but I cannot overemphasize that if you purchase a "Good" belt grinder right off the bat, you will be saving money in the long run, your learning curve will be shorter, and you work will improve faster.
There are several reasons why a 2" belt is better suited to knifemaking.....the larger surface area on bigger belts make grinding steel difficult, most wider belts are NOT intended for cutting steel, and finding a wider belt that is designed for cutting steel is nearly impossible. Also, the machines that use wider belts are most often intended for woodworking, and are simply not designed or built to be as accurate and durable as belt grinders intended for steel/knifemaking.

I won't make a suggestion on the pinning versus bolting handles on.....your still a ways from that, and each has it's own advantages and drawbacks.

O1 is a very good steel to work with. It's fairly easy to grind/sand, and since your sending them out for heat treating, you don't have to worry about that portion.

I would highly encourage you to read some books on knifemaking, and learn all you can about the basics. Knifemaking is not something that is just "learned" and then you do it.....it's a never ending learning experience. I've been at it for over two decades now, and I learn something new each day.

10-26-2010, 08:07 AM
One other comment to add to Ed's regarding the woodworking belt sanders--1x30, 2x42, or 2x48, etc. Besides generally being underpowered (you can get them in 1hp), they are FAST. They are typically one speed, which is designed for sanding wood, and too fast for good control when trying to grind steel. At those speeds it is easy to overheat your steel (if already heat treated), easy to slip and ruin a blade, etc. While these things can happen on a 2x72, the grinders made for knifemaking (except for the most basic versions like Grizzly) are variable speed in one fashion or another, and generally slower, allowing the maker a little more control.

Instead of asking "what tools should I get" you should learn about the process from start to finish in the design and construction of a knife. Read what you can--books, tutorials, ask questions here, etc. Get with a local maker if one is available and see if he will help or let you build a knife in his shop. Learn the process, then that will inform you about what tools you need (and those you will want), and will answer your other questions about pins, Loveless and Corby bolts, etc.

EDIT: Fill out your profile, and let us know where you're located, maybe a knifemaker is closer than you think!

10-26-2010, 09:54 AM
Have you seen this ?

The Standard Reply to Newbies v8

The answer to a 13 year old student is different than to a 40 year old engineer, and you may have a helpful neighbour.
We can often recommend a local supplier, but that depends on where you are.
Fill out your profile with your location (Country and State at least), age, education, employment.

Look at the stickies at the top, many are expired, but not all.

The basic process in the simplest terms

Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives-Printable PDF (http://knifedogs.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=293&d=1251554025)
Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives-Website (http://www.hossom.com/jonesy/)

This is a very detailed set of instructions by Stacy E.Apelt.


A list of books and videos on the KnifeDogs Forum

BladeForums - E-books or book previews Google books

I like:
David Boye-Step by Step Knifemaking
Tim McCreight-Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects from a Master Craftsman
These are clear, well organized, widely available and inexpensive too.

Knife Design:
On the Google books thread, you can find
Lloyd Harding drawings
the Loveless book with large variety of proven classic styles.

Forging Books:
Lorelei Sims-The Backyard Blacksmith
A modern book with great photos for forging in general - no knifemaking.

Jim Hrisoulas- has 3 books on forging knives. Check for the cheaper paperback editions.
The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way To Perfection
The Pattern-Welded Blade: Artistry in Iron
The Master Bladesmith: Advanced Studies in Steel

The $50 knife shop
It is popular, but it confused me for a long time.
Forging is NOT necessary, you can just file and grind everything away to create a knife (stock removal)

The goop quench is total Bull, commercially made quench oils are cheap and easily available, even grocery store canola oil works much better.

Junkyard steels require the skills of an experienced smith to identify the steel and heat treat it properly.
You can buy proper steel like 1084 very cheaply.
(Mentioned in the new edition)

I like cable damascus, but that is an advanced project for an experienced smith and has no place in a beginners book.

The home built grinders are the best thing about the book, but there is now a huge amount of info on home built 2x72 belt grinders on the web.
The revised edition of this book should have included this.


Heat Treating Basics Video-downloadable

Many specific how to knifemaking videos are available.
Some are better than others, but all better than nothing.

The best overall Knifemaking video I have seen is
“Steve Johnson-Making a Sub-Hilt Fighter”

The best video on leather sheath making I have seen is
“Custom Knife Sheaths -Chuck Burrows - Wild Rose”

You can see a list of some older videos and their reviews at this rental company.
They are not the quickest on getting new titles, but some videos are worth buying, some are worth renting…
Rental wait times are measured in months, buying is MUCH faster, but more costly.

Green Pete's Free Video
Making a Mora bushcraft knife, -stock removal, hand tools, and neo tribal / unplugged heat treat.
"Green Pete" posted it free for those who can use torrent files.

You can also find it on YouTube broken into 4 parts.

The “welding steel” at Home Depot/Lowes… is useless for knives.
If you want to ship out for heat treating, you can use ATS34, 440C, plus many others.

If you want to heat treat yourself, find some 1070, 1080, 1084,
1084 FG sold by Aldo Bruno is formulated just for knifemaking.

You can find lists of suppliers here

Aldo’s website inventory is unreliable, call instead.

Heat Treating
You do not have to buy a lot of equipment to start with.
You can send out for heat treating, 10 or 15 $ per blade

This is a PDF brochure which gives good general info

http://www.knifemaker.ca/ (Canadian)
and others

Grinder / Tools

Hand Tools
You can do it all by hand with files and abrasive paper.
The Green Pete video does it this way.

Photo of a nice bevel filing jig .

Entry Level Grinders
Many makers start with the Sears Craftsman 2x42 belt grinder.

Commercial Production 2 x 72” Belt Grinders

Mapp arm

DIY 2 x 72” Belt Grinders

KMG Clone
Free Plans

NWG No Weld Grinder

EERF Grinder (EERF =“Free” backwards)
Free plans

Buy the kit

Wayne Coe
10-26-2010, 01:04 PM
WOW! Ed and 1234567890 sure put the information out there. Good work guys. I say "work" because they both put a lot into these posts.
For a grinder, for the less expensive good way get the NWG plans. Study them, ask more questions, read the posts on knife dogs, etc. Do a lot of studying and modifying of the plans. I has seen the GIB kit by Polar Bear Forge and am impressed with it. I have been corresponding with Chris of Wilmont and supplying motors and VFDs and like the way he has thought it all out. I build grinders and with the 1.5 hp motor and VFD am selling them for $1,650.00 including shipping. You can build your own, get plans and wheels from www.usaknifemaker.com (http://www.usaknifemaker.com), motor and VFD from me waynecoe@highland.net and try to find scrap for the frame. This way you can build a really good grinder for around $900.00. If I can help you or answer questions call me.

10-26-2010, 01:17 PM
Lots of good info guys. I believe the answer to your grinder question has been covered 110%. As for the drill press you asked about, I have the exact same model. It's not the best drill press on the market, but it gets the job done just fine. I have been extremely satisfied with mine.

10-26-2010, 10:14 PM
Wow! Thank you guys! I really appreciate you all putting the time and thought into these posts.

I updated my profile with my location and a little other information. I would love to be able to go to someone's shop and see for myself how it's done. I've started doing some research; reading a lot on this forum and I picked up 50 Dollar Knife Shop and How to Make Knives by Loveless at a local book store. Both had good information, although I found 50 Dollar Knife Shop a bit confusing. I plan on ordering a few more. I really want to read Knives and Knife Makers by Sid Latham. I found a copy on fleabay at a good price but someone swooped it at the last seconds, and I've had trouble finding another copy.

I'm going to go with the Craftsman drill press, Thanks Murph.
... But as for the grinder, I still haven't decided. I'm a college student and I also work two jobs, and I can afford an expensive grinder, but that's a huge chunk of change for me right now. That's part of the reason I was looking at the Sears 2x48.
.. Would I get the most for my money if I built my own? I don't want to buy the plans and then not be able to build it.
Are there any good lower end knife grinders that are already built?

Thanks again guys!


Keith Willis
10-27-2010, 08:19 AM
Great info for ya Kevin.I guess the only thing I can add is I have a Craftsman 12'' drill press.
For me it works great for what I do.I can tell you from experiance,when I first purchased a sander
I had not a clue and did not ask for advice.I purchased the Craftsman 4'' x 36''.I bought the extended
warrenty.I burn up 3 sanders in about 1 1/2 years,buy this time I had bought some good cutting files
and I can guarentee,you can cut twice the steel with a good file,than you will with a small sander.
This is not an opinion,I am speaking from experiance.
Contact the Boss and get a set of NWG plans.I found used steel,and a used motor,so if you are on
a limited budget,this is the way to go.Hope this helps

God bless,Keith

10-27-2010, 09:18 AM
Before you pull the trigger on a woodworking sander, take a look around at what abrasive belts will be available. You'll want to stay away from aluminum oxide (brown) belts as they don't last long on metal. That is the most common type in local stores, which means you'll have to order what you need for grinding metal. You'll want belts in a variety of grits--coarse grits like 80 for the main grinding, then finer grits like 240 on up for getting a finer finish on the blades before going to hand sanding. Zirconium, ceramic, and silicone carbide belts wear longer when grinding steel. Places like trugrit.com and supergrit.com (there are others) carry these abrasives in 2x42 and 2x48 sizes.

I have been running a Craftsman 2x42, but it's an older model with 3 wheels and 1 hp that I bought used for $35. The newer models are 2 wheel and 1/3 to 1/2 hp. The last few knives I've been working on I've forged by hand, ground out the bevels by draw filing, then went to hand sanding. The only power tool used was my drill press to drill pin holes in the tangs. I didn't even use the grinder. I have made knives with just a drill press and files. It's slow and requires a lot of patience, but it can be done, and it forces you to take your time and think about the process.

I'm saving up for a better grinder, and although I have Tracy's plans for the NWG, I am on the fence as to which way to go--build or buy. (My decision is based on my limited free time--spend time building tools, or spend time making knives.) In your case, you will need tools (including the drill press) to build a grinder. You can scrounge for scrap metal and a used motor, but the heart of the grinder is in the bearings, the drive shaft, and the wheels. Even if you get the other materials for free or cheap, you are looking at around $250 or more for quality wheels (drive wheel, idler, and either a single contact wheel for hollow grinds or 2 smaller wheels for flat platen grinds).

Personally, the other option I'm considering is buying a Coote grinder. It's an older 2 wheel design (others can chime in on the pros and cons of 2 wheel vs. 3 wheel designs) but it has a solid reputation and is a quality machine. For you this might be a good option in that they hold their value if you decide to get out of the hobby and sell it off. You're looking at $475 for the base 2x72 model with 8" contact wheel, then you would need to provide the motor, drive belt, and pulleys. And, don't forget to save some $$$ to buy abrasive belts.