Question about using a buffer.

Chris Railey

I will admit this is inspired, in part, because of the thread on Lee’s accident. I just do not feel right about hijacking that thread. I admit my HF buffer scares me more than any tool in my shop. I do not use a buffer much in my shop and when I do its mostly on handles. I have a hard and fast rule that I only work on the underside of my wheel. Since my first buffer incident threw a steak turner I forged into my foot I have had this rule. My second rule is I only use a buffer standing not sitting where my legs are in the flight path of a launched blade. My belief is that when (not if) my buffer grabs something else it will be thrown behind the machine into a wall. Does anyone have an additional buffer tip or rule I am missing?


Well-Known Member
Yes I do. I've used a 1 hp 3600 rpm buffer before and they are somewhat scary. I took a 1/3 hp, 1800 rpm motor and used that as a buffer with mostly thin buffs. That won't "grab" a blade from your hands. Slower, not enough power, and the thin (1/2" or so) buff will collapse without grabbing the blade. Of course I still hold blade/handle on bottom third of buff. I have buffed blades, but mostly only use for handles now. When the handle is sanded to the desired 1200 to 2,000 grit, just a " touch" on the buff is all that's required.

The only time a higher hp, high rpm, and thick heavy wheel is required is where you're actually removing metal with an aggressive compound.


"The Montana Bladesmith"
You've hit upon one of my soapbox issues...... buffers and using them!

1. NEVER use a buffer from a sitting position. I don't care if you're handicapped or not! The only words I can think to describe using a buffer from a sitting position (or grinder for that matter) is "Death Wish", or "Suicide"!

2. No matter what I do with/on a buffer, I have a "death grip" AT ALL TIMES on whatever I am working on. Any time I step up to a buffer, my body is as tight and rigid as it can be.....and doesn't relax until the buffing wheel comes to a complete stop.

3. Any buffer has a momentary foot switch installed...... that way if something goes wrong, I move my foot, and the electricity is cut off. I have these type foot switches on not only the buffers, but also bandsaw, drill presses, disc sanders. About the only machines that don't have these switches are my belt grinders. Most of mine are: but these are also available from HF..... so there's no excuse not to have them. It's no guarantee to save you.....but it has saved me a couple of times on the buffer, and MANY times on the drill presses.

4. My final "rule" for a buffer..... I do not, and will not own a buffer that runs faster than 1800rpm. These are dangerous enough..... if you're using a buffer faster than this, it's likely 3450 or 3600rpm.....that just means it TWICE as dangerous.

A note: "Loose" or "single row stitch" buffing wheels are the most dangerous! They WILL grab any sharp angle within their reach. The least dangerous wheels are felt.....and of course they are the most expensive. That's also true with the buffers...... you can often purchase a 3450 or 3600 rpm for 2/3 the money of what the 1750 or 1800rpm models run....... funny how that isn't cheap.
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J. Hoffman

Dealer - Purveyor
Buffers scare the hell out of me. I use a small HF 3600 RPM buffer for buffing the fronts of my scales prior to mounting them to the knife. I've just recently started buffing completed handles, but I do that with a buffing wheel mounted to my VS Burr King so I can adjust the speed. I'm also in the process of putting together a VS buffer. I just order the VFD this morning. I'm hoping to have it together before next weekend.

BossDog & Owner
Staff member
Buffers are dangerous for sure but so is most everything else in a knife shop.
they also do things that would be difficult otherwise.

rule 1. Buffers go on a pedestal so when it grabs something and throws your work piece it goes down and away from you. If it is on a bench, likely near a wall, it can bounce things right back at you. Plan on your work piece bouncing twice as far as you think it would.
rule 2. the closer you use it on the bottom front 1/3 of the wheel, the safer it is. Never buff above the centerline.
rule 3. It is going to grab something and throw it eventually. Plan for it.
rule 4 hold onto your work like you don’t want stitches. Make sure you have a firm grip.
rule 4 no gloves, loose clothing, long hair, dangling strings, etc
rule 5 never buff edge up on a blade. It will grab. Buff wheels grab edges, not flats or curved surfaces.

loose buffs grab work. Try to use sewn wheels and just cut the first outer row of stitches.
keep a wheel for each compound.
keep one buff wheel plain (no compound wheel) for polishing wax.

there is good reason to give respect to a buffer but follow a few basic practices and you will enjoy what they can produce.

you can tell at a glance work that has been over buffed.
Signs of over buffing: Grind lines are washed out. Handle material has ripples. Corners are rounded over that look unattractive.

using a wire wheel will give interesting texture like orange peel finish on titanium (which is nice to cover normal wear scratches) or micarta trippier or wood more aged grain.

I would not be with out one.

Chris Railey

I just wanted to be sure I had the bases covered. I do all of the above except variable speed. Thanks guys. I use wire wheels for a lot of my blacksmith pieces and they are just as bad about grabbing and throwing stuff too. My buffer has a wire wheel on one side and a half inch buffing wheel on the other. Its on a pedestal with a corner behind it. My hope is the piece bounces into the corner and stops.


Well-Known Member
I went out and took the buffing wheel off my grinder a little while ago. I hardly use it anyway and now I won't be tempted. And after a stupid little drill press incident I had a couple of weeks ago, the foot switches Ed mentioned above seem like a good idea. Thanks all!


Well-Known Member
I have one and quite honestly despise it. I've been thinking about moving it to the garage and putting a canvas bag under/behind with towels to catch it and prevent a ricochet. A foot switch is a good idea as well, i have one for my bandsaw.

Every time I'm polishing bolsters I'm waiting for it to grab and throw it.


Well-Known Member
I like my buffer and use it frequently but only for handle work.
I agree with most everything that has been said about safety. A death grip on the blade and laser focus when buffing.
One thing I always do is tape/wrap the blade when buffing.


Active Member
I do a lot of polished blades and handles and i agree the buffer deserves a lot of respect but if when using the buffer you have the same focus as finish grinding a hollow ground blade you should not be nervous using it.....buffing just has a different set of rules