Thinking of a new grinder..... but oh, the hurdles

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
"Smoothness" was never an issue/concern when considering direct drive.

In my mind there are two primary reasons to go direct drive.....1. Better transmission of the power to the grinding belt... In my view I see it as having 4 less points of frictions, and two less points of slippage. 2. Fewer parts..... eliminating two pulleys, a V-belt, a shaft, and two pillow block bearings means there is less to go wrong/maintain.
 

wall e

Well-Known Member
Kiss method is the reality of success.
The belt and pullys are part of the frustration I have with my little grinder, their so blessed noisy. The other is well its only .5 hp so I can stop it by pushing a touch too hard when trying to hog out a curve that the saw won't do.
 

Rick Otts

Well-Known Member
Well Ed after listening too you pick apart grinders I am a lil nervous.But if all goes right by the end of July early Aug.I will have my KMG.Maybe direct drive if the guy does the right thing.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Let me explain a bit more..... I'm certainly not "knocking" the available machines. If a person is buying their FIRST, or is only going to have ONE grinder in the shop, then most of them are going to be "Good" choices. Where the selection gets more complicated is for someone in my situation. I guess you could call my "picky", but because I've spent so much time in front of a grinder, and I already have a large selection of attchments that I have either purchased, or made myself, there are a number of things I must consider, that would not have any bearing for someone who is buying their first machine.

I'm going to be very blunt in the next couple of paragraphs...... Many people who are buying grinders these days are basing their purchases on one of two reasons..... 1. As cheap as they can get, with very little understanding of what they are paying for. 2. Bling (how "cool" the machine looks), with every little understanding of how a given machine will affect their overall knifemaking process.

Whenever I look at any of the commercially available grinders on the market, I catch myself thinking..... how much is a person paying for that powder coated finish? How much is being charged for that waterjet cut "badge" that's riveted to the machine? How much of that cost is for the anodized aluminum? How much time and effort is it going to take to change attachments? If there enough weight in that machine keep vibration down? How durable is a machine made with those type/thicknesses of materials going to be? And many others that the average person, who is buying their first grinder, simply has no idea/understanding about.

I always keep coming back to the KMG...... It's not "blingy", it's not complicated, and it's not "pretty". But as I have said before, I strongly believe that it is simply the best grinder out there for the money. It was essentially the "original". Well thought out, well built, and well executed. I also believe that it is the machine that it is responsible an entire generation of "knock offs", and that even many machines that are not necessarily "clones", were strongly influenced by the KMG's design.
With a V-belt and step pulleys, a person can have a limited "variable" speed machine..... with a VFD, an infinite variable speed machine. In short, Rob Frink provides something for just about every level of buyer. Others simply don't.

OK, all that being said, there is no "perfect" grinder from a standpoint of a machine that will do everything that anyone wants/needs. EVERY grinder I have ever had in my shop has required some type of modification to make is work the way I wanted it to.... straight out of the box. Personally, the "direct drive" conversion is simply a next step in the evolution of a grinder in my shop... eliminating points of slippage and friction, and by eliminating parts, I simply have less things to break, or wear out.

My plan is that once I get my existing KMG setup with direct drive, and work out any bugs, I will order a brand new chassis from Rob...... IF he offers a direct drive chassis, that would be great, but if not, that's OK too. Why just a chassis? Because at this point in my career, a 3hp motor is the minimum I will use. No point in buying a machine complete with motor, that I'm going to change anyway.

The KMG is Rob's "baby"..... and he has to decide what's best for him and his business. Either way I will still maintain the utmost respect for Rob, and still maintain that the KMG is the best bang for the buck when it comes to a 2x72 grinder. Other folks will of course have different opinions, and that's OK...... we each come at things through the lens of our own experiences, and in mine, a machine design that has worked for 15 years, and ground literally thousands of blades, has earned it's place in my shop, and I'd be dumb to just toss it out and go with something that doesn't have the time tested ruggedness and reliability of the KMG.
 

khopesh

Member
I've been considering a new grinder for the shop, and while it's no secret that I have been a fan of the KMG for a long time, some recent long/hard thinking has brought me to the conclusion that there is simply not any 2x72 machine out there that I could purchase, and use right out of the box, without at least some modifications.



I am interested in getting a knife grinder for personal use, and am trying to learn about them so I can make an educated decision, and get set up right the first time. I appreciate your detailed critique of the grinders. There are a lot of things that I wasn't aware of.

I like the idea of a direct drive KMG with a VFD. I am curious if the tracking and tensioner are good on it.


You said:

"I have also come to detest the use of the "cylinders" for belt tensioning....every single one of these devices I've use has failed sooner or later....and I've ended up gong back to a spring. While this might not be the "coolest" thing, it's reliable and durable (a spring for belt tension).

Wilmont: While the overall design of these machines is good, their fatal flaw is the belt tension mechanism(s)...... a tension spring is simply an all around poor choice for a belt grinder, unable to overcome the leverage of the machine, especially in slack belt grinding situations. In other models the use of the "cylinder" for belt tension is simply unacceptable for me."


If a cylinder and also a tension spring are both no good, what option is left?
Is the ratchet style belt tensioner on the TW90 better than a spring or gas cylinder type?

TW claims that the TW90 has better belt tracking than the other grinders on the market, would that have to do with the tensioner system or the tracking adjustment system? And is that true?

I did notice that in the TW90 videos, that there appears to be noticeably less belt movement then some of the other grinder videos I have watched. And the tracking demonstration looks pretty good.


I am also interested in the flat platen you built and would like to know why it is better than other options out there, and what I should look for in a good design.

Does the tool rest for the flat platen bolt on to the bottom of the tool arm on the KMG? And is that a good thing?

Also you say you wont own anything less than a 1.5" steel tool arm. Do you mean solid steel bar stock, or tube steel? I see that KMG sells both an aluminum and steel tool arm. I am not sure if they are solid or tube though.

I would appreciate your advice.
Thanks.
 
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khopesh

Member
I converted my KMG to direct drive.


One of the issues had to do with the length of the factory pulley shaft - it's quite a bit longer than a 56C face motor's output shaft. Joe elected to make a custom drive wheel. This one is 5.5" in diameter, with an offset to compensate for the difference in shaft length.


As you can tell, I've also added an additional tool slot. The flat platen and contact wheels are a custom rig I made, with a 2" wheel on top and a 3" on bottom. That's one thing my Wilton got right. Should be a pinch smaller up top (1-1/2" would be dandy), but I had the wheel, so there it is.


While I'm at it, here's a couple shots of the gas strut tensioner and the monster custom ape-hanger tensioner.

previous to this modification, that belt would shift as much as 1/8", and it could NEVER have been run at this speed. The vibration was unbearable. Even the noise is reduced dramatically!



I really like your set up. I am thinking about a KMG direct drive with a VFD, and a cool mist set up myself. I have a few questions for you though if you don't mind helping me learn about grinders.

What is the additional tool slot for? Is it just to get it up higher?
I am thinking this might be a better way to mount a tool rest instead of bolting it on to the bottom of the flat platen tool arm. I would prefer a quick change option.

Also what is the benefit of 1.5" wheel on top and a 3" on the bottom of the flat platen?

How is the belt tracking, noise, and vibration on your machine now?
My concerns with the KMG is the belt tracking, and belt shifting, and how well the tensioner works.

Thanks.
 

Gliden07

Well-Known Member
I don't really have a say in here as far as machines scince I'm new at all of this. That said there is a young kid selling plans on You Tube named Jeremy Schmidt he built his own grinder. The thing is a Tank and I believe it addresss most of your issues. I believe he sells the plans on Estay? Granted you would have to build it though.
 

bodam

Well-Known Member
I've been using an Esteem for about 3 years and I haven't had one issue with it yet.

I'm not nearly as advanced as some here, but for what it's worth, the machine has operated flawlessly for me, and I haven't had to repair or replace one part on it yet.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
As I have only used one machine...my TW-90... i cannot offer comparisons. As a toolmaker that started trade school at age 15 and am 56 now...I've run a lot of different equipment...and this is a very fine machine...so much so that saying I "hand made" a knife on it makes me giggle...this is as sophisticated a piece of equipment as I have owned! I am on a raised wood floor in my shop so dropping aluminum anything is no big deal. My biggest gripe is that it is not self cleaning! LOL!!
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
OLD, OLD thread here......... :) Looking back through it, there are a couple of things that I done since starting the thread. I changed my KMG to direct drive, and have given the spring cylinders another go, but this time I have them sleeved with a "dust seal" ( which is nothing more than the finger cut out of a heavy mil latex glove, and zip tied on to protect the cylinder rod from dust/debris)

I'm fairly certain that the reason I am so fond of my KMG is it's age..... I have one of the very early ones. Mine was delivered with very tight tolerances, and has held for all these years. I have had the opportunity to compare my machine to the later models, and I agree there is a noticeable difference in the build quality. The customer service that I have received has been unwavering. Always responded to within 24 hours.

We all come at things through the lens of our experiences, I've had nothing but good experiences with the KMG, and the customer service.

I've never said this publicly, but personally, I wouldn't touch a Northridge machine with a 10 foot pole, simply because of the way I was treated by them. When they first started out, they sought me out, and asked me to evaluate their machine, and to give my recommendations for any improvements. When I rendered my suggestions, they dismissed them in a very rude way, saying I obviously knew nothing about grinders or grinding...... guess 30+ years of experience doesn't count. So there's a perfect example of a bias. One of my biggest pet peeves is being asked for my help, opinion, or a question, and then being dismissed because it's not what they want to hear..... if you want your ears tickled, or your ego stroked, I might not be your best choice.

I think arguing about grinders is akin to arguing about Ford, Chevy, or Dodge...... we all like what we like for specific reasons, and those reasons often don't translate from one person to the next. It's all based on experiences, and many times biases that we have built one way or another, for one reason or another , when in reality, any of them will get you from point A to point B. It really just comes to down to personal preference aspects.
 

khopesh

Member
Lots of things to answer there!


I have to disagree with your gas strut view, though. Tracking is greatly improved because of mine, the range of tension is more appropriate, I feel, and they’ve been bulletproof so far. I’m still using the first one I bought.

So, how do I feel about my KMG now? It’s an improved turd. Nothing more. I’ve got friends with different machines, and have gotten lots of hands-on experience with their grinders, and I have yet to find one that isn’t vastly superior to my KMG, or for any other KMG, for that matter. There is NO ‘build quality’ with these machines. He uses cheap cold-rolled steel, poorly processed (just drilled holes, no spot drilling or boring), absolute junk bearings, and obviously doesn’t quality check any of the machines that ship.

EVERYONE complains about the total lack of customer service.

Wilmont makes a great grinder, and Chris is an awesome guy. Innovative, and stands behind his work. I know lots of guys that use his stuff. Same holds true for Brett at Esteem. Bader has superb grinders, still, they’re just not as flexible as the new crop of machines.

Lots of guys seem to like Pheer, as well as the new AMK and some of the other new players. QUOTE]



Thanks for your response. Very insightful.

The gas strut comment was from an EdCaffreyMS post earlier in this thread.
I don't know enough about it to have a preference, so I am still trying to figure it out. I see that the Bader's use a spring style tensioner, and people seem to like that machine pretty well.

As for the KMG, poor build quality, that is enough for me not to deal with them. If they don't care about that, I wouldn't be surprised about customer service issues either.

I don't like the Wilmont build design with the erector set style bolted together side plates. Probably works fine, I just don't like it.

The Esteem looks interesting, and they are in my area. The tool arms look built well. It is spring tensioned. It doesn't look like the tracking is adjusted from the drive wheel. I wonder how good the tracking is.

The TW90 might be a good choice for me.
 

khopesh

Member
OLD, OLD thread here......... :) Looking back through it, there are a couple of things that I done since starting the thread. I changed my KMG to direct drive, and have given the spring cylinders another go, but this time I have them sleeved with a "dust seal" ( which is nothing more than the finger cut out of a heavy mil latex glove, and zip tied on to protect the cylinder rod from dust/debris)




Glad I could dig up a good thread again for you. I was curious about the follow up on how it all worked out for you. What do you think of it since you went direct drive?
How is the tracking?

That is good you had positive experiences with KMG customer service. I am not going to take my chances with that and their build quality.

I am confused about tensioners.
Aren't there basically 3 types? Spring, gas cylinder, and ratchet?
You are using a spring cylinder? Is that a gas cylinder with a spring?

Also, as for tool arms, you like solid steel bar, or steel tube?


Thanks.
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
When I rendered my suggestions, they dismissed them in a very rude way, saying I obviously knew nothing about grinders or grinding.
Ed, somebody wanting to develop a new grinder and not asking - AND LISTENING to somebody of your knowledge and experience is plain silly! I agree with you on the TW-90, it looks like a really NICE grinder, but why in the world Travis used 1-1/4" tool arms is beyond me.
 

khopesh

Member
If it was your first and only grinder, a person could just use all TW tooling and not worry about it.

I don't know enough about attachments to know if other brands tools work better than another anyway.
 
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Ty Adams

KNIFE MAKER
6 months ago I would have backed KMG as a good grinder. Recently I have had nothing but problems with it. As a hobbyist with very few knives on the machine these things should not be happening. I spend more time replacing parts and coming up with solutions than making knives. Like Matt I love making knives and will not continue to use what little time I get in my shop repairing an expensive piece of equipment. A TW-90 is going to be my next tool purchase.
 

JawJacker

Well-Known Member
I almost pulled the trigger on the TW90 a few years ago, the tooling arm soured it for me even though people say its fine for performance.
I tackled building my own with features I wanted from other grinders. Im no welder or machinist. It wasn't brain surgery, most of it was hot rolled with cold on the tooling socket. It goes horizontal, its rigid, and square this pic is old I have fabricated 3 work rests added contact wheels and the like.
My advice to anyone who can weld is, build your own. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B46ESgcGbS48Z0lyUnA2cm1jaVNBaXBsZlUyTDRCUm0yMFVr/view?usp=sharing
 

scott.livesey

Dealer - Purveyor
Thanks for your response. Very insightful.
The gas strut comment was from an EdCaffreyMS post earlier in this thread.
I don't know enough about it to have a preference, so I am still trying to figure it out. I see that the Bader's use a spring style tensioner, and people seem to like that machine pretty well.
As for the KMG, poor build quality, that is enough for me not to deal with them. If they don't care about that, I wouldn't be surprised about customer service issues either.
I don't like the Wilmont build design with the erector set style bolted together side plates. Probably works fine, I just don't like it.
The Esteem looks interesting, and they are in my area. The tool arms look built well. It is spring tensioned. It doesn't look like the tracking is adjusted from the drive wheel. I wonder how good the tracking is.
The TW90 might be a good choice for me.
as Ed has said, we are starting to compare ford to chevy, although it seems the KMG has become a Yugo. I guess a big part in choosing is cost. I have about $1500 invested in my Wilmont LB1000, that total includes 3 motors, a VFD, a second drive wheel, 3 spare tooling arms, and the electrical wiring. the LB1000 design is such that I can change out the motor in 10 minutes. 800rpm motor for finishing, 1720 rpm motor for general work, and 3450 rpm motor for "Hoggin". all my tooling arms are thick wall 1 1/2" tube and I have had no issues with them. I did replace some nuts with Nylock nuts so that they would never loosen on their own.
 

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
I almost pulled the trigger on the TW90 a few years ago, the tooling arm soured it for me even though people say its fine for performance.
I tackled building my own with features I wanted from other grinders. Im no welder or machinist. It wasn't brain surgery, most of it was hot rolled with cold on the tooling socket. It goes horizontal, its rigid, and square this pic is old I have fabricated 3 work rests added contact wheels and the like.
My advice to anyone who can weld is, build your own. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B46ESgcGbS48Z0lyUnA2cm1jaVNBaXBsZlUyTDRCUm0yMFVr/view?usp=sharing
Lil' bit o' genius going on there...lol. Love the big table and extra points for golf ball and red toolbox!
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
I guess I must have gotten lucky. My KMG is about 3 years old and I can't find anything I don't like about it. Poor build quality? I'm kind of dumbstruck as to how a KMG could have poor build quality. It's made of plate steel and some bearings. As long as the plate was cut square and the holes drilled straight, I'm at a loss as to what there could possibly be to complain about.

I did have to do some minor shimming on the tool arms to get the alignment / tracking to be the same across all of my tool arms, but I never saw that as an issue.

I have experienced no failures of any sort with my KMG. Rob has answered the phone when I have called, which has been about two or three times in three years, and answered emails when I had a question. The guy has been excellent in my experience.

If I was designing a grinder based on what I know now, having run my KMG for several years- there isn't much I'd change. Anything I did change would be based on personal preference for my own grinding style. I almost never use a tool rest unless I'm profiling blanks. Once in a blue moon I'll use my ballhead tool rest because I want some wacky angle on the front of my scales that I can't freehand evenly. I bought that off eBay, can't remember where right now.

The TW-90 is probably the best all around do-everything machine, and has a price tag to match. If I were starting over and had big fat wads of cash I'd most likely buy that one, but when I was making my first grinder purchase I wasn't even sure if I'd even like making knives, so laying out twice the cost of a KMG wasn't in the cards. I still haven't figured out why I need a horizontal grinder, but I'll probably modify my KMG to hinge over one day for the unholy sum of three dollars worth of scrap metal and brackets I have laying around.
 
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