What are the best grinders that a man who wants to one day be a pro buy

Grizzly Bear

Well-Known Member
Hey guys,

I know this has been done to death, but I am wanting to someday turn pro. I am 63 and in bad health and am on the clock so to speak. I am turning my carport into my workshop and need to get some advise from the pros out there as to what grinder they use and why. I have researched this very much and have found there are some high quality (and price) grinders for sale that are so close to each other in quality and function that I can't make up my mind. I need more input to make up my mind.

I have decided, unless otherwise advised, that I need the following features:

2" x 72" Grinder that is ready to go with motor attached; no kits.
2 HP 220 volt Motor on a dedicated breaker (Is a 3 HP Motor of any advantage?)
Variable Speed up to around 5,000 rpm (or is around 3,000 rpm enough?)
14 or 16 inch wheel for hollow grinding that is mounted on it's own working arm. Will one of the rotating wheel, flat platen, small wheel combination mounted on one working arm as good or better?
Set of small wheels for contouring 1/2 to 1"
Set of large wheels for conjuring: 1&1/4 to 2''
A flat platen, a slack platen mounted on their own working arms
Forked working arm for the contouring wheels
Good, sturdy working platform that tilts if possible

I have narrowed my choices down to:

Bader III
Dozier Grinder
Bee Grinder
Pheer327 Belt Grinder
EPG Grinder

Is direct drive worth the money?

I will be attending the Gil Hibben Knife Class in Oct. to gain much needed hands on training.
I am also going to try and attend a knife smithing class next year. I want to learn as much as I can and am dedicated to my goal.
I am currently making knives using a Harbour Freight disc/belt sander, electric drill sanding drums, files and a lot of sand paper. I am really looking forward to getting a very good knife grinder.

I appreciate your input.


Grizzly Bear
When I got ready to buy a "real" grinder I called Don Hanson. He owns several different brands of grinders and he said if he had to choose just one it would be a Bader. I took his advice and bought one and have absolutely NO regrets.


Well-Known Member
I have owned or current own a Hardcore Products, A Cootebeltgrinder.com and a KMG.

The Hardcore being my flagship, the Coote, My first real big boy grinder I purchased almost 20 years ago I built onto a dolly and now use it portable, off the tailgate of my truck for demo's and sharpening work mostly. the KMG, I sold when I had to down size a bit, After I did all of the needed upgrades I was within 5-8 hundreds of just getting a ready to go top notch machine.

I am on my second balder motor for the hardcore Products grinder. The internals of the machine have never even burped on me and as the builder, Randy said to me. We don't make the motor.

The next one I will pull the trigger on will be a TW-90 and direct or internal belt drive like my Hardcore grinder is well worth the money.
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"The Montana Bladesmith"
Personally, there are only 3 grinders on that list I would consider.... KMG, Bader, and TW90. I've either owned or used all except the EPG...but have used one similar to it. Belt grinders tend to be "personal" from maker to maker, and we each have our favorites. That being said, I personally like what I call the "3 wheel" style machines. Also, I will tell you what I personally like, or dislike about those you listed.

I learned to grind on a Bader in my mentor's shop. At the time I was of course very impressed with it. Bader is a good machine, but where I think it falls short is the customer service. More about that later.

The TW90 is a super smooth and quiet machine, with some unique features and attachments (ie:you can get a surface grinding attachement for it), however, where it falls short for me is the size/material of the tooling arm(s). The ones I've been exposed to all had 1 1/4" aluminum tooling arms. While aluminum might sound like a cool feature in a tooling arm, its simply not stout enough, nor durable enough in my opinon. Another maker I was working with dropped his tooling arm with a 10" contact wheel attched, and the tooling arm "tweaked" so badly when it hit the concrete floor, that it had to be replaced. It was also evident that the aluminum does not hold up well where the lock down bolt contacts it..... the bolt "chews" up the aluminum to the point that the arm has difficulty sliding to and fro in its socket.....meaning that to smooth it out requires filing/grinding/finishing the tooling arm when it gets chewed up, in order to make it "smooth" again.

The Dozier grinder is well built and smooth, but I dislike that air belt tensioning system. It requires you to have a compressor, air plumbing to the machine, and additional air regulator(s). I've used this machine in two different maker's shops, and both times one of the small air hoses blew while I was grinding. One of of those times I was grinding with a 60 grit belt....the air line blew, and I ended up with the belt wound up around my arms, and "road rash" up to my elbows. I could swallow a single instance of something like that happening, but not twice. It convinced me that there was just too much there to go wrong.

Now to the Bader III. Overall its a fine machine. I strongly dislike the factory flat platen, it just doesn't work for me. My biggest beef with Bader is the customer service I have received. Prior to learning of the KMG, I had my heart set on a Bader III, but also knew exactly what I wanted (a platen with a 1 1/2" contact wheel at the top, and a 3" at the bottom) and I was willing to pay for what I wanted. When I called to place the order, the individual I spoke with was sarcastic, rude, and unflexible. I told him what I wanted (all they had to do was replace the solid aluminum wheels on the platen with the size contact wheels I wanted) and I was told "If its not on the shelf, then you're not getting it!" I tried several times to tell the individual that I was willing to pay any extra necessary to get what I wanted.....and he kept cutting me off, and telling me the "if its not on the shelf" thing. Finally I just hung up on him, and haven't considered a Bader product since.

This brings me to the KMG. After the above situation with Bader, I was hearbroke, and feeling like I was never going to get my "dream grinder". A couple of weeks later, I learned of the KMG, and gave Rob Frink a call. I don't know if it was just the fact that Rob was just getting started with the KMG, but he was super nice, and as helpful as I could ask for. I told him about the platen I wanted, and to his credit, he did some research, called me back, and said "Yes, I can make that for you." (it latter became the "Caffrey Platen").
I ended up ordering a KMG, and have been using it for over 10 years now. The only thing I did/do not like about the KMG is the length of the idler arm....too short, as it came from Rob. It just took too much effort to change belts. So I "modified" it, by adding a 10" extension to the idler arm, which made/makes belt changes infinately easier.

There are two things that keep me hyped about the KMG.....1. Its just a tank of a machine....stout and heavy, and its dead simple....not a lot of extranious unecessary parts that wear out or break at the worst possible times. 2. The customer service that Rob Frink provides. An example: I was at Tom Ferry's shop several years ago......and we had a drive shaft bearing go out on his KMG. Rob had a new bearing there the NEXT morning (thats from Ohio to Washington state). You're not gona get that from anywhere else.
Besides the idler arm extension, the only other mods I've made to the KMG is a guard at the idler/tracking wheel to keep the grit/grindings out of my face, and I've added a mapp arm receiver to it. OH! and another reason I like the KMG is that I can buy just the machine, and purchase the motor and controller that I want, and still have the same or lower end cost then the other machines that come with what I consider low HP motors. (both the grinders in my finish shop have 3hp/VFD setups)

OK, all that being said, those are my experiences with those machines, and my personal likes and dislikes. One thing that has held true for me when it comes to grinders.....it doesn't matter what brand, or which model, there are always things that I would "modify" on any of them to suit my tates/needs. I think that as long as you stick to one of the well known brands/types, you'll be OK. The key being that any of the grinders I mentioned will hold their value, and with minimal care, will last you your entire knifemaking career.
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Well-Known Member
I've been making knives about a year and a half. I used a HF 30" grinder for over a year. I bought a Pheer and it's great. Works for me.


Self Made Knives

Well-Known Member
Glad I didn't pipe in before Ed! I hate it when he comments after me making my newbie-ness show! I haven't visited any pro shop, but in all the hundreds of videos I've watched, one thing seems common. They all have more than one grinder. The old saying "you don't know what you don't know" applies here. Until you jump on the merry go-round, you don't know. I say pick one and and start building your knowledge. Your second grinder will be the perfect choice, maybe not this one.
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I hate to hear about your bad experience with Bader Ed but my experiences have been just the opposite. I've always dealt with a guy named Doug and he has bent over backwards to answer questions and let me get stuff that wasn't "on the shelf". I wanted rubber wheels on top & bottom of my platen assembly and he said no problem and made it happen for, if I remember correctly, only $40 over the base price.
I guess it all boils down to who you talk to so if you're gonna deal with Bader ask for Doug.


I currently have a Phere. A nice machine. Over the last 3 tears I've tried 6 other brands. After much research and weeks of trying other grinders I have not found one perfect machine. Each has it's pros and cons.

That being said I am nearly ready to buy grinder number two. It will be a 2 hp Wilmont TAG with their flat platen using rubber covered 2" wheel. Tool bar with KD small wheel attachment, toolbar with a rotary platen, and another two with a 5" and 10" wheel each. I especially like the tool rest design that Chris has, full adjustable and well built. Due to limited space in my shop the till to horizontal feature of his will give me some flexibility in grinding.

I am by no means a season maker, this is JMHO.

Don Robinson

Well-Known Member
1. I started with a 72" grinder I built myself on a mechanic's roll around cart.

2. Bought a new Burr King with all attachments. Sold the home made grinder to a knifemaking school.

3. Bought a new Wilton Square Wheel. Fell in love with it. Still got it after 20+ years.

4. All you need to do to change the SW to another mode is to loosen and tighten a bolt or two. No changing out anything.

So, guess what my favorite is. That's right, a Square Wheel. I've made hundreds of knives with it. Mostly folders.

By the way, the first group I joined was called "The Knife List". There wasn't no internet forums. The list came in the mail.
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Active Member
I like my KMG. Built like a tank. All the attachments are pricey, but I wouldn't be without them now. Rob is a great guy to deal with. I wanted a size small wheel for the small wheel attachment he didn't make. I called him, and he said on the next order he would have some made up, which he did. Took a few months, but they were on the web site!

I also like Travis of the TW-90 fame. Probably have one of the first SGA-1's (Surface grinder attachment) he made. He makes a tooling arm that will attach his SGA-1 to a KMG machine, but I think you have to ask nice to get it :). Have never used his grinder, but from a demo at blade a few years ago, it looks nice. The SGA-1 is very nice. For knife work it's perfect!

Those two combined have saved me a bunch of time!



Well-Known Member
There are a lot of very good grinders on the market , most of the better model have pretty much the same accessories , I have had several of the most popular . I really like the new Wilmont grinders sold right on KD

They have one feature that no other grinder has to my knowledge , A tilting table . You can actually see both sides of blade when grinding , almost assuring even bevels. Great folks to deal with . check em out . big heavy duty tables .


Dealer - Purveyor
There are a lot of very good grinders on the market , most of the better model have pretty much the same accessories , I have had several of the most popular . I really like the new Wilmont grinders sold right on KD

They have one feature that no other grinder has to my knowledge , A tilting table . You can actually see both sides of blade when grinding , almost assuring even bevels. Great folks to deal with . check em out . big heavy duty tables .

i vote with Bubba, a Wilmont is your best bang for the buck. there are multiple options you can buy with the grinder and since it uses a "standard size" tooling arm you can find accessories many places.
IMHO a 2hp motor is overkill. i currently have a 3 phase 1hp 1720rpm motor with a TECO true three phase variable speed drive on my LB1000 and have never had any "lack of power" issues. 1720rpm is more speed than you need. check the forum here and you will see that when grinding after heat treat, "Speed Kills". i use a 3" drive wheel and at 20hz, i have a belt speed around 450fpm, easy to control your blade, works well with a wet belt, extended belt life, no over-heating of the edge. i am upgrading to an 850rpm motor and look forward to easy grinding. direct drive is worth the $$ both safety and time wise. find a Leeson Speedmaster or equivalent true three phase variable speed drive, they are well worth the search.
your big wheels for hollow grinding can be added at any time.
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Well-Known Member
I don't have much to add to the conversation except to stress direct drive and vfd as being impossible for me to live without now that I have them. When I started a friend and fellow knife maker recommended a middle of the road grinder to see if I liked making knives without breaking the bank. Actually, I wish I would have broken the bank out of the gate or just waited until I did more research on building my own. I started with a coote with step pulleys, and although its a good machine because it brings power and the bare minimum versatlity to make a decent knife it vibrates and lacks compared to a 3 wheel direct drive.

It just doesn't compare to direct drive and vfd. The direct drive cuts down on the vibration a ton and makes a much smoother running machine. I almost bought a kmg but found someone selling their own build and vfd and it was the best buy for the price. Since time is a factor I'd go direct drive and vfd if bying a production grinder.


Well-Known Member
I have a suggestion. Get your grinder before you take Gill Hibben's class. I took his class in 2012 and got my grinder 4/5 months later. I would have done much better if I had some 'learning' time directly before and right after taking his class. Then you will not 'forget' as much as I did and you will probably get much more out of the class than I did.

After much research, I got the Wilmont TAG 101 and it is a great grinder. And get one of Fred Roe's Bubble Jig. A great learning aid.
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Fred Rowe

Well-Known Member
Much of the choice has to do with belt SFM and HP. Reversible or no. If you want to grind without pussy footing around :) purchase a machine with HP. If you can stall a grinder, it doesn't have enough HP. With the modern ceramic belts we have to choose from its foolish not to have a machine capable of 5,000 plus SFM belt speed.
Enjoy the journey, Fred

J. Hoffman

Dealer - Purveyor
I have had a TW90 for the last few years and have had no issues with the tooling arms (I also haven't dropped one). I've taken the arms out several hundred times, and there are visible marks on the arm from where it is clamped, but it by no means has marred the arm. I'm buying more tool arms (just because I need more attachments) and they are about $16 a piece.


Well-Known Member
On the same note my grinder and tooling arms are also aluminum. I haven't noticed any problems or inadequacies but i haven't dropped them either. My coote was solid steel but shook a little like a chihuahua in a 10 mph breeze. After running the direct drive on my aluminum grinder and seeing how silent and smooth it is I'm inclined to say that direct drive made as much of a difference in the smoothness as moving from 2 wheels to three.