Bench Grinder Basics
Learn how to use a conventional bench grinder for perfect bevels on your chisels and plane irons
You don’t need a high-priced, slow-speed, wet grinder to obtain perfect bevels on your chisels and plane irons. Learn how to use a conventional bench grinder to get the job done, without gouging your wallet.
First, you probably need to make a few changes to your bench grinder. An aftermarket tool rest is the key to getting those perfect bevel angles quickly and easily. Next, you’ll need to outfit your grinder with a cooler-running “friable” wheel. The standard grey wheel that comes packaged with most grinders generates way too much heat for woodworking tools. Most firable wheels are white aluminum-oxide, but Norton’s newer ceramic alumina “3X” wheels stay just as cool but are more durable and don’t need to be dressed as often. Speaking of dressing the wheel, yes, you need to do it, but it’s easy with a diamond wheel dresser. The key to the grinding technique in this video is a slight curve across the edge of the wheel (see illustration below), as opposed to the flat edge most people think is right. You’ll need the wheel dresser to create that curve, and to reshape it when the center wears down.
Fix Damaged Chisels Before Grinding a Bevel
To fix chisels full of nicks along the cutting edge, or chisels whose cutting edges aren’t square, start by using a square and a fine-tip marker to draw a reference line. Set your tool rest to a 90-degree angle (as referenced to the wheel) and blunt the tip, working your way up to your line. Now re-set the tool rest to the desired angle (25-degrees is the most common angle) and grind the new bevel until the blunt edge has disappeared and you’ve achieved a nice burr along the back side of the tool.