The 7 Best Belt Grinders for Knife Making: A Guide for Beginner Smiths

Last Updated: by Peter Lynn

Belt grinders are the centerpiece of the modern knife maker’s workstation.

Yes, a hand file can carry out the same function; sharpening, flattening, and stock removal of metal, but over a way longer period and with more effort.

Wild guess: You don’t want that, right?

If you’re a serious hobbyist who wants to make more knives or newbie looking for his first machine, then you sure need a top-notch belt grinder. Sure, the features and price would vary according to your needs.

To this end, I put in several hours to research and compile a list of seven belt grinders for knife making that can serve beginners, hobbyists or anyone on a budget. I’ve also explained the features you need to consider to find a grinder that fits you perfectly at the end of the article.

Let’s dive in.

The best belt grinder for knife making is easily the Grizzly G1051. It features a standard 2 x 72” belt size and a powerful 1HP motor. These, in addition to its blazing 3600FPM belt speed and flat platen, can grind, shape, and remove metal materials fast and accurately.  Lastly, its price isn’t over the top, considering its quality.

 

The Best Belt Grinders for Knife Making Are:

ProductDetails
1. Grizzly G1051 2 x 72” Belt Grinder

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2. Palmgren 81061 2 x 42” Belt & Disc Grinder

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3. Grizzly H6070 Combo Grinder

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4. Jet 41002 Belt & Disc Grinde

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5. Kalamazoo 1SM 1 x 42” Belt Grinder

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6. Kalamazoo 2FSM 2 x 48” Belt Grinder

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7. Jet 4002 1 X 42” Belt and Disc Grinder

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1. Grizzly G1051 2 x 72” Belt Grinder – Overall Best Belt Grinder

Unless you want an industrial-grade belt sander (with a ginormous price tag), the Grizzly G1051 is arguably the best sander for knife making. It is a powerful grinder that’s suitable for any bladesmith looking to do a lot of heavy stock removal and grinding.

Specs

  • 2” X 72” belt size
  • 1 HP motor
  • Belt arm can be tilted
  • 3600 FPM belt speed
  • Quick-release belt system

What I Like About This Product

Aside from its lack of variable speed, the Grizzly 1051 performs almost as good as an industrial-grade grinder that costs double or even triple its price. First, it uses 2 x 72” belts, which are the standard for knife making, last longer, and have a wide array of sander material available.

Also, it has a sturdy base that prevents any wobbling or vibration on whatever platform you mount it on.

Most importantly, I loved the power and speed of the G1051. With a 1HP motor and belt speed of 3600 FPM, you can bring your knife to life (stock removal) in a matter of minutes, if you know your craft.

Lastly, belt replacement is a walk in the park with the Grizzly 1051. A pull of its spring tension arm quickly releases the belt.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The most glaring drawback of the G1051 is its work plate. It’s too small to get any reasonable work done. But you can attach a larger plate for a few bucks or nothing if you have the material.

For one, I don’t like that it has a single speed. It’s very fast, and you can make errors doing detail or finish work, especially if you’re a beginner.

Lastly, for a belt grinder its price, its tracking is poor. Not to mention its platen is poorly made, but all these can be fixed with some DIY tips online.

Pros

  • Sturdy build
  • Fast and efficient performance
  • Uses 2 x 72” belts that last longer
  • Easy to install unit and change belts

Cons

  • Poor tracking
  • Platen is too close to the work surface

Sum Up

At its price point, the Grizzly 1015 is a great place to start If you want to have a taste of a premium belt grinder

Overall Rating – 4.7/ 5

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2. Palmgren 81061 2 x 42” Belt & Disc Grinder – Best Budget Belt Grinder

Palmgren 81061 is one of the most powerful budget belt grinders for knife making in the market. For its price, it packs quite a punch and adds more value as a combo and 2” category belt grinder.

Specs

  • 1/3 HP motor
  • 2 x 42” belt with 4400 SFPM speed
  • 6” disc with 3500 RPM speed
  • Belt arm tilts vertically and horizontally

What I Like About This Product

Although it has a meager 1/3 HP motor, it surprisingly held up to the pressure of its breakneck drive wheel speed (belt speed).

With this machine running at 4000 fpm, you can breeze through stock removal, shaping, or any grinding in a matter of minutes. But therein also lies one of its biggest drawbacks that I’ll discuss later.

Regardless, I particularly like how Palmgren doesn’t spare the overall quality of this product despite its relatively low price. All its parts and accessories are constructed high-quality material.

What I Don’t Like About The Machine

It’s almost impossible to change belts with this model. The wheels are very close to the guard, so its difficult to fit anything other than thin belts. However, some parts of the belt guards can be cut off to give space for a faster replacement of belts

Another issue is that the platen isn’t flat and it’s wider than the belt. Again, you can correct this flaw by adding a glass or ceramic platen on top of the stock one.

Lastly, it’s blazing fast. If you lose focus for a second, you might make errors with no trace of where you went wrong. In hindsight, it’s an advantage if you’re careful enough.

Pros

  • Fast grinding work
  • Sturdy frame and well-made accessories for its price category
  • Minimal noise
  • Easily fixable drawbacks

Cons

  • Single-phase with very fast belt speed
  • You may need to buy another platen
  • It is impractical to change thick belts unless you cut off parts of its belt guards

Sum Up

Beyond the drawbacks, the Palmgren 81062 is a good option for anyone with a tight budget looking to make decent knives. If you aren’t a newbie, you might have to make some modifications to meet your taste.

It’s the powerhouse of 2 x 42” grinders.

Overall Rating – 4.5/5

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3. Grizzly H6070 Combo Grinder – Best Value Buy

The Grizzly H6070 is one of the most popular belt grinders among beginners. It’s also a good product to test out if knife making is your thing or hone your skills in the craft.

Specs

  • 1/3 HP motor
  • 1 x 30” belts and 5” disc
  • Adjustable work surfaces (45 degrees to the right)
  • Manual tracking adjustment
  • Factory assembled

What I like About This Product

Obviously, it’s a very affordable grinder but surprisingly still gets the job done, but not in a magnificent manner. Well, it’s a 1 x 30” grinder, so I didn’t expect much.

Also, it’s very portable and lightweight, just about 20 pounds. Despite this, it doesn’t rattle, shake or vibrate while you’re working on it, just hums. So, I’ll recommend it for folks without a workbench or who intend to move the machine around.

The Grizzly H6070 is remarkably powerful for its size. The belt and disc sander can be used simultaneously without power bogging down if a reasonable amount of pressure is applied.

What I Don’t Like About This Product.

Although the moving parts are made with iron, spot a tough plastic material that can break if handled roughly. Not a surprise for a cheap product, but will last if handled properly.

Like I said earlier, it isn’t specifically made for heavy metal grinding. If you apply too much pressure, the power will bog down or burn.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Removes material well enough for a beginner
  • Good bang for the buck

Cons

  • Has many cheaply made parts
  • Disc pad replacement is clumsy.
  • Belts break easily. Also doesn’t fit thicker or lower (from 30 grits) grit belts.

Sum Up

If you are experimenting with knife making, the Grizzly H6070 is a nice entry point grinder, despite its power and belt size.

Overall Rating – 4/5

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4. Jet 41002 Belt & Disc Grinder – Best For Beginners

The Jet 41002 is a mid-range sander that’s well built and good for beginners who would want to grind or shape their knives at a slower pace.

Specs

  • 3/4 HP motor
  • 2 x 42” belt size
  • 3100 belt speed
  • Miter gauge locks 45 degrees to the left and right
  • Removable platen with room for odd cuts

What I Like About This Product

The Jet 41002, without a doubt, is a heavy-duty grinder, weighing about 60 pounds. I’m especially impressed because it’s a benchtop belt grinder.

Despite its seemingly weak motor, it shapes and grinds metal pretty fine – Be careful not to apply much pressure to the platen.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

Its motor is downright weak. The slightest overkill on the machine may burn the motor. Plus, there are cheaper sanders that are more powerful, though, not as durable.

Furthermore, changing the belt is stressful. You have to take out the work table every time you need a belt change, which can be multiple times in one session.  If it isn’t a problem, good, but if it is, you can cut off the back right side of the work table to solve this.

Pros

  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Spacious work area makes it easy to make difficult cuts
  • Replacement belts last longer, are cheap, and readily available

Cons

  • Weak motor
  • Work table has to be removed before every belt change
  • Expensive

Sum Up

If you are a beginner looking to get a durable 2 x 42” grinder, Jet 41002 is a good option. Of course, it isn’t all that pocket-friendly considering its power.

Overall Rating – 4.2/5

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5. Kalamazoo 1SM 1 x 42” Belt Grinder – Best Portable Belt Sander

Kalamazoo Industries is a trusted equipment brand, and you can also trust the 1SM as the best 1” belt grinder in the market. Perfect for folks looking for a backup grinder or mainly intend to use it for sharpening and good for beginner bladesmiths.

Specs

  • 1/3 HP motor
  • 1 x 42” belt size
  • 1750 FPM belt speed

What I Like About This Product

The Kalamazoo 1SM is a small machine that removes material pretty decently. It has a rather weak 1/3 motor – still stronger than the Jet 41002 and most 1” grinders – but enough to support its average 1750 FPM belt speed.

Also, the belt speed is slow enough to avoid burning your work, perform detail work and sharpening, and help beginners master the art of knife making. But avoid overheating the steel by grinding your work for long without breaks.

Of course, the Kalamazoo 1SM is portable: it has a small frame and weighs only about 30 pounds.

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The work plate of the 1SM is flimsy and positioned awkwardly. A mild bump is enough to shift the plate out of position. Also, your work can and will hit the motor if you are grinding anything larger than a hand file on the work plate.

As you’d expect with any 1” belt grinder, you’ll burn through a ridiculous amount of belts within a short time.

Pros

  • Portable and light
  • Its moderate belt speed is good for detail work and beginners
  • Powerful motor for its size and speed
  • Easy belt replacement
  • Nice tracking adjustment
  • Good for slack belt grinding

Cons

  • Belts burn or break easily
  • Contact plate is too close to the motor and wobbly

Sum Up

The Kalamazoo 1SM is a good choice for anyone looking to do detail work and beginners trying to hone their skills. Its speed is modest, and tracking adjustment is easy.

It’s the king of 1” belt grinders.

Overall Rating – 4.5/5

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6. Kalamazoo 2FSM 2 x 48” Belt Grinder

Kalamazoo’s 2FSM grinder grinds and removes materials at blazing speed. It has a powerful motor and overall quality that would make a good entry point grinder for most knife makers.

Specs

  • Works vertically or horizontally
  • 1/2 HP motor
  • 2 x 48” belt size
  • 3,450 RPM belt speed

What I Like About This Product?

The Kalamazoo 2FSM is a powerful grinder, perhaps the most powerful grinder on this list after the Grizzly 1051.

It removes material very quickly and, shockingly, also makes pretty good bevels. However, it can’t make hollow grinds because the motor would hinder the large drive wheel.

What I Don’t Like About This Product?

This may be a relative issue, but its static build-up stings, but sure is fixable. Although it’s relatively easy to replace belts, it’s more comfortable if the belt guards are removed.

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Removes material fast and accurately
  • Easy to change belts

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Tracking (platen) adjustment is stressful

Sum Up

Overall, the Kalamazoo 2FSM is perfect for anyone looking for a fast and powerful grinder or an affordable substitute for a 2 x 72” grinder.

Overall Rating – 4.6/5

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7. Jet 4002 1 X 42” Belt and Disc Grinder – Best Belt Grinder for Detailing

The Jet 4002 has one of the most powerful motors amongst 1” grinders. It is very well built and can grind, shape, or sharpen knives fast.

Specs

  • Heavy-duty construction
  • 1/3 HP motor
  • 1 x 42” belt size
  • 3000 SFPM belt speed

What I Like About This Product?

The belt size, though, smaller than the industry standard, makes it suitable for detail work or touch-ups on knives. It also tracks well and barely needs any adjustments.

Asides that, it’s a well-built machine with heavy-duty construction and satisfactory finish of most of its parts.

Finally, it is very easy to assemble. It takes about 30 – 45 minutes to get it up and running.

What I Don’t Like About This Product?

As opposed to its advertisement, the miter gauge of the Jet 4002 isn’t deluxe. It has a loose fit, and at 5/8” wide, it’s smaller than the 3/4” standard.

Another misleading statement is that it features a Power Take Off to mount a flex shaft (PTO). For one, it doesn’t, mounting it through the internal threads in the grinder would likely fail. That said, it is not the all-rounder other reviews portray it to be.

Pros

  • Sturdy construction
  • Powerful motor aids a smooth grinding experience
  • Easy to assemble
  • Superb tracking

Cons

  • Can’t be used for drum sanding, carving and deburring as claimed by the manufacturers
  • Miter gauge isn’t “deluxe”

Sum Up

If you don’t mind grinding for longer periods, or perhaps need a belt grinder for detail work, I’ll recommend the JET 4002 grinder.

Overall Rating – 4.0/5

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Why Use A Belt Grinder?

As a modern bladesmith, a belt grinder is indispensable. Here are a few reasons why:

Ease of Use

Using a belt grinder makes it easy to perform most types of griding techniques, like profiling, finishing, flattening, sharpening, and more. You just have to guide the metal, while the machine does all the heavy work from start to finish.

Quick Material Removal

If you’ve used a hand file to grind a knife before, you’ll appreciate how fast you can get the job done with a grinder – one that’s right for knife making.

That being said, it can take anywhere from minutes to a few hours to forge a knife on a powerful or appropriate belt grinder.

How To Choose The Best Belt Grinder For Knife Making

Size

The size of the belt grinder is perhaps one of the most important factors to consider when shopping for one.

Frame Size

Belt grinders vary in overall “body” size. So, if you have limited space in your workshop, try to find the best compact grinder you can find.

If you also intend to move the machine around, find an equally light one. However, there’s a huge chance it will vibrate or wobble when powered.

Belt Size

The belt size is arguably the most important sort of size you should consider in a grinder. The ideal belt size for a knife making grinder is 2 x 72”. But newbies experimenting with knife making or hobbyists can still forge some good quality knives on the right 2 x 42”  grinder.

The 1” machines won’t grind metal efficiently and are at best, only good for sharpening, detail work, and grinding non-metal material. Plus, their belts need to be changed like clothes because they cut easily. If you insist on a 1” machine due to its lower price, get one that can accept ceramic-abrasive belts for increased efficiency.

In the end though, you’ll be glad you invested in a 2 x 72” if you’ve used smaller grinders earlier. Lastly, never settle for a 4 x 36” grinder;  its too slow, wide, and underpowered for any meaningful knife work.

Speed

A grinder with multi-phases or VFD (variable frequency drive) speed is the go-to for knife makers. The ability to change speeds helps you to do heavy stock removal, refining, and finishing with ease and accuracy.

But then, unless you are getting a used one, a grinder with variable speed will cost a fortune.

Get a single-phase belt sander with a speed that you can handle (between 1725 – 3600). Anything out of that range will either be dawdly, or too fast and prone to errors.

Power

A belt grinder is powered by a motor –  the large cylindrical best the belt that looks like a pump.

An average belt grinder should have a 1HP motor. I won’t advise you to go for anything higher if you aren’t going to be making a lot of knives. The price tag jumps off the roof once you cross that range (over a thousand dollars), unless you are building one yourself.

Regardless, you can make do with a lower-powered grinder if you’re on a tight budget or are a newbie bladesmith.

Tip: Don’t push the knife against the platen to avoid overheating or blowing off the motor. Let the machine do its magic, especially if you are using a small 3/4 HP grinder.

Final Thoughts

With doubt, the Grizzly G1051 is the clear winner of the Best Belt Grinder. It’s a 2 x 72” belt grinder that runs a powerful 1HP motor, unlike any other product in this review.

Its flat platen and remarkably fast belt speed can remove materials and make even bevels with ease, speed, and accuracy. But the thing is, its work surface is rather small for large workpieces.

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