A while ago I came across a small 15kg Hardwear anvil on Facebook. It was priced really well and I’ve always had a fascination with anvils so I got it and I was super excited.
It was dirty and rusted so I first took great care to clean it to a majestic, like-new state, then decided to forego the default tree stump base and instead built it a super nice base out of some 100×100 timber posts with flatbar straps holding them together with the help of some beefy coach screws. The wood was charred and oiled and it just looked amazing.
Shortly after and thanks to my dad pointing it out, I sold the small one and instead got a massive 125kg / 275lb 19th century replacement for which I built the same type of base.
As is the nature of my character, the acquisition of a massive anvil begged that of a forge and a range of hammers. Soon I was able to forge an old rusted chisel I picked up in a field behind my house into a blade and make a little rudimentary knife, and that dear friends is how I got hooked on knife making…
Now, I’m no stranger to knife making as both my father and his father before him have had their fill of the craft and quite successfully so. But what they didn’t have access to during their stints is the modern wonder of YouTube, just filled to the brim with all kinds of information and how-to guides.
After producing my second knife on regular DIY-level belt sanders, I quickly realised that if I was to really commit to the hobby, I would need a proper 2×72 belt sander with a motor that doesn’t come to a standstill when I feed it a chunk of metal…
And so we finally arrive at the topic at hand…
Deciding on a Belt Grinder
There are so many options out there when you first jump down the belt grinder rabbit hole. Half the world will tell you to build your own, while the other half reckons you should buy a locally manufactured one. Because how could you EVER consider something made anywhere else? Least of all… Dare I say it… Chinese!
But that’s exactly what I did. Like most things from China, it’s impossible to make it yourself for the prices they’re selling it at and unless you’re already a professional knife maker or the lucky winner of many, successive lotteries, there’s no buying a locally designed and manufactured one either.
After a significant amount of research, I finally decided to pull the trigger on a Vevor 2HP / 1500W variable speed, 3-phase VFD belt grinder. The only catch? It’s a 2×82: A belt format that about 2.3 people in the world use.
Thankfully there was no shortage of videos on YouTube detailing a variety of methods of converting it to take 2×72 belts and in the end after some careful measuring and calculations, I made a single cut, 30mm from the back of the 40mm x 40mm black steel tool arm reducing it from 460mm to 430mm total length. The cut allowed the tool arm to move backwards far enough to accept the shorter, standard knife-makers belt without losing the ability to take the 2×82 belts that came with it: A strategic move on my part as I’m SUCH a cheapskate 🙂
Following this conversion, I tested various belt types (hard backed ceramic, soft backed zirconium) with zero issues and even went on to produce a knife with relative ease.
Savings always comes at a cost, and I’ll be the first to admit that some things aren’t worth saving on. But in this case, my primary concern was getting a belt grinder with a strong, variable speed motor that could feed an abrasive belt at reasonable speeds for the purpose of knife making. I didn’t care how it looked, and for the price I paid I certainly didn’t expect everything to line up within a tolerance to the tune of microns. I only needed it to work, and boy did it exceed my expectations! Compared to the cost of some local alternatives, the Vevor is an absolute steal that offers near-professional manufacturing capabilities to even the most humble of budding knife makers at a fraction of the price of the competition.
While the grinder is fully functional in it’s current state, I’m not a big fan of the VFD control box laying around my workbench and will definitely be undertaking some additional manufacturing to secure it somewhere out of the way. It’s nor surprise that the efficiency with which this belt grinder removes stock, there’s a LOT of dust being generated and to that end, I also still need to sort out a decent workshop dust collector or I’ll no doubt end up with the black lung in due course…