Hand-Cranked Bench Grinder Restoration

No Brand Found - But Hey

In my last post I talked about having picked up a second tool when I got the Stanley Defiance plane at The Tool Box.  As a matter-of-fact, I referred to this tool as "a future project."  Well, the future is now!  This project is of an unknown brand of a hand-cranked, bench-clamped grinder that I picked up for a grand total of $4!  

Many woodworkers fear the act of grinding.  And “fear” might be too kind a word.  I’ve had several woodworkers send me tools to grind for them (please don’t do this). Other woodworkers spend hundreds of dollars on fancy tool rests or other grinding jigs to ensure that the tool will not catch fire, steal their spouse then go on a tri-state killing spree. - Christopher Schwartz in Popular Woodworking

The Assessment

Here's a closer look.  Yep, it's old and well-used, but it felt solid as can be.  Clearly it would need to be dismantled, stripped and painted.

I even mounted it on the vise board and all the gearing worked, and the grinder was definitely solid in the saddle with no rocking, shaking or rattling.  Not only that, the grinder seemed to have all its parts, including the tool rest!

The only odd thing I really noticed was the silver paint.  In this closer view of the tool rest, you can see that the silver paint is really thick.  For a couple days I couldn't figure out what it was.  Eventually I figured it out - we'll come to that.


Taking the grinder apart wasn't really that difficult, especially when you consider how few parts are actually involved.  Even though there were only a few main pieces and about an equal number of screws and bolts, it took a surprising number of tools to take the grinder apart...

I started off by removing the tool rest stanchion and the grinding stone.  Then, to get to the insides, I had to grind off the nut holding the back cover in place.  Clearly, with the type of rust in various parts of the grinder, there had been some moderately significant exposure to moisture...

With the cover off, I got my first look at the simplicity of the gearing.  The big gear here is driven by the handle mounted on the other side, and drives the gear built into that top bolt, which is where the stone gets mounted...

The gearing was in surprisingly good shape with just a minimal amount of surface rust.  To get the handle off though was a bit of a challenge.  I actually had to take my torch to it to get it to loosen up...

Cleaning Up

The first thing that needed to be done was to strip that awful silver paint, and other layers of various colors.  So, once again, out came the trusty dusty Citrus Strip, and let it sit for most of the day.

And let me tell you - this was the absolute messiest strip job ever!  Of course, me being new to this blogging thing and all, it didn't occur to me to take a picture of it so, I suppose you'll just have to trust me on this one.  The messiness of the paint it was brought me to the realization that the silver paint was that thick, goopy aluminum paint used on old porch roofs, like the porch roofs here at 173.

Let me tell you something - that stuff is a mess on the best of days and on a roof!  It confounds me why anyone would paint a tool with the stuff.  Nonetheless, the paint stripper took it off, huge mess and all, and the grinder was already looking better...

Even the inside was looking - fabulous!  Gosh, I haven't used that word in a thousand years, I think it's time to resurrect it!

Painting - Can You Guess the Color?

To be honest, there was a few minutes when I considered leaving the grinder with the bare metal look.  There's something appealing about the industrial look of it, but I just couldn't do it.  I think the biggest reason is that I don't think I'll use it enough to keep oils on it, and it would probably just start rusting again.  So - paint it would be!  If you look closer at that earlier picture, you might notice some pitting on the grinder.  I thought this might have been from the rust, but a closer look makes me think it was just casting voids.  So I decided to fill them in with a little Bondo...

Interestingly, this is only the second time I've used Bondo, maybe in my life.  Certainly, the last time I used it was to fill in some tiny dents when I restored the inherited oil can last July.  

After a little sanding, it was time to tape off and spray some primer!

Every time I do one of these projects, and I mean every time, when I finally get to the painting stage, I think back to when dad and I were painting the north end of the house, after dad had effectively redone the entire outside of the house.  He had ripped out the front porch, built a new front room, closed in the back porch and made it into a laundry room, and I don't even remember what else.  And the time had finally come to paint the house.  It seemed we spent weeks wire brushing the shingles, peeling old window glaze, and re-glazing all those windows. And now, at long last we were painting.  

And we're back to the north end...I have no idea what smart-ass comment I made, but I'll never forget dad saying, "It always takes three times longer to get ready to paint than painting takes."  Knock it off, I see you rolling your eyes - I know it wasn't profound, it's just one of those things I've always remembered and think about every single time I paint something, mostly because it's true!  Which brings us back to this project.  

Obviously, the primary color is Krylon's Cherry Red, but the back plate and a couple parts of the tool rest I used Krylon Satin Black.

After the painting was done, which totaled maybe 10 or 15 minutes, I let the paint cure under my makeshift EZ Bake Oven...

Then, after a little grease and reassembly, 

Wait! I Almost Forgot the Handle!

Geeze, I was about to move onto the reveal (as if that's a secret) and it dawned on me I hadn't mentioned the handle.  I'm a little tickled about it, but let's be straight up about this - I didn't make the handle...nonetheless.  Let's start with the original...

The original handle was pretty rough.  I tried some paint stripper, to no avail, and I tried sanding, but there were so many layers of paint, and the wood was so impregnated with decades of oil and grease that there was just no saving it.  

I fretted over this in the early stages of the restoration, then it dawned on me - I already have a wooden handle and it's just the right size!

Way back in '97, 173 got a new bathroom sink and faucet.  The faucet came with two sets of handles - ceramic and wood.  The white ceramic handles fit perfectly with the bathroom d├ęcor, so I tucked the wooden handles away...in 1997!  And here we are, a quarter century later and don't ya know! Good thing I held onto them!

When I first removed the original handle, I had to grind off the peened-over end, leaving the bar a little short.  So, to the drill press and recessing the end of the handle with a Forstner bit...

And with a washer to reduce wear on the recessed end, the grinder had a new handle!

The Reveal!

And with that and a couple minutes of reassembly, the grinder was done! 

Here's an inside view with a nice look at the black inside cover and the tool rest...

And a little staged shot...

And perhaps my favorite beauty shot!

I love how this ol' grinder turned out.  Not sure how much use it'll get, I'll probably look for opportunities to experiment with it.  Also, I'd love to show you a shot of the grinder in its natural habitat, but quite frankly I don't know where that'll be.  But it'll sort itself out!  Maybe I'll give a little update when that happens.  Until then - 

Stay safe out there!

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