Wise Buys: Bench Grinders
Why buy? Woodworkers use this tool mainly for sharpening, but also for grinding down hardware, and, with wire wheels or cloth buffing wheels, cleaning and polishing. A variable-speed machine better suits this wide range of jobs than a single-speed, 3,450-rpm model. Slow the tool for sharpening; use higher speeds for cleaning, buffing, and polishing. We prefer an 8" grinder because the 1"-wide wheels provide a broad sharpening surface, and the fast rim speed grinds and polishes quickly. 6" models cost less, but cut slower (better for sharpening), and provide only 3/4"-wide wheels. We tested 11 slow- and variable-speed models and found these three offer good value for the daily grind.
Craftsman 21162 (8"); 21154 (6")
Wheels: 60-grit silicon carbide, wire brush
RPM: 1,800-3,315 (8"); 1,870-3,180 (6")
If you change wheels frequently, you'll appreciate this grinder. Removing just one threaded knob frees the wheel cover. An included wrench holds the motor shaft while you loosen the arbor nut. The same wrench helps you loosen the tool rests for sliding them forward and back.
The grinding wheel works for touching up tool edges, and I used the wire wheel to clean rust from an old hand plane. The included accessories offer a mixed bag of performance: The star-wheel dressing tool works fine for truing 60-grit and coarser wheels; a drill-bit sharpening plate mounts on either tool rest (but I had little luck reviving bits with it); a handy quench cup clips to the base and holds water for cooling tools while sharpening.
The 6" and 8" versions of this grinder have near-identical features, so let your needs and wallet dictate your choice.
Get it if: You need rough grinding as well as wire-wheel cleaning.
Forget it if: You expect razor-sharp tools from the 60-grit wheel.
-- Tested by Craig Ruegsegger, Projects Editor
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