Free Antique Bench Grinder

Basement, Blog, Woodworking / Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

Okay, I know I wrote about how I don’t think collecting trash is a great idea in my post last week about my DIY Chalkboard, but this week I have another story about someone else’s trash becoming my treasure. This time I came across a free antique bench grinder, and I knew I had to have it. Why? I still haven’t figured that out.

Often times, seasoned woodworkers caution you not to buy tools unless you need it for a project on hand. If you buy all the tools you think you’ll need in advance of actually needing them, it’s likely you’re going to spend money on something you don’t need and you’ll never end up using. Fantastic advice, if you ask me. But it also leaves the gray area of, what if the tool is free?

For a long time, I’ve wanted a bench grinder but I’ve refrained from getting one because I didn’t really know why I wanted it. I didn’t know what I’d do with it either. Maybe I thought I’d figure it out once I had it. They’re relatively cheap. At the home goods store, I think the cheapest model I’ve seen is $40, and Craigslist can have used ones for cheaper. Something, though, kept me from pulling the trigger on that buy.

I’m glad I did. One, because I ended up with a free antique bench grinder. And two, because even though I have a free one, I haven’t actually used it yet.

In addition to the free section of Craigslist, I also cruise the For Sale and Free section of the local NextDoor site. About a month ago, someone posted they had an antique bench grinder, so I messaged them and said I could come pick it up that evening. They said they’d leave it out for me along with an old salamander heater. It was their grandpa’s bench grinder and heater. I didn’t end up taking the heater because I didn’t have any use for it, but I happily grabbed the antique bench grinder.

When I got it home and into the light, the bench grinder didn’t look like much. It was covered in several decades of grime. The thing was mounted on a tabletop, the motor separate from the spinning arms and extensions. I quickly set about separating it all and condensing the footprint so I could easily store it before I got a chance to clean it. Fortunately, it appeared to be put together by an amateur, so it easily came apart by this amateur.

After it was apart, it sat for a while before I had a good chance to sit down and clean it. But once I got into it, I really got into it. I took an afternoon, at my doctor’s advice to stay away from my wife while I was quarantined with the mumps, to scrub all the pieces and set up the grinder in a way that made the most sense to me. Really, I didn’t need all the attachment arms on it.

Everything on the antique bench grinder seemed to be in great shape. The motor spun freely once I figured out how to plug it in. The motor was originally wired with a light bulb socket which had an extension cord with a male bulb plug on both ends. I ended up plugging the free end into my shop lamp to test the motor and it worked. I got an appliance power cable from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to hook up to the motor going forward.

Now that the grinder is clean and mounted in a less scary way, it’s been sitting under my ShopSmith ever since. I need to get a proper belt for it so I can attach the motor to the attachments. I might have an extra lying around but I haven’t been motivated to try it yet. It all goes back to that only buy tools when you need the tools. I still haven’t really figured out what I’ll use a grinder for. I might attach a wire wheel brush to it and a buffing wheel so I can clean up the other old tools in my basement. I also might attach the 4″ sanding disk to it so I can quickly sand things without needing to convert my ShopSmith to sanding mode (though I’m sure the sanding abilities of the ShopSmith 1/2HP motor outweigh the tiny motor on the grinder).

The other issue I have is that the grinder is attached to a hunk of wood, but I don’t really have a good place to put that wood. This isn’t a power grab for more work space in my shop, it’s a real need for more work space. I’ve wanted to build a sturdy workbench to replace the kitchen island I’m using now, but I don’t know where I’ll put it in my shop. I’ll need to figure that out so I can build a place in it for the grinder to live. I’ve heard of some cool things being done with KitchenAid mixer under the counter mounts. That might be a neat way to mount the bench grinder if I can build the right workbench.

But again, it might not be worth it to buy the mount if I don’t have a use for it. So, what do you use your bench grinder for? What should I use mine for?

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