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Hand Grinding Sucks


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I have decided that hand grinding sucks. Unfortunately I dont have the $ to buy a belt grinder. I have spent a good deal of time on my files working on my first ever knife. I like the shape and size but I have to admit the bevel didnt come out as well as I want. Possibly because I had to bevel it by hand with only a bit of help from a wheel grinder (which wasnt much help at all). The wheel grinder is just not suited to this and the file work is back breaking. Although I plan to still heat treat then etch then sharpen then put a handle on the knife, I know that it will be a good thing to have to show where I came from in the future.

 

At any rate, the issues I found were that it was difficult to get the bevel on a straight angle. Without a platen and belt grinder, I wonder how the old fashioned people did it. I did learn one lesson though which was to make the metal thicker when forging the shape because you will remove a lot of metal (and I imagine even more with a belt grinder.) However, I think I would need some sort of jig to get the angles just right to do a good bevel. For hand work perhaps something could be crafted out of wood which would hold the blade in position for the bevel. Anyone have a jig like that which they could snap some pics of?

 

Oh and trying to hollow grind with a wheel just didnt work. I suppose with a jig of some sort, that could be accomplished as well. Again, I would be interested in things people have for keeping the bevel straight. I dont know if I could reliably shape a hollow grind without a belt grinder but I like the sharpness of that grind. I have a factory made hollow ground fish filleting knife that is sharp as hell and has been that way a long time.

 

Anyway, I would appreciate any and all tips. I can do the forging quite well and the rest of the shaping but the bevel just is bumming me out. I will finish this piece and then give it another go. After all, I have plenty of cable I can weld up.

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cool.gifcool.gif..... welcome to the world of knife making K ... what's your first name ?

 

It sounds like you need to get yourself to a hammer in or a workshop/demonstration... maybe visiting a knifemaker near you...

 

with good sharp file and properly annealed steel it is pretty quick to shape a blade by hand... and there is a lot more control doing it by hand than with a machine.

 

the best method to get the angle correct is to draw file the blade with a pull stroke... one stroke at a time... you have a lot more control pulling than pushing a file...

 

make one pass and then adjust the angle you are holding the file at if you need to... once you get the correct angle started be anal about laying the file on the previous

 

flat section you just filed... rock the file till you can "feel" it is sitting flat on that cut you previously took... then try to maintain that same angle as you pull the file in

 

one long pull from one end to the other... It takes some practice ( all this stuff doeswink.gif)... most of us were hacks when we first started out and have learned how to draw file inspite out lack of experience when we first started...so it is something that can you can do if you put some time into it...

 

there are some you tube videos on draw filling that would make it easier to understand than my attempt with words..

 

Some of us don't use a grinder and prefer using a file ... Some are the other way... You should learn how to do it both ways... they both have their pros and cons..

 

Dick

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I'm one of those who actually prefers to file. I do use a small belt grinder for heavy, rough work, but I can get much better lines, and a nicer surface quality, with files.

 

Besides a sharp file and a certain amount of technique with it (which Dick laid out nicely above), make sure the blade is fully annealed, and all the scale is removed with acids or by sanding. Both hard steel and scale will wreck a file very quickly! A very solid work support helps too, I clamp a hardwood board in my post vise, then clamp my blade down to that. I like to have the work at around elbow height, lower or higher feels awkward to me and can actually cause 'tennis elbow'.

 

Big files have bigger teeth, and usually cut faster...for most work I tend to buy the biggest ones I can find, 12" or 14". Small files are better for detail work, obviously. Dull files can be resharpened somewhat by soaking them in acids...I've used vinegar with some success. They will never be as sharp as they are brand-new, though.

 

I also made myself a Sen (Japanese metal-cutting drawknife), which I really like as a compliment to files...the cutting action can be extremely aggressive, with actual little curls of metal coming off. Basically it's a big one-toothed file that can be easily resharpened. There is info here about them if you use the search function (try google, too, although you'll mostly get photos of the super-hot Indian actress, Riya Sen ;))

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It's not clear from your post how you are filing. There are many techniques, but the two most important ones are cross filing and draw filing.

 

Cross filing is holding the file handle in one hand and pushing it along the length of the file. This is good for truing up plunge cuts, filing in shoulders, that sort of thing.

 

Draw filing uses the file held at 90 degrees (more or less) to the work, pulling or pushing the file along the work. The file will bite better one directions than the other, depending on which hand the handle is held in. I find, with single cut files, holding the handle in my left hand and pulling toward me works best. With the handle in my right hand, a push stroke works best. It often takes a few strokes to "dress" the surface, but then the file really starts to bite, peeling off a lot of material with each stroke. I find a glove on at least one hand (the one holding the bare end of the file) keeps blisters down.

 

When you are draw filing, work your way down the file, using a fresh surface every couple of strokes. When you reach the end, flip the file over and start again. After a couple of flips, or whenever you feel or see galling happening, knock the file against the benchtop to loosen the filings. Clamping the blade to a backer (just a piece of wood) helps, since even a 7 or 8 inch blade will flex and give you strange results.

 

Getting rid of as much scale as you can makes the work go faster, and saves your files. An angle grinder is a good tool for removing scale, but also is a good tool for doing rough shaping.

 

About a year ago I was working on a Naginata (which I lost in the quench :( ). I was not getting the lines I wanted on the grinder, so I moved to draw filing. In just a day or so I had a 20 inch blade all prepped to HT.

 

I have never worked with a sen, but Don Fogg swears by them. It's like a draw knife with a short blade. Again, once you get the surface right, it really cuts material off of a blank.

 

There is nothing automatic (automagic?) about a belt grinder. Every tool and every process has a learning curve. I've been using my belt grinder since 2000 and I'm still finding new and better ways to do things.

 

Jigs are fine and I use a few, mostly, though, I grind freehand.

 

BTW, I believe that hollow grinding is an artifact of the process of grinding knives in an early factory setting. Grinding was done on huge stone wheels, sometimes as much a 10 feet in diameter. The grinder lay face down and pushed the blank under the wheel, on a jig. It must have been difficult, nasty work. IMHO most modern hollow grinds don't make very good cutting surfaces. The spines are too thick. This is just my opinion, and not intended as a criticism of the fine work done by makers here and elsewhere. I just don't like hollow grinds (though I have done some).

 

Sorry about the length of this post, I hope it helps you,

 

Geoff

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I used to feel the same way too.After finally getting a decent belt grinder I find myself using files as much as I ever did.Both have a learning curve,probably more so with a grinder.You can mess something up alot quicker with one.Plus,just about anything you can do with a grinder you can do with a few files.Keep at it.

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Trying to keep straight lines with any type of hand operated grinders(belt, wheel or stone) is frustrating at best. The only way to get really straight lines without CNC, is done by hand finishing, and with lots of practice. A belt grinder is a nice machine and very handy for the rough stuff, but it"ll screw you over just as fast as any other power tool. I also agree with the earier posts, sharp files, sanding plattens and plenty of elbow grease will produce some amazing results in a short amount of time.

 

 

 

Peter

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My name is Robert.

 

It sounds like you need to get yourself to a hammer in or a workshop/demonstration... maybe visiting a knifemaker near you...

 

That would be nice but honestly I dont know any near me. If anyone is in denver area and wants to pow-wow I am game.

 

with good sharp file and properly annealed steel it is pretty quick to shape a blade by hand... and there is a lot more control doing it by hand than with a machine.

 

the best method to get the angle correct is to draw file the blade with a pull stroke... one stroke at a time... you have a lot more control pulling than pushing a file...

 

Ok here is the rub. I was only able to get a few files from the hardware store. I wasn't able to get any smooth files or other files than the standard bastard and chainsaw files. Can you recommend a source that is great for files with reasonable prices and perhaps some brands? The few files I have now are by Nicholson. Can you link a supplier?

 

make one pass and then adjust the angle you are holding the file at if you need to... once you get the correct angle started be anal about laying the file on the previous

 

flat section you just filed... rock the file till you can "feel" it is sitting flat on that cut you previously took... then try to maintain that same angle as you pull the file in

 

Here I have some questions. When I create the blade shape, I do so on the anvil with the hammer. I didn't actually do the bevel shaping on the anvil but now I am wondering if I should do some of the bevel on the anvil. What do you think? Do you know any videos of people doing that for rent or online?

 

When it comes to filing down the bevel, I started with essentially flat stock. Now do I pick the angle for the blade and file off the corner at the angle? It seems that would be prone to problems if I picked the wrong angle, the blade would be off center. I guess another idea would be to scratch or draw in center lines I guess.

 

One issue that I have to deal with is getting the width of the forged blade right. I thought about rigging a jig on my anvil with two pieces of flat stock bordering the blank and then half flat stock hammer blows. That should get the black flat and consistent thickness.

 

What do you think is a good starting thickness minimum for a utility blade?

 

Do you think I ask too many questions? :)

 

Some of us don't use a grinder and prefer using a file ... Some are the other way... You should learn how to do it both ways... they both have their pros and cons..

 

Well I cant afford a grinder so it is academic. I appreciate all the good info.

Edited by kraythe
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I'm one of those who actually prefers to file. I do use a small belt grinder for heavy, rough work, but I can get much better lines, and a nicer surface quality, with files.

 

Well that is good to hear. Then perhaps the difficulties will be worth it.

 

Besides a sharp file and a certain amount of technique with it (which Dick laid out nicely above), make sure the blade is fully annealed, and all the scale is removed with acids or by sanding. Both hard steel and scale will wreck a file very quickly! A very solid work support helps too, I clamp a hardwood board in my post vise, then clamp my blade down to that. I like to have the work at around elbow height, lower or higher feels awkward to me and can actually cause 'tennis elbow'.

 

I like to forge the blade shape rather than cut it on saws and so on. I am handy with a hammer. I havent tried forming the blade bevel on the anvil but do you think I should give that a go? Any idea on best practices there?

 

Also what do you reccomend for taking the scale off. I started with my angle grinder but that can leave a surface with ground in irregularities and so on. I tried a bastard file but it just skipped off mostly. The wheel grinder just wont do the job well.

 

Big files have bigger teeth, and usually cut faster...for most work I tend to buy the biggest ones I can find, 12" or 14". Small files are better for detail work, obviously.

 

Where do you get your files?

 

I also made myself a Sen (Japanese metal-cutting drawknife), which I really like as a compliment to files...the cutting action can be extremely aggressive, with actual little curls of metal coming off. Basically it's a big one-toothed file that can be easily resharpened.

 

Now this sounds interesting to me. What did you make this out of? I will look up the instructions.

 

There is info here about them if you use the search function (try google, too, although you'll mostly get photos of the super-hot Indian actress, Riya Sen ;))

 

Hmm, I have a weakness for Indian women so that isnt exactly a drawback. :) But I am married so I have to be careful. Happily I might add, dont want to make her feel bad.

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Sorry about the length of this post, I hope it helps you,

 

Long posts mean a lot of information so I thank you heartily. I will ask you as well where you get your files and abrasives? Also can you give me an idea of the set of tools you use in order? For example, Bastard File, Smooth file, Emery Cloth, 100 grit, 220 grit, 400 grit.

 

BTW, I believe that hollow grinding is an artifact of the process of grinding knives in an early factory setting. ... IMHO most modern hollow grinds don't make very good cutting surfaces. The spines are too thick. This is just my opinion, and not intended as a criticism of the fine work done by makers here and elsewhere. I just don't like hollow grinds (though I have done some).

 

So what grind do you think holds the absolute sharpest (shaving sharp) edge the best and with longest life and easiest resharpening?

Edited by kraythe
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That is a lot of questions, and the answers to most of them are around here somewhere if you look. Try doing the Google advanced search of this site, since the built-in search function is not that great.

 

In no particular order,

 

Yes, most of us forge the bevels in on non-damascus blades, and on some damascus as well if it suits the desired pattern. With a little practice you can get a blade almost sharp right off the anvil. The technique is to just tilt the blade at the angle you want the bevel to be. The hammer will do one side while the anvil does the other. This will widen and lengthen the blade a bit, and you'll have to flip it on its spine to straighten it back out after each forging sequence. I do this with the last of the heat before putting the blade back in the fire. It just takes practice. Using a pair of bars as jigs like you suggest will give you a flat bar, but most of the time you will want some distal taper. In addition, the bar will get stuck between your cold bars as it expands from forging. There's a few reasons you don't see it done that way very often.

 

If you leave the blade as a flat bar, you're basically just doing a straight stock-removal knife. Nothing wrong with that at all, just a different technique. Stock removal guys who start with precision-ground flat stock usually do scribe the centerline of the edge, leaving it around .010" thick for heat treating, and work down to it from both sides. A surface plate and a height gauge are the usual tools for doing that. If you choose to go that way, straight filing at first will get you close to where you want, and drawfiling will finish it.

 

I use an angle grinder to knock off the scale. Flap disks are better than hard disks for this since they don't gouge as deeply. As you've discovered, a stone wheel bench grinder is not a tool that belongs in a knife shop. I actually sometimes use a broken grinder wheel to knock off the scale, though. Clamp the blade on a board and go to town with the flat side of the stone. It works pretty well, slower than an angle grinder, but more controllable.

 

On files, Nicholsons are fine. I use a 16" single-cut bastard with one edge ground smooth for initial drawfiling. Simmonds Nu-cut files are even better (thanks, Brent!). I get mine through MSCdirect.com. The prices are good and the files will be at your door within two days in most of the continental US. You will learn quickly to clear the chips after every stroke or two, since little pins of steel stuck in the teeth tend to gouge out deep ugly scratches.

 

Sens are great for rough shaping, I use a chunk of planer blade as mine. It's kind of hard to control, so I only use it for very rough stuff. Don's sen is a piece of leaf spring, I think. He's VERY good with it, needless to say. ;)

 

Finally, edge geometry is a whole other barrel of worms to open. Edge holding and easy sharpening depend mostly on the steel and its heat treatment, not the edge geometry. The cross-section should be determined by the intended use. That is, a hollow grind is good for food and razors, a convex grind is good for heavy chopping, a flat grind is good for everything.

 

On the few blades I do that are totally hand-done, the sequence is forge, descale with coarse stone, file and drawfile with the big files, followed by drawfiling with progressively smaller files since the cut is finer for any given grade the smaller the file. For example, if I start with the 14" Simmonds Nu-Cut or the 16" bastard, I'll follow with a 10" Nicholson bastard, then a six-inch bastard, then if I'm feeling anal a 6-inch second cut bastard and a 6-inch smooth. That will leave the equivalent of a 220-grit finish. From there, I'll polish with 220-grit automotive wet-or-dry paper wrapped around a piece of 1/4 x 1" steel, and lubed with synthetic motor oil. Then on to 320 and 400 the same way. Then harden and temper, then repolish with the 400 for a satin finish, then put an edge on it and call it good. On a smallish knife with a 6 or 7 inch blade the whole process takes me about 5 or 6 hours. But I've also got a lot of practice. ;) The first one I did that way took three days solid. :lol:

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Robert,

 

I absolutely think you should forge your bevels. Forging the profile is fine, but you leave yourself with a ton of work by not forging the bevels as well.

 

Check out this thread. This is not just a shameless plug for my work, but might answer some of your questions as well :lol: .

 

In terms of the tools I use. For most pieces I grind to 120 grit on my standard AO belts, then switch to Gator belts. I like the finish the Gators leave, I figure they save me up to an hour a side getting to a clean, hand rubbed 220 silicon carbide finish. Then 320, 400, 600, 1200 SC paper. For some pieces I go as far as 2500 SC. I don't buff my work, I prefer the hand rubbed look.

 

If I am doing a filed piece I take the scale off with the angle grinder, and I try to get all of it without screwing up my lines. If I'm not happy with how much scale I've gotten off, I'll go to the belt grinder to try and get a clean surface. Draw file with a bastard file to get the shape and remove the bulk of the metal. Smooth file to clean up and then HT. Once its hard you can't really get a file to bite, you are stuck with paper abrasives. Depending on how much you left yourself, you might have to go back as far as 60 grit. I use a flat stick to sand. I wrap the paper around the stick and off you go, just like draw filing. Change the cutting surface often, no, more often than that :lol: . I've been told that you have to treat abrasives, particularly paper, as if they are free. Once it stops cutting, change it. With the stiffer papers you may have to cut them into strips just a bit wider than your sanding stick, they won't wrap as well as the light SC papers.

 

Clean up with your starting grit and get down to nearly sharp. This is where you really need to pay attention, most of the cuts I've suffered have come while sanding. Once you have all of your file marks gone, change grits and get all of your 60 grit scratches out, and so on until you are satisfied. I find that once I get to a clean 220 surface, it goes pretty fast, sometimes I don't even use up a whole piece of paper at a given grit, once I've got a clean surface to work with.

 

As for grind, it's much on my mind just now, I'm making ABS MS test knives. The grind I use for most of my work is a flat grind from edge to spine with just a bit of a convex edge. Much exaggerated it looks like the lower half of a water drop. Kitchen knives get a flat to the edge grind with no secondary bevel. This might seem fragile, but in fact the test blade I just completed has the convex grind and I have been out chopping 1 inch oak flooring in half. At the end of chopping a 1 x 4 oak board in half, that edge shaves hair like a razor. It's easy for a user to resharpen, holds an edge (which is as much the HT as the shape) and is durable. Pretty much that is what I ask a knife to do.

 

Long post again, sorry.

 

Geoff

Edited by Geoff Keyes
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You have been given some great advice. As far as how close to forge your bevels is going to depend a lot on your hammer control. For a beginner, I'd just establish the bevels and leave the edge a little on the thick side. You can always file/grind off more steel; you can't put it back on. As you make more blades you may find that you will spend less time filing the dings out and more time just reducing the thickness of the blade. At that point you could try to forge closer to the final product but, to begin with, I would recommend that you leave the blade a little on the thick side.

 

Also get a file card and use it often to clean the teeth of the files. If not you will be constantly chasing scratches. If you are close to where you want the bevels and/or flats of the blade, I would make one pass on the blade draw filing and then move down to an unused section of the file. When you get down to the last clean section, flip the file over and repeat on the other side of the file. Then clean the file with the file card and start over again.

 

There are also different coursness of files. The next finer from the bastard cut file is the second cut and the finest in the "regular system" is the smooth cut. I would go to one or the other after the bastard cut files to smooth things out a bit and save on sand paper.

 

I don't quite agree on hollow grinding. It goes back a long way, especially in grinding European swords. I think that where it is given a bad name is where it has been used to give a fine edge to overly thick stainless steel blades. A hollow grind does have a purpose on a knife blade where it will be usd more for slicking, like a skinner, but flat grinds are probably the most flexible.

 

Doug Lester

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Not much I can add....There is a certin Zen to draw filing,but first Forge the bevels...When I took the basic ABS course, belt grinding was what most people had trouble with..You'll be srprised at how fast you can ruin a blade! MS Mike Williams taught us draw filing and for most it was a relief....

If your on a budget try the $2.50 Harbor Freight 10"flat bastard file..it's amazingly good for the price...

Next summer come to the Denver Knife Show,we have forging demoes and people who can answer lots of your questions

And Geoff..Good luck with your MS blades..

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Robert,

 

Welcome.

 

I have little to add to all the great advice given already. Except to take a page from old Nike ads-Just do it! Over and over again.

 

Having the knowledge available is invaluable, it puts you way ahead of the game. But it will not teach all the little muscles in your hands and fingers what to do. It will not make the the millions of synapse connections from eye to brain to hand and back to brain then back to hands.

 

Many of the questions you have about making straight lines and correct bevels are answered by repetition. After a while you will feel it click in when it is right and it will feel off when you are doing it wrong.

Ask any of these guys what it feels like to be working in the "zone". When everything drops away and you are not you. When whatever you are making just appears before your eyes without any real conscious thought.

 

That is why we do it. Ask anybody here how much of their own stuff they actually have in their possession. In the beginning most all of us started because we could not afford to buy a custom knife. Now, the making of them is the point not the owning of them.

 

Right now you are learning the ABC's of knife making. When you read these posts you don't see the individual letters or even the individual words-you see the ideas that each writer is trying to convey. And so it is with knifemaking, Guitar playing or anything else that requires skill and knowledge. Mastering the language gives you the freedom to express what ever you want.

 

There are only two key elements

 

Knowledge and mindful practice

 

The knowledge is here for the taking.

 

Dan

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I reread your post..you said you plan to etch,if it's not Damascus, why??

 

Also try bluing the edge,then scribe a line down the center..this will keep you centered.

 

And get a copy of Wayne Goddard's "The Wonder of Knifemaking"!!!!

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I reread your post..you said you plan to etch,if it's not Damascus, why??

 

Also try bluing the edge,then scribe a line down the center..this will keep you centered.

 

And get a copy of Wayne Goddard's "The Wonder of Knifemaking"!!!!

 

The metal is cable damascus.

 

Thanks for all the great information. I will put it all to good use.

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Robert,

Nice to meet you... You look like you are good with the computer ( cut& pasting) something I need to learn cool.gif....

 

with all the great info your head should be swimming by now...laugh.gif... you may not get much info in this thread on smith's in your area...

 

start another thread about wanting to meet people in your area.. I bet you'll get a few replies...

 

mscdirect.com Industrial supply store that has just about everything you need.... Hold on to you wallet!!!! you'll want one of everythinglaugh.gif

 

Dick

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Robert,

Nice to meet you... You look like you are good with the computer ( cut& pasting) something I need to learn cool.gif....

 

with all the great info your head should be swimming by now...laugh.gif... you may not get much info in this thread on smith's in your area...

 

start another thread about wanting to meet people in your area.. I bet you'll get a few replies...

 

mscdirect.com Industrial supply store that has just about everything you need.... Hold on to you wallet!!!! you'll want one of everythinglaugh.gif

 

Dick

 

Yeah I have that problem in my shop already. :) The next big thing will have to be a Ray Clontz tire hammer. I have the plans and the build is going to happen slowly. I am also building a new forge (my fourth) which should hopefully be the forge to end all forges. :)

 

I am extremely grateful for all the info in the thread and I hope someone in the future can make use of all the info in here. Id even nominate it for a pinned thread for the other beginners. My appreciation goes out to the other folk here.

 

When it comes to the advice itself I am going to definitely make use of about everything in the thread. Ultimately I want to get up to building my own folding knife. I am already working on the design when I cant be in the shop but that is some time out.

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When everything drops away and you are not you. When whatever you are making just appears before your eyes without any real conscious thought.

 

Yes,this is the key too most things I think,well said.

Edited by alexb
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I once finished a 4-foot leaf blade sword using draw-filing alone. Took 3 full days, and I can't listen to a certain Billy Joel album now without flashbacks of that job. But it produced a finish, and a control of the final shape, that I'm not sure I could have gotten using a belt grinder.

 

As to affording one of those, I have used the cheap Craftsman 2x42 now for years. Good belts are made for that size, though not as many as the x72 machines, and yes, you can run a 1 inch belt on a 2 inch wheel just fine. I think the tool costs just over $100 nowadays, and my first one lasted for 7 or 8 years. Just replaced it this season after the switch burnt out, clogged with dust and steel. An annual blast with some canned air might prolong the new one a bit more. I have a boy scout who mows my lawn who makes that on a single saturday, if he's in an industrious mood.

 

Good luck, and if you can, get some pics up of your project - visual evidence of your technique can go a long way in getting better comments from the board. And welcome!

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