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2x42/48 belt grinder options

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Another bit of kit that I need to think about as I get back into smithing is one that I never had in the past: a belt grinder. These are just such incredibly useful tools that I am not willing to try to get along without one again. I know there have been endless discussions on knifemakers' forums here and elsewhere about building and buying belt grinders--albeit mostly 2x72s. I hope this won't be overly redundant. 


I am not interested in a 1" grinder, like the infamous Harbor Freight 1x30. I know I'll never be even close to satisfied with one of those. I can do better. With that said, commercial 2x72s are not within my budget, either. I am willing to spend a little money on this hobby, but not that much--not at this point. $500 is doable. $1000 is too much. $700 is probably too much. Furthermore, space is at a premium, so I'm not really interested in a 2x72 right now. Instead, I'm looking at a 2x42 or 2x48. I have identified several possibilities. Here are my thoughts about them. I'd like to hear yours. 


The leading contender

After quite a bit of agonizing, I am very strongly inclined to spring for the newish Grizzly 2x42/48. This one: 2" x 42" Knife-Making Belt Sander/Grinder - Grizzly Industrial  




I just don't think you can beat the combination of features at the price point. It's a plug-and-play, 3/4 HP, variable speed, vertical/horizontal, 4-wheel grinder shipped to your door for around $300. It's not perfect, but it's a starting point, and it's upgradeable to some extent. You can use the machine to upgrade the machine.



  • Needs some upgrades (e.g., a better platen and work rest) right out of the box, so $300 isn't the real price. 
  • Many/most makers would say 3/4 HP is underpowered for a knifemaking belt grinder. I get that. It is not optimal. But I suspect I could upgrade the motor on this machine somewhere down the road. And all the alternatives I'm aware of that offer 1-2 HP motors with variable speed are significantly more expensive. The jump from 3/4 to 1 HP seems to be a pretty big one.
  • I know some people have had problems with the motors on these machines burning out very quickly. That's bad. However, from what I've heard, Grizzly has been good about replacing motors when that happens. I'm hopeful that this is a bug they will get sorted out.



Alternative 1

Another option that I have seriously considered is to buy a variable speed, 3/4 HP bench grinder (like this: 8 in. Variable-Speed Bench Grinder with LED Work Light (harborfreight.com)) and then marry it with a 2-wheel 2x48 belt grinder attachment (like this: https://a.co/d/0dubHRhk). (I would be strongly inclined to take this same approach with a 1 HP variable speed bench grinder, if I could find a variable speed 1 HP bench grinder.) But the cost of that approach ends up being around the same as the Grizzly (or more, if you buy the more expensive Multi-Tool brand attachment: https://a.co/d/09PvJHZB), and what you get seems to be significantly less flexible and capable. 


Alternative 2

Another option I looked at was a factory-built bench/belt grinder combo, like this: https://a.co/d/0hTTQREi The prices on these kinds of machines vary from a little over $200 to well over $600. My problems with them are:


(1) The motors on the lower-end machines tend to be considerably weaker than even 3/4 HP. Some of the more expensive machines are 3/4-1 HP, but at that point you're paying significantly more than the Grizzly 2x42 or the second alternative, above. 

(2) They're less flexible than the Grizzly.

(3) All the machines of this sort that I have been able to find are fixed speed, and often at high SFPM. Since I am only going to have one machine for sanding everything from horn to hardened steel, variable speed is a high priority. (Doubly important with belts that are 2/3 as long as 72", and so more inclined to heat up.)


Alternative 3


A Coote 2x48: Prices - Coote Belt Grinder | 2 x 48 and 2 x 72 Belt Grinder Knife Grinder Belt Sander By all accounts it's a nice, well-built machine, but I'd still need to come up with a motor and speed control. (Theoretically, speed control could be accomplished by a step pulley. That's a lot cheaper than a VFD, but doesn't offer as much control.) By the time it was all done, I'd probably be paying $700-$1000, plus having to do some fabrication to put it all together. That seems like a lot of money and trouble for a two-wheel grinder, albeit a nice two-wheel grinder if it's set up right. 


Alternative 4

The final option I considered seriously is to build my own 2x48 from scratch. Obviously, there are tons of plans, build videos, and even kits out there for DIY machines. Most are for 2x72, but it wouldn't be terribly difficult to mod them to 2x48. In my view, the advantages are that design is almost infinitely flexible, and a machine can be as good as the builder is capable of making it. If you want to run your machine on a 5 HP motor, nothing's stopping you. And I even have wheels left over from a grinder build that sputtered out long ago, so I already have some of the parts I'd need. 


That said, there are a couple major reasons I'm shying away from this option. One is that I'm not convinced it ends up being that economical if you're not a master scrounger with lots of time on your hands. If you have to pay for most of the steel, the parts, the motor with VFD, and the tools you don't already have (some of you may not have that problem, but for me, there are always tools I don't already have) to build the machine, it winds up being quite a bit of money. Much less than a KMG, yes--but probably significantly more than the Grizzly, for example. (I have never been a master scrounger, by the way.) The other main downside to this approach is that building your machine from scratch requires a lot of time-consuming work. I enjoy making stuff, and that includes tools. But as between a grinder and knives, I'd rather spend time making knives. 


A final thought is that whatever approach I choose isn't necessarily the final word. If my circumstances change in a few years, a DIY 2x72 could become an option that's on the table. What I'm thinking about right now. is more of a medium-term solution to get me back into the game and at least a couple years down the road. 

Edited by Matthew Bower
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If I were in your position, I'd go with the Grizzly. If that had been on the market 20 years ago I'd have bought it in a heartbeat!  


The only cons I see are the relatively low power and fact that the motor is open.  Low power you can deal with, just don't get ceramic belts and don't lean on it too hard. Once you've had it a while, see about making an adaptor plate to put a more powerful motor on. Just make sure the VFD can handle it.


The open motor is why they burn out fast. Metal dust gets into the motor and shorts it out.  Something as simple as taping a double layer of cheesecloth over the air intake would solve that.  While you're at it, do that to the VFD if it's not sealed as well.  Those go POP! in a fairly spectacular way if they get metal dust inside.


-Alan who's still running a step-pulley KMG basic chassis 2x72 from 2005 or so...

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That grizzly looks like a great deal, ''mm almost tempted myself to get one as a second grinder;)


I suspect the motor is a cheap induction type, and will be a bit underpowered, it would be not too big a project to replace it with something stronger in the future.


The way I see it almost all belt grinders need some modification out of the box, I have a very expensive professional model and even there I had to modify a lot of things to make it work for my needs.

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