Recommendation? looking at grinders.. newbie...help

Joined
Jan 8, 2018
Messages
9
from all I've gathered... I like steel chassis, VFD, ratcheting belt tensioner, I like big work rest, going for best I can get from the get go... buy once cry once.

From my research I narrowed it down to Iron creek and TW90...

Is there a top 5 thats just the best on the market hands down... or is it all relative to opinion? My problem is I have no option to put my hands on anything before buying. I dont know a single knife maker.

Tw90
Iron creek
Outlaw 2 - don't like the spring belt tensioner
Bader III - can't find online
Northridge - seemed like lots of aluminum

Reeders look great buy im not a fan of all aluminum when steel can be had for weight and strength...

OBM is entry level, no thanks. I want direct drive, no belt/pulls motor drives.

I cant remember why I discounted each of the various brands I looked at... something in most designs threw me off.

I'm just saving money up until I can buy once and never buy another...

Please throw out knowledge and opinions!
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

ilmarinen - MODERATOR
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Aug 20, 2004
Messages
32,865
TW-90 has a 1/4" steel frame, but everything else is aluminum. Horizontal/vertical. Tool arms are 1.25", which is enough, but I like 1.5" better. The ratchet tension arm is very nice. The tracking is by moving the frame alignment to the motor. I never could get the tracking on my TW-90 to work right. I have to torque it as tight as it will go to the left just to get the belt completely on the contact wheel. Once set, it does hold tight tracking. If I was to put it in the middle of the tracking range the belt would go almost off the right side of the contact wheel. I'll have to get with Travis one day and see if there is an adjustment to the frame to fix this. The TW-90 runs very smooth and quiet.

Reeder is a rock solid grinder. Horizontal/vertical. I would have to go measure it, but IIRC it is 1/2" 6061 aluminum plate. All fittings and sockets are hardened steel. The unique two-way tracking adjustment is really good. Tension is by a spring, which works quite well. I will convert it to pneumatic tension this summer. I haven't used mine enough yet to find any problems. I love the large variety aluminum accessories and the sturdy 1.5" tool arms. Many accessories made by others fit it ( al my Bader tooling fits). I greatly prefer the Reeder surface grinder over the TW-90 surface grinder. It also runs very smooth and quiet. Reeder has a really good aluminum mobile base to mount the grinder on.

I ran a Bader BIII for 20 years. It is a great machine. Tension is by a spring. Some folks have changed this to a compression rod or pneumatic cylinder. They are built to run a lot and last a long time. It has 1.5" steel tool arms. Many folks have switched them out for aluminum tool arms. Many accessories will fit it. You can make or buy a flip base ( basically just a hinge) to make e it horizontal, but it isn't as nice as the dedicated H/V grinders like TW-90 and Reeder.

KMG was the main knife grinder for a while. It has issues that were hard to fix. The new Tilting Extreme model has supposedly addressed these issues, but I haven't heard enough to know if it is a solution to the old issues. Many folks don't like the quality of some of their parts, especially the bearings and wheels.

Burr King is probably the original knife grinder. It is a slightly scaled down model of their heavy duty industrial grinders. There are many models used by knifemakers, so it depends on which you are looking at, but all are tough machines. Tooling changes are difficult compared to the tool arm type grinders. As far as rugged and long lasting, they may be the champ. They are a simple belt grinder, and accessories/wheel sizes/attachments are few. Orientation is vertical only. For heavy stock removal and profiling they are great. Not so useful for more delicate work or handles. Flat platen is above the contact wheel, which is a poor choice in my opinion. The machine has the belt in a dedicated upward and rearward angle, which means you have to reach over the contact wheel to use the flat platen. Belt changing is not as simple as the tool arm grinders. Sometimes it can be downright hard to change a belt. Dust from wood is a problem on a Burr King.
I have an ancient Burr King Knifemaker grinder (a benchtop grinder no longer made) that I am restoring. It will probably be my dedicated hogging grinder. It has a foot pedal for retracting the tension to change a belt.
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2018
Messages
9
TW-90 has a 1/4" steel frame, but everything else is aluminum. Horizontal/vertical. Tool arms are 1.25", which is enough, but I like 1.5" better. The ratchet tension arm is very nice. The tracking is by moving the frame alignment to the motor. I never could get the tracking on my TW-90 to work right. I have to torque it as tight as it will go to the left just to get the belt completely on the contact wheel. Once set, it does hold tight tracking. If I was to put it in the middle of the tracking range the belt would go almost off the right side of the contact wheel. I'll have to get with Travis one day and see if there is an adjustment to the frame to fix this. The TW-90 runs very smooth and quiet.

Reeder is a rock solid grinder. Horizontal/vertical. I would have to go measure it, but IIRC it is 1/2" 6061 aluminum plate. All fittings and sockets are hardened steel. The unique two-way tracking adjustment is really good. Tension is by a spring, which works quite well. I will convert it to pneumatic tension this summer. I haven't used mine enough yet to find any problems. I love the large variety aluminum accessories and the sturdy 1.5" tool arms. Many accessories made by others fit it ( al my Bader tooling fits). I greatly prefer the Reeder surface grinder over the TW-90 surface grinder. It also runs very smooth and quiet. Reeder has a really good aluminum mobile base to mount the grinder on.

I ran a Bader BIII for 20 years. It is a great machine. Tension is by a spring. Some folks have changed this to a compression rod or pneumatic cylinder. They are built to run a lot and last a long time. It has 1.5" steel tool arms. Many folks have switched them out for aluminum tool arms. Many accessories will fit it. You can make or buy a flip base ( basically just a hinge) to make e it horizontal, but it isn't as nice as the dedicated H/V grinders like TW-90 and Reeder.

KMG was the main knife grinder for a while. It has issues that were hard to fix. The new Tilting Extreme model has supposedly addressed these issues, but I haven't heard enough to know if it is a solution to the old issues. Many folks don't like the quality of some of their parts, especially the bearings and wheels.

Burr King is probably the original knife grinder. It is a slightly scaled down model of their heavy duty industrial grinders. There are many models used by knifemakers, so it depends on which you are looking at, but all are tough machines. Tooling changes are difficult compared to the tool arm type grinders. As far as rugged and long lasting, they may be the champ. They are a simple belt grinder, and accessories/wheel sizes/attachments are few. Orientation is vertical only. For heavy stock removal and profiling they are great. Not so useful for more delicate work or handles. Flat platen is above the contact wheel, which is a poor choice in my opinion. The machine has the belt in a dedicated upward and rearward angle, which means you have to reach over the contact wheel to use the flat platen. Belt changing is not as simple as the tool arm grinders. Sometimes it can be downright hard to change a belt. Dust from wood is a problem on a Burr King.
I have an ancient Burr King Knifemaker grinder (a benchtop grinder no longer made) that I am restoring. It will probably be my dedicated hogging grinder. It has a foot pedal for retracting the tension to change a belt.

Good info man. That helps me in many different ways.

TW-90 i didn't know the motor plate controlled the tracking. That makes since now though as in one of his videos he mentions to check the plate in the back to make sure its straight. I dont like how nothings in house... I dont like how every accessory is just for that machine... and in not a fan on the motor used for tracking... I've heard it runs smooth though..

I need to look at the Reeder surface grinder... haven't looked at it yet... I dont like all aluminum, I want steel... personal preference, but I dont want to pay just as much for all aluminum... they look nice, but just a no go for me. I dont want a spring tensioner at all.

Bader 3 - spring again, though I do hear they last.

KMG - I dont see quality in this brand at all, was an easy mark off the list

OBM - looks like junk.

Burr King I threw out for reasons you mentioned too.

Outlaw 2 - look good, but still a spring tensioner, with they'd go to ratchet type.

Ameriblade - just not impressed, lower end.

Hard-core- too hard-core on the wallet. Too expensive, big, bulky, just doesn't fit with me personally if it was affordable.

Northridge - still looking at, in my top 2.

Iron Creek - current model im still looking at, in my top 2... but there's a new model he's working on and I'm not sure I like the "upgrades". Gonna have a tilting motor tracking and 5 inch flat idler tracking, electronic actuator belt tensioner, which is an electronic thing to go out eventually.. belt tension guage, don't need it, 4 pole motor 7 inch drive wheel 6700 sfm. Big price diff, im on the fence with what I heard.

Black fox - videos rubbed me wrong.

Pheer - I ordered a scribe several weeks ago, still hasn't shown up. No email receipt, no tracking email, no nada.. No reply to email.. customer service sucks.

Esteem - not double tool arm.

Brodbeck - not a ratchet system, has a shock assist tensioner thats more normally used to assist in weight distribution and assistance commonly found to assist going back vertically from horizonal. isn't horrible overall.. but not much info out there..
 
Last edited:

REK Knives

Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Apr 3, 2011
Messages
4,376
Don't underestimate aluminum... The weight when rotating is really nice, and the weight of the tool arms. It's plenty strong for a grinder - that is not an issue. Plus - steel rusts (if you ever decide to grind wet which many of us do).

Another that has not been mentioned is Wilmont grinders... They have a grinder called the Quattro (which is actually all steel). Chris knows what he's doing, I have a TAG 101 (old version of the Quattro) which I've had for 5 years and put thousands of hours of grinding on and it's amazing. But rust is an issue for me personally...

You can see mine below... Recently refinished

This isn't even the bad side

i-mThjzkV-L.jpg
i-WcQB2mx-L.jpg
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
Messages
4,085
Both my grinders are belt driven. I’ve had two grinders that were direct drive. I’ve sold them both. But not because they were direct drive. I sold them because they disappointed me 5 other ways.

of course they worked fine. But they were not friendly to use.

what you grind, how often you grind are important and your specific requirements can be hard to quantify when you are starting out.

the hardcore is indeed hard core on the wallet but it works well, is well designed and executed, versatile and it’s friendly to use. I believe they make some parts for the TW-90
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
873
I would go Northridge for the fact they are the most precise made 2x72 bar none. Everything is flat and parallel and perpendicular within a couple thou. The wheels are concentric within tenths as in .0005ish. Everything on it is designed to be as accurate and durable as possible.

Ive owned a tw90, kmg, northridge mod-E and Pro package, ameribrade, and built a handful of my own.

Customer service is a toss up between ameribrade and northridge, both amazing group of guys. Tw90 is great as well, dont like the platen, love the work rest. Of the bunch ive used only garbage one was kmg. Definitely dont look into OBM. Garbage company with zero ethics.

Buy once cry once, if I could go back, Id save myself a lot of money and buy the northridge pro pack. Build quality, powder coat, alignment, tolerances, you name it it has it.
 

Drew Riley

Riley Knife and Tool
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 17, 2007
Messages
3,900
I wouldn't discount aluminum either. I built my 2x72 and it's around 95% aluminum. Where I felt it necessary I did use threaded steel inserts or bushings and washers to minimize wear. Other than that, I've had zero issues, and I only have to worry about minor rust on the steel parts vs the whole machine.

The added weight and strength of steel is not as necessary as you think it is. It's a grinder, not a pickup truck. :D
 

Drew Riley

Riley Knife and Tool
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Oct 17, 2007
Messages
3,900
FWIW, if I had the extra casheesh to buy any grinder that's on the market today, it'd be a Northridge Pro Package, hands down.
 

bmilleker

Gold Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2012
Messages
512
KMG-TX is my vote. They have evolved over the KMG classic and made a superior product to a lot of what's out there. Ratcheting tension, axis neutral tracking, horizontal/vertical grinding, dual slots, STEEL wheels, etc.. Don't judge the TX by the classic. The classic design is over 20 years old now, and the TX is a different beast altogether.

I own a classic and TX, and would say I am biased. But I own a TX because of research I did, and Beaumont's incredible customer service.

If not KMG-TX, get the Northridge Pro Package and don't look back.
 

J. Hoffman

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Jan 1, 2011
Messages
1,415
I have a TW90 and two Burr Kings. You are correct that the ratcheting tension is important. The tracking on the TW90 is the best by far of any grinder I've used. It's rock solid and offers very fine adjustment. If I had to do it over I would go with Northridge, Burr King or TW90
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2009
Messages
15,020
Both my grinders are belt driven. I’ve had two grinders that were direct drive. I’ve sold them both. But not because they were direct drive. I sold them because they disappointed me 5 other ways.

of course they worked fine. But they were not friendly to use.

what you grind, how often you grind are important and your specific requirements can be hard to quantify when you are starting out.

the hardcore is indeed hard core on the wallet but it works well, is well designed and executed, versatile and it’s friendly to use. I believe they make some parts for the TW-90

I'd like to know the details.
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
Messages
4,085
I'd like to know the details.
The first grinder was a few years ago so I’ll just speak about the recent grinder I purchased and then sold.

I prefer a positive block for tensioning such as a ratchet or cam lock and this grinder used a spring and there was effectively bounce back or backlash

It used a direct drive motor and in my opinion it was mounted too low on the frame. Thus every time you changed out a belt it dragged on the mounting table. Annoying.

it was noisy like the 2 inch wheels on the platen were dragging. I don’t want to hear that Noise over and over when I’m grinding. A grinder isn’t a quiet machine, I get that.

The lever arm for tensioning was too short. It’s awkward to push down on the short lever arm to change belts.

With the platen angled back maximum position and the belt in reverse the tracking didn't work well. The belt was off to one side.

the quick release bolt for the tool arm, I would see if it could be mounted on the right hand side of the frame. This would be on the belt side of the frame. this way you can use your right hand to tighten the tool arm instead of awkwardly reaching on the left side with the right hand.

It Was a heavy duty well-built grinder that is highly regarded by top makers but it wasn’t right for me. Rather than be stuck with it and Unhappy I chose to sell it at a loss but I was able to grind 12 knives with it. Did it work? Sure it did and well enough. But not enough for me to keep at that premium price

Most grinders use a variable frequency drive that is made by a third-party. On this one the buttons/knobs are too small

when you are doing this work all day all the time you need your tools and equipment to be as friendly as possible

the Hardcore grinder is The only manufacturer I know that has a custom built variable frequency drive on the front of the baldor motor. Large knob. Easy on/off and reverse switch. Fine tracking. Cam lock for the belt tension. Friendly to use.

w02prOF.jpg
 
Last edited:

Richard338

Gold Member
Joined
May 3, 2005
Messages
2,095
I have a Northridge in my shop now.

I have never seen a nicer grinder. There isn't any detail that George and the guys didn't put a ridiculous amount of attention and care into. ✊
Nick, great to see you posting. I've benefited hugely from your old posts and especially some of the YouTube videos like hand sanding.
 

DeadboxHero

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Mar 22, 2014
Messages
4,559
1.25" tool arm on the tw90 is a bummer since everything is 1.5"
 
Top