A bench grinder is used primarily to shape and refine the cutting surfaces of chisels, plane irons and other tools prior to honing them on a sharpening stone. Because the use of a bench grinder involves rubbing metal against stone, it creates a lot of sparks and a certain amount of flying metal. The major safety hazard is to the eyes.
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Wear Eye Protection
Eye protection should be worn whenever using any power tools, but this is particularly important when using a bench grinder. Because getting the right shape and edge onto a tool involves fairly fine work, there is a tendency to get your face fairly close to the tool as you use it. A tiny sliver of red hot metal entering your eye could cause intense pain and permanent damage. Putting on safety glasses takes one second and greatly reduces the chances of this happening.
Secure the Grinder
Because the grinding wheel spins at high speed, the machine will have a tendency to vibrate and "walk" across the bench surface if it isn't properly secured. Most bench grinders are manufactured with holes in the bases that are designed to hold bolts. By drilling corresponding holes through your bench top, you can securely fasten your grinder to the surface so it'll be immobile when you use it. This will also make it more accurate for sharpening tools, as it will vibrate less.
Adjust the Tool Rests Properly
A bench grinder is usually made with two wheels, one on each side of the motor, and an adjustable tool rest in front of each wheel. You'll likely want to have the tool rest very close to the wheel, but not so close that it touches. If the tool rest is too far from the wheel, there is the chance that the tip of the tool that you are sharpening can get caught between the tool rest and the wheel. If this happens, either the wheel will jam, the tool will break, or the tool will be pulled from your hand and propelled in some unpredictable direction at high speed.
Dress the Wheel
Over time, a grinding wheel becomes infused with bits of metal and its surface wears down unevenly. This makes for slower, less accurate and less effective sharpening. To avoid this problem, you will need a wheel dresser. This is a small hand tool that consists of a row of toothed wheels on a handle. When you hold this tool against the surface of the spinning grinding wheel, the stone of the wheel is worn down. By removing the outside surface of the wheel, you remove any metal bits that have become lodged there and expose a fresh stone surface that is even and ready for accurate sharpening.
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