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Powered Sharpener Setup Recommendations
#1
I would like a good powered sharpening system.  I currently have a WorkSharp Ken Onion and have sharped several hundred blades with it.  It's a really good machine for the money, but it's "slow" in that it can't really remove metal fast enough to sharpen knives quickly.  On maximum speed, it's also very loud.  

I think what I want is a 1x42 belt sander with variable speed and reversible.  I also want something to make deburring very easy.  Several people have recommended a paper wheel on a bench grinder (buffer).  This has the added advantage of having two wheels, so I can use the other wheel for something like a cotton buffing wheel, which I would use for deburring serrated blades (the serrated side, after having ground the flat side to form a burr).

I would like to be able to see the burr forming as I sharpen.  It seems like a horizontal belt is the best way to do this.  I've occasionally gotten lucky with lighting and been able to see the burr form on the WSKO.  It's really neat to do it this way.  I'd like a setup that's designed to make this happen.

Until recently I thought that sharpening edge leading on a belt was incredibly dangerous.  But over the last week or so I've read a lot of discussion on this that seems to conclude that edge leading sharpening on a belt has a very low probability of grabbing the blade and throwing it.  I'm interested in opinions on this too.  Edge leading would seem to be a better way to reduce burr size to start with so deburring will be easier.

I've looked at the Veil S5 that Steve Bottorf sells, with the adapter plate to let it take the Penn variable speed motor.  But that setup doesn't appear to be truly variable (only goes down to 600 RPM) and it is not reversible.  Maybe reversible isn't important; I'm not sure as I lack experience with real belt grinders.

I've also considered the Kallamazoo 1SM.  I can only seem to find these with a single speed motor included.  Which probably means I need buy my own motor and waste the money on the motor that was already included.

Today I talked to Richard Pope who has made a lot of machines like this.  But he's mainly focusing on scissor sharpening now and his products are mostly out of my price range at > $1000 .

Thanks for any advice for specific machine setups.  Also thoughts on edge leading sharpening, reversible motors, and deburring are all appreciated.

Brian.
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#2
Welcome to the exchange, Brian.

I have a Viel and a Kalamazoo. I converted both to variable speed using the Penn State motors. I had reversing switches installed on both. I was one of the Bessex members who participated with Steve in developing the mounting plate and modified Viel which he sells. His plate and modified Viel transform a machine shop job into a home shop project, at much lower cost. The standard Viel comes with a six inch drive pulley with a half inch bore. Steve's are factory modified to include the smaller four inch drive pulley with the bore enlarged to 15mm to fit exactly with the Penn State motor shaft. Even with no motor speed reduction, the smaller diameter drive pulley reduces the speed by a third. I have found the speed reduction with the smaller pulley and Penn State motor very adequate for my needs.

The Penn State motor converts AC to DC. Reversing DC is just a matter of switching the two leads. I had motor repair shops do mine, although I probably could have done it myself.

My Kalamazoo was a gift.It came without a motor. I designed the motor mounting modification. It requires either the motor shaft diameter to be reduced or the pulley bore enlarged. Neither is a big deal for a machine shop.

I like both units, although I use my Tormek for sharpening knives.
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#3
I can only share my own experience.  What’s right for me may not be same as what’s right for you.  

There certainly is a plethora of powered sharpening options and no shortage of opinions on which is best.  I know from personal experience how difficult, time consuming and costly deciding on one can be.  I’ve purchased and used paper wheels, hand stones, bench grinder, Tormek, manual guided contraptions, diamond plates, the small version of the Work Sharp belt sharpener and the Kally 1SM.  All of these will sharpen and all have pros and cons.  

For knife sharpening I now only use the Kally.  For me at least it is by far the most versatile and quickest way to sharpen and deburr a knife.  1x42 is an ideal size for sharpening.  Belts are inexpensive and of course there is a cornucopia of grits and abrasive types.  The Kally’s relatively slow belt speed never has a problem of overheating when sharpening so variable speed has just not been an issue.

Both edge leading and edge trailing sharpening will create burr.  Edge leading is far more aggressive.  I prefer edge trailing with a light touch for sharpening.  For easy burr removal with either leading or trailing sharpening, the trick is the keep the burr as small as possible.  A bigger than necessary burr accomplishes nothing and makes its removal more difficult.

After a couple of passes I look at the blade for burr.  With a good light in front, hold the blade with the edge towards you, the spine towards the light, look at the blade from above and tilt it around a bit.  Even the smallest burr will be visible.  What happens is that burr starts to form on small segments along the edge.  Those segments are done.  Additional grinding over those segments will only increase burr size and make it more difficult to remove.  Then focus on segments with no burr until a tiny and even burr is formed along the entire edge.  Flip the blade over, do the same on the other side and you’re done grinding.  

This sounds like a time consuming process but it’s not.  Unless the blade is super dull we’re only talking about a few passes each side.  With a bit of practice it’s quick and easy.  

I deburr with a well worn extra fine Scotch-Brite belt and then finish with the rough side (no compound) of a leather belt to clean things up a bit.  Blades generally end up between 100 – 130 sharpness.  Obviously I don't need to say this here but I will anyway.  NEVER edge lead with either a leather or surface conditioning (Scotch-Brite) belt.  Doing so will instantly destroy the belt and possibly even ruin your day with epidermal leakage.  I just hate it when that happens.  

I should add that I’m only concerned about getting general purpose knives and cutlery very sharp quickly.  I’m not chasing ultimate sharpness, nor am I concerned about things like 15° vs 15.3° bevel angle.  

After many years of experimenting and a lot of $$$ spent, Kally is the way to go for me.  It’s affordable and produces extremely sharp edges very quickly with minimal effort.  Of course, YMMV.  

Hope that helps.
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#4
Brian,

Words of wisdom from the Oracle of Michigan.

All kidding aside, when Grepper speaks, I listen. He has developed a very practical technique for sharpening knives. You will not go wrong by following his advice.

Either of these belt grinders also makes a very useful general purpose abrasive tool for lots of quick jobs around the shop. 

Grepper makes a good point about the speed of the Kallie. It comes with the smaller drive pulley standard. With the same fixed speed motor, the Surface Feet per Minute of the Kallie is about two thirds od the Viel with its standard six inch drive pulley.

There is a very promising knife jig in development for the Kallie. Perhaps the inventor (Grepper) might give us an update.
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#5
Thanks for the information guys.

The Kallamazoo is quite tempting because it's packaged and ready to go and not all that expensive.  Having never used one though, I wonder how careful I need to be with it running at "full speed" all the time.  What I mean is, I don't want to hog stock off of a blade accidentally.  A few years ago I watched a video of a man with his brand new WorkSharp sharpener.  This was the original that runs at a fixed speed and has a 1/2" by 12" belt.  This poor guy put a rather pronounced recruve into the base of two Spyderco knives, right on video for all to see.  He simply spent too long with the base of the blade against the belt as he began his stroke.  Probably 1 full second or so.

I realize that the WorkSharp and the 1SM are different machines with different width and length belts.  I'm not sure how they will compare, though I expect the Kallamazoo actually has more grinding power?  I'm just trying to make sure that I buy a tool that is easy for me to use and not damage blades easily.

On the other hand, re-reading Mr. Grepper's post, I think he already answered my question:

Quote:The Kally’s relatively slow belt speed never has a problem of overheating when sharpening so variable speed has just not been an issue.

So maybe I should just abandon the idea of a variable speed motor.  Even if it's really cool!  Smile

Do either of you use the 1SM horizontally?  I saw a manufacturer's video that showed it easily adjusting into the downward position.  My idea is that with the belt horizontal and the blade on top, I should be able to watch the shiny line of the burr appear as I sharpen, thus making it faster and easier for me to detect a full length burr.

Thanks again,
Brian.
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#6
A strange coincidence: Yesterday at the flea market, I saw an old (1979-ish) Craftsman 1x42 belt sander for sale. I didn't ask about the price, but I'll bet I can pick it up for less than $50. I believe it had a 3600RPM motor, though I should go check. I wonder if this would be good to have for cheap just to play with. Or maybe to set up with a single belt (like a finishing belt) so I could do fewer belt changes on the main grinder.... Hmm...

Brian.
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#7
Hello Mr. bigentry,

Buy that craftsman if for nothing else than to put your burr removal belts on (leather and/or scotchbrite). It's worth the money just for not having  to change belts on your Kally. I'd be interested in knowing if the faster belt speed might even be better for burr removal.
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#8
(12-28-2019, 02:36 PM)blgentry Wrote: I would like a good powered sharpening system.  I currently have a WorkSharp Ken Onion and have sharped several hundred blades with it.  It's a really good machine for the money, but it's "slow" in that it can't really remove metal fast enough to sharpen knives quickly.  On maximum speed, it's also very loud.  

I think what I want is a 1x42 belt sander with variable speed and reversible.  I also want something to make deburring very easy.  Several people have recommended a paper wheel on a bench grinder (buffer).  This has the added advantage of having two wheels, so I can use the other wheel for something like a cotton buffing wheel, which I would use for deburring serrated blades (the serrated side, after having ground the flat side to form a burr).

I would like to be able to see the burr forming as I sharpen.  It seems like a horizontal belt is the best way to do this.  I've occasionally gotten lucky with lighting and been able to see the burr form on the WSKO.  It's really neat to do it this way.  I'd like a setup that's designed to make this happen.

Until recently I thought that sharpening edge leading on a belt was incredibly dangerous.  But over the last week or so I've read a lot of discussion on this that seems to conclude that edge leading sharpening on a belt has a very low probability of grabbing the blade and throwing it.  I'm interested in opinions on this too.  Edge leading would seem to be a better way to reduce burr size to start with so deburring will be easier.

I've looked at the Veil S5 that Steve Bottorf sells, with the adapter plate to let it take the Penn variable speed motor.  But that setup doesn't appear to be truly variable (only goes down to 600 RPM) and it is not reversible.  Maybe reversible isn't important; I'm not sure as I lack experience with real belt grinders.

I've also considered the Kallamazoo 1SM.  I can only seem to find these with a single speed motor included.  Which probably means I need buy my own motor and waste the money on the motor that was already included.

Today I talked to Richard Pope who has made a lot of machines like this.  But he's mainly focusing on scissor sharpening now and his products are mostly out of my price range at > $1000 .

Thanks for any advice for specific machine setups.  Also thoughts on edge leading sharpening, reversible motors, and deburring are all appreciated.

Brian.

(12-28-2019, 10:45 PM)grepper Wrote: I can only share my own experience.  What’s right for me may not be same as what’s right for you.  

There certainly is a plethora of powered sharpening options and no shortage of opinions on which is best.  I know from personal experience how difficult, time consuming and costly deciding on one can be.  I’ve purchased and used paper wheels, hand stones, bench grinder, Tormek, manual guided contraptions, diamond plates, the small version of the Work Sharp belt sharpener and the Kally 1SM.  All of these will sharpen and all have pros and cons.  

For knife sharpening I now only use the Kally.  For me at least it is by far the most versatile and quickest way to sharpen and deburr a knife.  1x42 is an ideal size for sharpening.  Belts are inexpensive and of course there is a cornucopia of grits and abrasive types.  The Kally’s relatively slow belt speed never has a problem of overheating when sharpening so variable speed has just not been an issue.

Both edge leading and edge trailing sharpening will create burr.  Edge leading is far more aggressive.  I prefer edge trailing with a light touch for sharpening.  For easy burr removal with either leading or trailing sharpening, the trick is the keep the burr as small as possible.  A bigger than necessary burr accomplishes nothing and makes its removal more difficult.

After a couple of passes I look at the blade for burr.  With a good light in front, hold the blade with the edge towards you, the spine towards the light, look at the blade from above and tilt it around a bit.  Even the smallest burr will be visible.  What happens is that burr starts to form on small segments along the edge.  Those segments are done.  Additional grinding over those segments will only increase burr size and make it more difficult to remove.  Then focus on segments with no burr until a tiny and even burr is formed along the entire edge.  Flip the blade over, do the same on the other side and you’re done grinding.  

This sounds like a time consuming process but it’s not.  Unless the blade is super dull we’re only talking about a few passes each side.  With a bit of practice it’s quick and easy.  

I deburr with a well worn extra fine Scotch-Brite belt and then finish with the rough side (no compound) of a leather belt to clean things up a bit.  Blades generally end up between 100 – 130 sharpness.  Obviously I don't need to say this here but I will anyway.  NEVER edge lead with either a leather or surface conditioning (Scotch-Brite) belt.  Doing so will instantly destroy the belt and possibly even ruin your day with epidermal leakage.  I just hate it when that happens.  

I should add that I’m only concerned about getting general purpose knives and cutlery very sharp quickly.  I’m not chasing ultimate sharpness, nor am I concerned about things like 15° vs 15.3° bevel angle.  

After many years of experimenting and a lot of $$$ spent, Kally is the way to go for me.  It’s affordable and produces extremely sharp edges very quickly with minimal effort.  Of course, YMMV.  

Hope that helps.

this is all the info above you will ever need..........enjoy.......you can also add penn state motor and reversible switch to Kally later if you desire.
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#9
To me, overheating as it relates to belt speed is only a function of how much pressure is applied (edge to belt) along with how quickly you move the edge across the face of the belt. You could reduce the belt speed by half but if you apply the same pressure and dally in one spot twice as long, you haven't gained anything friction/overheating wise. Just me thinking out loud in thermodynamic terms which I have no right to do.
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#10
I went back to the flea market today and looked at the Craftsman 1x42. It has a 1750RPM motor but with sleeve bearings, which a friend of mine tells me are "terrible".

I also was apparently being WAY overly optimistic about the price: Seller wanted $100. So I passed and will now have $100 more towards the Kallamazoo or other. I'm really heavily leaning towards the 1SM right now. I might press "buy" within the next hour...

Any recommended sources for belts, including scotchbright, leather, and linen? I'm thinking I might want to try deburring on linen with 1 micron diamond or CBN. Ken used to have diamond bars and maybe CBN emulsions too? We haven't talked in at least 5 or 6 years now, so the details are fuzzy for me.

Thanks!

Brian.
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