For the past few years I’ve worked solely with a hand crank grinder. I love it really, and I had no problem getting sweet edges on my chisels and planes, but when it comes to drawknives and axes I was constantly running into problems with the handles interfering with the crank arm. That had me on the lookout for a reasonably priced electric grinder, and while I really wanted this one, I’ve never pulled the trigger.
Recently, a new Lidl grocery store opened up in town and (like their competitor Aldi) they occasionally carry tools. As I was leafing through their sale paper a few weeks ago, I saw this “slow speed” wet/dry grinder for $29 and I couldn’t help myself.
Here’s what it looks like out of the box:
Now, let me say this. This isn’t the same quality as the Rikon listed above. It’s not even really in the ballpark. I don’t expect it to be a lifetime tool. The same exact model is painted lots of different colors and marketed under several names. It’s bare bones, and there are some places where it leaves something to be desired, but I wanted to share a quick rundown of how I’ve made it work for me.
First, the cons:
- The “tool rests” on the dry wheel are laughable. they’re really not worth the metal they’re pressed from.
- I dislike spark guards. Especially when they’re as bad as the tool rests.
- The water reservoir on the wet wheel is also notched so as to be used as a tool rest. This works in only the very most academic sense. The plastic is not rigid enough to really provide support.
Well, dang, I’m not selling it am I?
Honestly, I’m not trying to sell it too hard. If it were my first or only grinder I would look elsewhere, but having struggled with the tool rest on my hand-crank grinder I had already upgraded to the Veritas grinder tool rest which is worth every penny of it’s $50 price tag (although I ended up scoring mine for less in a lot of tools).
After removing the sheet metal guard from the dry wheel I was able to get it set up with the Veritas tool rest and it works great. I intend to upgrade to a friable Norton wheel at some point, but I can handle this wheel just fine at the moment.
The wet wheel is great for drawknives. Even with the floppy plastic “guide” on the reservoir I was able to put a wicked edge on my old Witherby in no time. I’m thinking of building a permanent wooden guide over the wheel at some point when I get a chance. It’s not super high on the to-do list though.
So, the pros:
- it spins true enough for sharpening tools.
- it’s no Tormek, but it’s nice to have a wet and dry wheel
- it was $29 and when it dies (as I know it will) I won’t be sad about buying a new one.
So, being honest, this does break with my buy-the-best-tool-you-can-afford-so-that-it-lasts-and-you-don’t-have-to-throw-it-in-the-trash philosophy a little bit and I am conflicted about that. I am not conflicted about the results I’m getting though and who knows, maybe it will last longer than I expect.
It’s probably worth the cash if you’re on a budget and you’ve got the inclination to tinker. If you didn’t want to splash out on the Veritas guide, you could make your own from wood and some hardware from the big box store. On the other hand, if that’s not your bag and you just want to get up and working, it’s probably best to go for something a little higher up the food chain.