The humble bench grinder is a staple of the handy-person’s home shop, largely due to its versatility. But, while you can employ one to remove metal from just about anything, the traditional kind may not provide the precision you need for every grinding operation. Here, we shed light on the best ways to use the different types of grinders, as well as recommend a few models, backed by impressions and data from our testing.

See quick info below on the three best bench grinders, then scroll deeper for pointers on use and safety, as well as the full, in-depth reviews of these models.

Grinding Tips: Dealing With Dust

Grinding is messy—grit flies everywhere. While it may be tempting to use a traditional shop dust-collection system, don’t. Particles of metal coming off grinding wheels are hot and could ignite fine, dry sawdust in a dust collector, causing a fire. There are dust-collection systems specific for grinding, but they’re usually geared toward commercial use, quite expensive, and not practical in a home. Try these strategies to deal with the grit flying around in your shop.

using a bench grinder with sparks flying
Lakota Gambill
  • Wear an N95 mask or respirator to prevent inhalation of dust and grit (along with eye protection or a face shield).
  • Bolt your grinder to a pedestal or small stand so you can orient it away from other work surfaces or in an area of the shop where dust and grit won’t harm anything.
  • When possible, position grinding wheels over the end of a bench, so debris can fall to the floor.
  • If a grinder is bolted to your workbench, build an open metal box behind it to prevent grit and dust from covering everything else on the bench.
  • For shops in the garage, pull vehicles out onto the driveway before beginning work. This will protect painted and polished finishes, as well as glass, from potential scratches.
  • Use a shop vacuum to clean up debris immediately after grinding sessions whenever possible.
  • Keep drop cloths or old bed­sheets around to cover anything else in the shop you want to protect if you have a significant amount of grinding to do.

    Grinding Safety

    Eye Protection
    Use it. Take it from me, someone who had a procedure to remove a tiny bit of hot metal that fused to their eye. Aside from that not being fun, the risk of losing sight is just not worth the time it takes to don eye protection. While there are all kinds of fancy types, an ordinary set of goggles is all you need.

    using a belt grinder with sparks flying
    Lakota Gambill

    They seem like a good idea, but grinding wheels—as well as wire wheels found on many grinders—can grab gloves, pulling them, and hands, into the machine. So skip them.

    Long Hair and Loose Clothing
    Just like gloves, anything long and loose—hair and clothing, for example—can get caught and pull you into the machine. Tie your hair back, and avoid baggy clothes around the grinder.

    Work Rests
    Use these platforms whenever possible to steady whatever you’re grinding and maneuver it on the wheel. When that isn’t practical, grind on the lower half of the wheel; that way, if the workpiece catches, it will be thrown down rather than toward you.

    How We Tested

    We researched the market, surveyed user reviews, interviewed product managers, and relied on our own experience operating bench grinders to arrive at this selection. To then test them, we performed three common grinding tasks. For the wheeled and belt grinders, we ground flats, curves, and bevels in steel bar stock. For the wet/dry sharpener, we honed a kitchen knife, wood chisel, and a fireman’s axe. We evaluated each machine on ease of use, how well it performed, speed, versatility, and value.


    Bauer 8-In. Bench Grinder

    RPM: 3,600 | Horsepower: 3⁄4 | Sink flange: Stainless steel | Grind components: Stainless steel | LED work light

    8-In. Bench Grinder

    • Excellent value
    • Large

    • Noisier than some more expensive models

    We appreciate bench grinders like this Bauer, with big, meaty eight-inch wheels. We noted the large wheels took a little longer than models with smaller ones to spin up to speed. But with their mass, they act like flywheels, maintaining rpms when we were working them hard. Larger wheels also last longer, with more abrasive material to wear down before they need replacing. We found the cast work rests to be strong, easily adjustable, and effective. We don’t always need the work light, but it does come in handy—especially when the grinder is in a dark, out-of-the-way corner of the shop. Bauer’s bench grinder is a notable value at about half the price of similar models, and at the end of the day it will achieve the same results.

    How to Use It

    What could be simpler than using a bench grinder? Step up to the machine, turn it on, and press an offensive bit of metal into the spinning, abrasive wheel. Right? Well, yes—and no. There are some things to keep in mind to grind both successfully and safely.

    cooling metal workpiece with water
    Use a container of water to cool the workpiece.
    Lakota Gambill

    Heat is your enemy. It builds up very quickly, can damage metals, and makes things too hot to hold. Pressing hard to remove material in one spot will generate a lot of it. Keep your workpiece moving and make use of the full width of the grinding stone. Keep a cup or tray of water on hand to cool metal parts when you feel them getting hot.

    Another reason to keep whatever you’re grinding moving is to prolong the life of the abrasive wheel. Working in one spot on the wheel will cut a groove in it or round off an edge; it’s better to spread the wear more evenly. And if being able to grind something square is important, keeping the face of the wheel flat will make it easier.


    Wen 10-In. Wet/Dry Sharpening System

    RPM: 115 | Wheels: 10-in., 220-grit stone sharpening wheel; 8-in. leather stropping wheel | Reversible rotation | Universal jig/work support | Water reservoir

    10-In. Wet/Dry Sharpening System

    • Sharpens wide range of knives/tools
    • Reasonably priced

    • Jig support takes patience to set up

    Wen’s Wet/Dry Sharpener is extremely useful. We’ve spent plenty of time honing edges on chisels, hand-plane blades, and knives by hand, trying all kinds of sharpening gadgets, with mixed results. And though this Wen took some care and patience to get the work support set up and square to the stone, once it was ready to go for a task like sharpening chisels, we could fairly quickly remove enough material to rejuvenate some very sad, worn edges. Removing the “wire” or burrs created during sharpening was something we needed to do by hand on a hone, or whetstone, taking only a couple of strokes. We were able to complete the process on the included leather-​covered stropping wheel, finishing the tools’ edges to razor-sharpness.

    How to Use It

    Sharpening knives and tools seems to mystify people, and there are a lot of gadgets available intended to make the process simple. However, using a basic water-cooled sharpener is an easy and time-tested method for a wide variety of blades, from axes to pocket knives. And, while the individual steps might differ from one item to another, there are some best practices to follow for all of them.

    Figure out the correct angle at which to sharpen the tool or knife (generally 17 to 20 degrees for kitchen knives and 20 to 30 degrees for chisels and pocket knives). Set up the jig or tool holder so that it’s square to the sharpening wheel and the tool contacts the wheel at the desired angle.

    knife sharpening on a wet stone
    Apply even pressure and keep the blade moving across the wheel.
    Lakota Gambill

    Fill the reservoir with water and rotate the wheel, letting the stone absorb the water. Keep topping up the reservoir until the stone has absorbed all it can and the water level stops dropping.

    Make sure the wheel is turning in the correct direction for whatever you’re sharpening. For knives, the wheel should turn away from the edge—sharpening toward it removes more material faster, and it’s far too easy to grind away too much. Grind chisels, hand-plane blades, and axes with the wheel turning toward the edge. Since these are thicker and have a lot more material to work with, they generally can afford removing much more metal to achieve a new, fresh edge.

    Keep the tool moving, using the entire surface of the stone. This ensures you’re removing material evenly from the tool and keeps the wear on the stone flat and uniform.

    Hone off the burr or wire edge that is created during sharpening, by hand, with a couple of passes on a whetstone.

    finish polishing the edge on the stropping wheel
    Finish polishing the edge on the stropping wheel.
    Lakota Gambill

    Switch over to the leather stropping wheel to finish the edge and make it razor-sharp. The leather is treated with machine oil to keep it soft, and you should apply a small amount of abrasive stropping paste to the wheel, too. Do this with the wheel turning away from you and from the sharpened blade—it will polish any remaining imperfections.


    Kalamazoo Industries BG248

    Horsepower: 1⁄2 | Belts: 2 x 48-in. 80-grit | 7,200 sfpm (surface feet per minute) | Adjustable/removable work rest | Adjustable head from vertical to horizontal

    BG248 Belt Grinder

    • Precise grinding
    • Builds up less heat than a grinding wheel

    • Expensive

    The BG248 belt grinder is a metal-consuming beast. During testing, we were surprised how quickly it was able to remove material from steel bar stock. Working side by side with a wheeled machine let us quickly spot some of the advantages of the BG248. We had water on hand to cool our workpiece but used it much less frequently than we did using a traditional bench grinder; the belt speed and surface area put less heat into the material. The biggest advantage we found, though, was the ability to grind surfaces very flat, straight, and precisely. This precision is ideal for cleaning up parts that need to fit together tightly.

    How to Use It

    Belt grinders excel where precision is required, with the ability to create surfaces that are flat, square, or beveled at an angle.

    For many grinding tasks in fabrication and repair, you’ll want to set the work rest to 90 degrees. Use a square to set it perpendicular to the belt where it travels over the platen—that’s the hard surface that supports the belt. If you need another angle, you can set it using a sliding T-bevel.

    using a work rest set at 90 degrees on a belt grinder
    Using a work rest, set at 90 degrees, on a belt grinder.
    Lakota Gambill

    Like with most grinding operations, keep the workpiece moving to prevent it from getting too hot, and use the full surface of the abrasive belt. Belt grinders don’t create as much heat as their wheeled counterparts, but you should still keep a cup or tray of water on hand to cool the workpiece.

    Often work rests can come off so you can grind long, flat edges or surfaces, and the head can rotate to orient the platen horizontally.