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There are several good uses for a belt sander even if you do not it to sharpen knives:  This description is for a Viel Tools S5 sander/grinder but can be adapted to any belt sander.

1. Reduce the bolster of a chef’s knife that has been sharpened in a pull through sharpener and developed a swale or low spot.

Lay the sander down so the belt is horizontal and moving away from you.  Hold the blade across the belt just as if you were sharpening, but only grind the bolster.  You can improve the appearance by rocking the blade from about 20 to about 50 degrees, and by using the short slack belt section between the platen and the idler wheel.  Grind until the bolster is no longer higher than the edge. I also tilt the handle down so the bolster is lower nearer the handle.  If the sander finish is not okay it can be corrected with a coarser or finer Rust Eraser.

2. Reshape a chopping knife with a swale or low spot so it racks against the cutting board.  (Santoku, unbolstered chef’s knife or bolstered chefs knife after the above operation) See Knife Defects page

Lay sander horizontal as above.  Hold the blade parallel to the belt, spine up, edge down.  Rock the cutting edge on a belt until the swale is gone.  This requires a platen as long as the blade. Of course you dull the edge in the process, but you CANNOT create negative curvature against a flat platen. If you hold the blade about 45 deg. to either side for the last two passes you start the re-sharpening process.

3. Grind a strong convex edge on a chopping tool.  (Axe or camp knife)

Lay sander horizontal as above, edge across the belt. Sharpen the edge on the short slack section between the platen and the idler wheel. Angle will control how far up the side of the blade you sharpen. Position closer to the platen for stronger edges (axes) and a little further back for a sharper edge (knives)

4. Garden tools that do not open 90 degrees (anvil pruners and grass shears).
Set the sander up so the long slack section opposite the platen is up and turning away from you.  Bring the belt between the blades (or blade and anvil) at the sharpening angle.  Try it first with the sander off to see how it fits and if you can move it the full length of the blade.

This is a safe operation if the blade and the anvil form a V with a flat bottom (pruner) and dangerous if the blades form a V with a sharp bottom (grass shears).  The sharp V will pinch the belt, shred it ($5 gone) and possibly throw the tool.  If anyone asks, I do not recommend this.  Do as I say and not as I do.  Be careful and WEAR YOUR SAFETY GLASSES!


Updated March 16, 2014
Copyright 2014

e-mail steve at bottorff dot com

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