Alex is looking to buy a 6-inch bench grinder for sharpening axes and machetes, and possibly general purpose usage as well. He narrowed it down to three <$75 options – Craftsman, Ryobi, and Porter Cable, and asked for help choosing the best of the three. (Please chime in with your own recommendations!)
Craftsman 6-inch Bench Grinder, model 21124
Going by the product specs, we know that the grinder has a 1/6 HP motor and weighs in at 22 lbs with a cast iron base. It comes with 2 grinding wheels – 36 grit and 60 grit. It also comes with clear wheel guards and what look to be flip-down tool rests. The power switch is a small lighted rocker.
Price: $70 via Sears, but Alex reports seeing it at $45.
Ryobi 6-inch Bench Grinder, model BGH6110
Ryobi’s bench grinder is built with a 2.1 amp 3600 (no-load) RPM motor, and features a heavy gauge steel base. Going by looks, the Ryobi grinder appears to be less substantial than the Craftsman model. The shields appear to be smaller, and the tool rests thinner. Also included are 36 and 60 grit grinding wheels and a coolant tray.
Price: $45 via Home Depot
Porter Cable 6-inch Bench Grinder, model PCB525BG
Porter Cable’s grinder sets itself apart with a 2.5A variable speed 2000-3450 RPM motor. It weighs in at 25.5 lbs and appears to have a cast iron base. Like the two other grinders, this one comes with 36 and 60 grit wheels. Also included are aluminum tool rests, a grinding wheel dresser, and removable water quenching tray.
Price: $67 via Lowes
Which to Pick?
All three grinders are single-store exclusives; the Craftsman grinder can only be purchased at Sears, the Ryobi at Home Depot, and the Porter Cable at Lowes, making a direct product comparison difficult. For the most part, all three grinders have reasonably positive user reviews.
Comparing the specs of all three grinders, and our memory of what they looked and felt like in-store, the Craftsman and Porter Cable would be the final two options. The Ryobi grinder looks to be in a slightly lower class, and better compares with these similarly priced Skil and Powertec units.
Between the Craftsman and Porter Cable units, it really is a tough choice, but our money would probably go towards the Craftsman despite the Porter Cable’s seemingly beefier base. The Porter Cable grinder does has a variable-speed motor, but an inline speed control can possibly be added to the Craftsman later on if needed. There are also dedicated slow-speed grinder options should 3400-3600 RPMs prove to be too speedy.
We also don’t like how the Porter Cable’s left tool rest is grooved for drill-bit sharpening. Even though we prefer the Craftsman’s out-of-the-box tool rests, Alex’s intended usage may necessitate some modifications anyways.
If not limited to retail-store models, we would recommend also checking out MSC and Enco’s sales flyers for a good deal on a budget industrial model. But that brings other issues to the table, including ambiguous specs, hefty shipping fees, and the inability to check one out pre-purchase in person.
Can anyone recommend a better sub-$75 bench grinder for Alex that will suit his axe and machete-grinding needs?
Slower speed is going to be better for sharpening, so I would say the PC.
Another option would be a belt/disc sander. Belts are cooler (thus better at preserving the hardness of the steel) and can be had in finer grits.
I would second the belt sander, I sharpen axes on mine and can get a much better edge. Just make sure there is no wood dust around and no dust collection system is hooked up.
For both tasks it would seem that a mill fill would do the job – at much lower cost – and could be used in the field to boot.. But if machinery is necessary – maybe he might take a look at the Work Sharp – which sell for about $68 at Amazon and just a bit more at Sears
I do not use a grinder on edged tools any more and have switched to using a file and stones. It doesn’t really take any more time and the blades are much sharper than what a grinder can achieve. A couple minutes will completely touch up a blade.
I have that Craftsman version bench grinder (spent about $40 at Sears). It works perfect in my garage for regular small work.
I have a 10 year old version of the Ryobi. It works fine for sharpening lawnmower blades and hatchets, grinding off metal flash, etc.
I’m sure there are better bench grinders out there, but I’ve never had a problem with mine.
I think the Skil is a great option at $45. I have it in my shop and it works great.
For sharpening, I use my Skil belt/disc sander $109. I got both at Lowes.
Was actually looking very hard at the Craftsman one, and you made my decision for me. Just picked it up this past weekend. Thank you for the review, I enjoy this website.
You’re very welcome, I’m glad to have helped you make the decision!
I have my father’s grinder and it is about 45 years old I went out over the weekend and purchased a new 6in grinding wheel from harbor freight and a new wire wheel and it is ready for another 40 years. It is a craftsman.
I’m with Terry…. I gave a 6″ Craftsman grinder to my dad on Christmas in 1968. Having inherited it a couple years ago when he passed on, I am still using it today and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s amazingly durable! The motor brushes haven’t worn out yet after 47 years and enduring 5 sets of grinder wheels! If I would ever need another grinder, it would surely be a Craftsman!
The thing to remember is Craftsman products built years ago were made in the U.S.A while tools over the past 25 years have been built outside of the U.S.A with different material specifications. None of these companies want there tools to last as long as they once did and get past on to their children. We have become a throw away society and even Sears quit carrying repair parts for older equipment. Even there hand tools are made in China and you can tell they are not as well made anymore.
It seems to me the Craftsman is only about 1.6 amp motor at 1/6 hp according to my calculations. Perhaps I’m wrong but the PorterCable is more powerful and adjustable speed. If you aren’t going to load it up then maybe power doesn’t mater.
Your calculations look a bit generous. But to be honest, I don’t really trust either ratings. The only to reliably compare power is to test both grinders side by side. Even if the Craftsman may be a tad bit underpowered, that’s even more reason to take things nice and easy. A lighter touch makes a grinding job take a little longer, but the results are often a bit better.
What “in-line speed control” can be “possibly” be added to a bench grinder? As far as I know these motors’ speed can’t be adjusted.
These work with < 3-1/4 HP routers, so they *might* work with inexpensive grinders. With most motors, if you drop the voltage, you drop the speed.
AC Induction motors get their speeds as a multiple of the 60HZ current. When you cut the voltage to an AC induction motor all you get is a weaker motor going the same speed. In order for voltage reduction to work as speed control you must be using a universal AC/DC type motor. If your motor uses brushes it is likely the universal type. Most grinders use brushless AC induction motors and require an expensive variable frequency drive in order to achieve speed control.
Thanks for the correction and clarification! That explains why certain speed controls can only be used with certain tool types.
The difference between AC induction motors and universal AC/DC type motors, and compatible aftermarket controllers is something I really should have looked into previously.
High Desert Splinter Maker
If all you plan to use the grinder for is to sharpen an ax and a machete but a good bastard file and put the other sixty five dollars into a high quality ax.
If you plan to go with a grinder anyway buy the PC, upgrade at least one of the wheels, and invest a few extra bucks in a good tool rest.
File and stone = hair splitting axe. Bench grinder = dull axe with ruined temper.
Another downside on the Ryobi: Look at the adjustable rests. They’re too flimsy. Time to put this on Craigslist and buy me a Craftsman.
That’s virtually the missing bit of the puzzle! Well done guys. -NAME
Hey man, this was great. -NAME
I believed this was great. It advised me of this. -NAME
Might be useful to review the current generation of bench grinders.
I’m looking for an 8″ bench grinder with either dual speed or variable speed.
Newer grinders have LED lamp(s), but I’m surprised mainstream bench grinders are still offered with incandescent/halogen lamps.
Ken (above) is correct that induction AC motors are normally controlled by varying frequency (from 60Hz in North America). A simple rheostat won’t work. So how do the latest variable speed bench grinders control speed?
Some current models:
Hercules (HF) 57285:
The Bucktool grinder is interesting:
*Dual speed, not variable speed
*White Aluminum Oxide wheels
*One wheel is 1″, but the other wheel is 1.5″ (fits CBN wheel)
*Magnifier eye shield
*Spare buffer wheel
Thanks! I’ll try to add this to my to-do list.
There’s also Jet, Rockwell, Dewalt, and Wen.
I’m not familiar with Bucktool and will need to look into the brand further.
Just by coincidence, the Den of Tools guy uploaded an extensive listing of variable speed bench grinders today: