Here’s a project I completed last summer that I’m just finally getting around to sharing. It’s an “old-fashioned” bench grinder stand, or pedestal. I call it old-fashioned because I built it for a belt-driven grinder whereas grinders today are typically direct-drive.
The grinder itself is a General Hardware 6″ grinder with no model number. I picked it up at a garage sale for $5. I couldn’t find too much information on it, but what I did find indicates that it may have been manufactured any time between the 1950’s and 1970’s. I didn’t have a grinder, and I had some old utility motors laying around, so I figured it might be a cheap way to have one.
The easy solution would have been to just mount the grinder and a motor to a board and be done with it, but I wanted something a little nicer. After scouring the web for awhile, I stumbled across this webpage which had plans for a pedestal grinder stand, scanned from a November 1971 copy of Popular Mechanics magazine. This was it! Some of the information was cut off, so to be sure I had all the information I needed, I purchased a copy of the magazine off of Ebay, made my own scans, and filed it away until I’d have time to build it. That time finally came when I walked out to the garage one Saturday morning feeling bored but motivated and looking for something to do.
Building the stand itself was the easy part. I followed the dimensions given, with just a minor deviation to the bottom support piece to account for the casters I used in lieu of the axle and wheels used in the plan. I used scrap 3/4″ plywood I already had laying around. The grinder has a 2″ pulley, so I chose a 4″ pulley for the motor to get a 2:1 ration for 3,450 rpm (using a 1725 rpm motor.) The plans don’t specify how big a motor should be used, but from what I gathered online, something between 1/3 and 1/2 HP would be adequate. I ended using a 3/4 HP motor that came out of an old air conditioning unit many decades ago. So with everything in place, I installed a brand new 55″ belt and fired it up. I quickly learned that there wasn’t enough tension on the belt, as it flopped around wildly and quickly slipped off the pulley. Back to the drawing board.
I first considered that maybe the motor Popular Mechanics used was heavier, and thus put more tension on the belt. But the motor I’m using is pretty heavy too. Maybe the weight isn’t distributed properly to ensure enough tension. That’s possible. I’m not sure how they got it to work and I didn’t, but I decided to fix mine by adding adjustable tension to the assembly. I installed a turnbuckle and related hardware between the motor mount and the stand and voila! It ran smooth and the belt stays in place.
I painted the stand yellow, ran all new wire, and added a safety ground to the motor. The cover for the electric terminals on it was missing, so I fabricated a new one from aluminum sheet metal. I installed the power switch on the side of the stand, rather than in front like the PopSci plans show. I did this for a couple reasons. One, it was easier, and two, I like having the ability to turn the grinder on while standing off to the side as a safety precaution. The last item I completed was adding alight. I picked up a goose neck lamp from a thrift store for $3, removed the plastic base it was attached to and installed it on top of some scrap copper pipe to get the height I wanted.
So after several days and evening of hard work and occasional frustration, I have a pretty nice looking bench grinder, and it works great. Here’s a video of it in action:
So, was it worth it? I don’t know. I estimate I spent around $40 for the grinder, paint, a new belt and some other parts I needed. I don’t remember how much time I spent building it, but it was several hours. For $100 I could have picked up a fairly nice grinder and stand from a big box hardware store, and had it assembled in half an hour. Besides saving time, I’d have better safety guarding, integrated LED lighting and more robust tool rests. So maybe it wasn’t worth it when you consider all of that. But then I have to say, this is a beautiful little machine. Flipping the switch, seeing that belt take off, listening to it as it makes its way around the pulleys, it’s an experience that isn’t replicated in a modern bench grinder. And it all came from my own two hands. That’s worth something. In the end, I’m really glad I built it, and it’s a piece of equipment I’ll cherish because of how much time and sweat I put into building it.