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Surface Grinder, luxury or essential?

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Stuart Bridger05/07/2018 11:31:23
381 forum posts
23 photos

Reading Alan Pickerings excellent article in ME 4590, he describes a surface grinder as "compulsory" How many out there have one and how often are they used? I currently have a lathe and mill and have not "needed" a grinder yet!

pgk pgk05/07/2018 11:47:26
1499 forum posts
285 photos

I suppose it depends what sort of stuff you're going to do.. is it for surface finish or for improved accuracy? If the latter then a good grade surface plate and finer reading gauges come first. Personally I'd add a shaper to my toy list first but then i 'muck about' rather than taking in paid stuff

I've just completed 2 jobs for myself.. the first was an additional latch to match the existing ones in this house... nice low tolerance stuff one could enjoy whacking out with soem silver soldering and filing and all sress free because it was an eyeball equivelent. The second job was making a new handle holder for my big Husky strimmer. the orginal casting failed and I made anew one of solid. The only bits that had to be accurate were a rectangular slot to fit the machine's attachment and the angle of the handle. The rest of the work was just to match the original but fun to do... an angled round front (angle the vice on mill and calculate the depth and offsets then mill & file to shape) and model the draft angles of the casting.


Clive Brown 105/07/2018 11:57:19
306 forum posts
7 photos

I've "model engineered" in my home workshop for 45+ years without thinking that I need a surface grinder, or having access to one. All of my very capable ME acquaintances seem to get by without one as well.


Mike Poole05/07/2018 12:16:21
2246 forum posts
52 photos

If you need to finish an item after hardening then a grinder is very useful. We often leave homemade tooling soft as it will usually not suffer significant wear during occasional use. Lapping can often be used instead of surface or cylindrical grinding to finish a hard part to a close dimension and surface finish. I think the home workshop that has a surface grinder is going to be a rarity, nice to have if you have the space but well down my must have list.


Baz05/07/2018 13:12:26
284 forum posts

All depends upon what you make in your workshop. I imagine you could build a loco or traction engine without needing surface grinding facilities, I must admit to owning one, and use it quite a lot.

Brian H05/07/2018 13:46:11
1333 forum posts
100 photos

I've never felt the need for a surface grinder, not even for the odd 'foreigner' at work but recently bought a UNION tool & cutter grinder for end mills and lathe tools etc and found that it will do surface grinding.

I've had a go on a piece of tool steel that was just a tad oversize and it worked a treat, but I must remember not to grind away any more of the magnetic table fences by forgetting that they are there!


Andrew Johnston05/07/2018 14:18:01
5065 forum posts
582 photos

Not being a model engineer embarrassed I have a surface grinder, and a cylindrical grinder as well as the obligatory T&C grinder.

None of the grinders get frequent use. I use the cylindrical grinder the most often. It's useful for knocking up gauges to use when boring holes on the lathe. I get a much better finish than when turning and it is fairly simple to achieve size accuracy of a tenth or so. That way I know the gauge is an order of magnitude better than the tolerance I need on the bored hole. So I can concentrate on boring the hole rather than compensating for an inaccurate gauge as well. It's also good for getting parallel finishes. When I made the rams for my traction engine water pumps I ground all the rams in one piece. With a bit of tweaking I was able to get them parallel to better than a tenth over 10 inches. Like this:

grinding water pump rams.jpg

It is also simple to remove the part, test it with the mating part, and then replace it between centres and take off another tenth or two.

I have a few issues with the surface grinder in that the finish can sometimes be a bit off. We're only talking a couple of tenths but it doesn't look nice. Not sure if the spindle plain bearings are shot, or it's operator incompetence. Still it is easy to get items parallel to within a tenth or so. When I made the connecting rods for my traction engines I left the ends over thickness. Then I could grind the big end and the bearing strap independently so that they mated with the join undetectable with a fingernail.

The T&C gets used mostly for special tooling, like grinding the relief on taps:

grinding tap relief.jpg

I guess it's like all tooling, if you haven't got one you definitely can't use it. But if you do have them it opens up alternative methods, or better accuracy with less effort.

So far all the special tooling I have made has been hardened and tempered. Just makes life so much easier, especially when cutting steel or cast iron.


Howard Lewis05/07/2018 17:51:32
2581 forum posts
2 photos

Envy, Envy!!, Even if they would only be used once or twice a year!

Nice to have and would probably result in the range of work done expanding exponentially, not to mention improving the accuracy and surface finish.

Not having precision grinding machines available, have had to manage without them, but often dreamed of possessing them


larry phelan 105/07/2018 19:00:56
553 forum posts
11 photos

Despite what Tubal Cain said,I dont regard a tool and cutter grinder as a "must-have",although he maintained that it would be a very poor shop which did not have one. I dont,and I would feel the same about a surface grinder. How often does the home shop have the need for something like that?

More likely to find a need for a few new cutters. No,I think something like that would be far down my list. An angle grinder will do me for now !

Baz05/07/2018 19:53:16
284 forum posts

Larry phelan 1, I would regard a tool and cutter grinder as an absolute essential, how are you going to sharpen your first blunt end mill or slot drill? Equipped with a decent three way vice all sorts of turning tool shapes can be accurately produced, correctly profiled screwcutting tools can be ground and with a few attachments taps can be sharpened, milling cutters can be radiused, no need to ever have to purchase a ball nosed cutter, just get an old slot drill and grind your own, same thing with step drills, flat bottom drills etc. Something like a Clarkson is worth its weight in gold.

Dusty05/07/2018 20:14:06
467 forum posts
8 photos

I did have access to a surface grinder. In all the time it was available to me I only used it once, that was to give a quick lick to cross slide of a Super 7 I was refurbishing. When I came to use it I found that the mag chuck had never been ground on the machine. It took me a couple of hours to grind the chuck as it was about .004" out. Then 20mins to take .001 from the cross slide, it looks like new now. The surface grinder is no longer available to me. Will I miss it no. Better to spend your money on something you will use a lot more. The alternative is to spend the money in the Pub, the end result will be the same.

Neil Wyatt05/07/2018 20:14:55
16926 forum posts
689 photos
76 articles

Nothing is essential, not even a lathe.

A surface grinder is unequivocally a luxury for most.

I think the article in question was very interesting, but a bit demotivating for those of use limited to a 16x8' workshop that has to accommodate several other hobbies, let along someone limited to a kitchen table. Andrew has some fine machines, but he doesn't say we all need them (or even claim that he needs them all)!

The 'right' way to build a workshop is to gather what suits your interests (or allow your interests to follow what you can gather, which is equally satisfying).


Rik Shaw05/07/2018 21:36:50
1313 forum posts
352 photos

I would love a surface grinder but I have run out of space to fit one in. Having used them in the past I know what I am missing.


Colin Heseltine05/07/2018 21:45:05
350 forum posts
87 photos

I must admit to having a Surface Grinder. I bought a Surface grinder (Excel No.2) a Harrison L5 lathe and a Shaper back in 1973. I paid £30 for the lathe, £12 for the Grinder and £8 for the Shaper, all 3-phase. They all came at scrap value from Cannock Tech College. Sold the shaper for a Cincinnatti Vertical Mill and kept the other two. My dad was an engineer at Cincinnatti and did quite a few jobs for friends of mine at home. Lots of brake disc, brake drums, flywheels, clutch pajig and rts and the occasional cylinder head. After he retired he made a lot of punch tooling for a friend of mines business. The lathe had been upgraded to a big with an 18" odd diameter chuck. When he finally stopped work I kept the Grinder. It has done a few jobs but not a lot, would not get rid of it, it does not owe me anything.

Picked a Stent T&C grinder up at kit car show at Stoneleigh one year. IIRC it cost ne £125.

Just bought a nice toolpost grinder for the Myford. A friend of mine was tidying his workshop up at home and found two of them. One went on his Hardinge lathe and I had the other (it actually came from Myford in Nott. when they shut down.

As Neil says none of these are essential, but n my case given the opportunity to gather (as Neil puts it), I gathered.


not done it yet05/07/2018 22:59:49
3752 forum posts
15 photos

I was intrigued by the shaper with grinder attached, but although I PM’ed the member, I didn’t receive a reply.

Anyone comment on that possibility? Might be good for a surface finish, but not for really accurate metal removal? Maybe a poor man’s option? A waste of a good shaper? Anyone else tried it?

Mark Rand06/07/2018 00:32:43
828 forum posts
Posted by not done it yet on 05/07/2018 22:59:49:

I was intrigued by the shaper with grinder attached, but although I PM’ed the member, I didn’t receive a reply.

Anyone comment on that possibility? Might be good for a surface finish, but not for really accurate metal removal? Maybe a poor man’s option? A waste of a good shaper? Anyone else tried it?

I used my shaper with an angle grinder attached to clean up the weld repairs to a drill press table when I was somewhat younger. I wouldn't do it again... Got the job done, but I can't help feeling that the grit caused wear on the ram and its ways.

A few years later, when I was designing my shed, I asked to buy a scrap Herbert Junior surface grinder from work that I knew was headed to the skip. Some months later, I got an invoice for £75+VAT = £86.25 for a Jones & Shipman 1400. I re-designed the shed around it!

It's seen a fair bit of use in the re-building of the Hardinge HLV and the Beaver VBRP Mk1.

It also gets used for grinding lathe tools, especially threading tools.

After I've re-lapped the surface table to an acceptable flatness, it'll finally get re-built itself. It's 42 years old and has got 3 tenths of wear in the table ways. That's perfectly ok when roughing cast iron down to the point where it's a simple job to scrape it flat, but it's annoying when aiming for finished dimensions on hardened pieces.

A surface grinder is not at all necessary for the vast majority of workshops. But if you get a chance at one for a good price and have the space for it, you'll enjoy having it.

Danny M2Z06/07/2018 09:37:02
768 forum posts
282 photos

It's not a surface grinder, it's a toolpost grinder but a handy bit of kit for a C3 Mini lathe if one is into sizing hardened model engine crankshafts (I am btw).

I wonder why they are not readily available from the usual sources?

Apart from the fact that it took a good search to find replacement toothed belts (LMS came good) it is a great addition to a Mini lathe **LINK**

* Danny M *

Edited By Danny M2Z on 06/07/2018 09:37:47

Alan Jackson06/07/2018 10:06:55
172 forum posts
72 photos

End of full travel

Here is my home made surface grinder made from the bottom half of a Dore Westbury mill and a large lathe toolpost grinder. It is very useful for many small uses and finishing after machining.


Start of full travel

Edited By Alan Jackson on 06/07/2018 10:08:10

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