Treadle Grinder

In my woodworking shop I only use hand tools. When restoring a worn cutting edge on tools I’m restoring, or regrinding an edge,  I figured a grinder would be nice. I have hand cranked grinders that I use, but sometimes you need both hands free. While at a antique shop, I came across a complete base from a singer treadle sewing machine. The top and sewing machine were already removed. This was good as I would not want to take apart an otherwise functional machine. So I went for it. I originally wanted to keep the project as cheap as possible, but that never usually happens does it?

The Base

Here is the base as it was purchased. Most of the paint was long gone. It functioned well with a bit of oil added, so I figured it would be a good starting point. First I had to decide on a finish, I was thinking of using my asphaltum paint that I use in most restorations I do, and doing some highlight parts in red. But that process is quite involved and I do not have an oven large enough for some of the parts, I could use another method to dry the paint or just use Tremclad. I went with the Tremclad in the end. I was in the process of moving, wanted a quick project and figured that was a good option for a project like this. It is relatively cheap, easy to use, supposedly durable, and it’s not really a restoration project so I might as well try this method. 


Step One - Disassembly

This part is fairly straight forward, but there are a few tricks to make your life easier later on.

-Take pictures as you disassemble. Some times you can’t remember where this part goes, how something sat. Take as many pictures as you feel you need. 

- Label parts. I label all parts so I know whats what. It’s a lot easier then a hand full of loose screws. Trust me.


Step Two - Cleaning and Prep

I wanted to get the loose paint and rust off the base. I had recently purchased an angle grinder and while I wouldn’t use this on tools I’m restoring, in this case I gave it a try. Using a wire wheel, I was able to remove all the rust and paint quite quickly, but it is too abrasive for tool use. After using the wire wheel, I cleaned the parts with alcohol. It takes several passes with the cleaner, one or two will not suffice. 


Step Three - Painting

For finishing I decided to use Tremclad Industrial spray paint in black and red, with Tremclad primer. I painted the singer logos in red and first. After drying, I masked the red ares off and painted the black. 


Step Four - Assembly

After letting the paint cure, which I always find takes a lot longer then the can says, I started reassembly. I cleaned the heads of the screws and small hardware, then placed them in a bath of citric acid. I generally do not measure the citric acid, but make a strong solution near saturation. After removing the parts from the bath, I cleaned them in water and dried them. I always shine up the parts on my small hand cranked grinder with a wire wheel. It works nice and slow, giving great control when needed. This is where the pictures and labeling comes in. If you took pictures you can see where that washer was or what not, making reassembly much easier. After getting the base together I had to think about the top.


Step Five - Top And Grinder

Next focus was on the top. I had some scrap two by four and two by six maple that was given to me and was the prefect about for this piece. I cut this parts to length, joined the edges and glued them up. I placed the two by six in the middle and the two by fours on the outside. Then it was time to flatten the top and square the edges. I figured a chamfered edge all around would look nice. As usual all woodworking was done only with hand tools. While I was making the top I had to decide on what to use for the grinder. I was originally thinking of getting a grinding arbour kit from Lee Valley, but I ended up thinking it would look kinda cheesy. Anything else I could come up with wasn’t going to be much better. So I started looking at old belt drive grinders. I needed to find one with a small base, most of these grinders were intended it seems to have the belt come from the rear, not the bottom as in my case.  I couldn’t find any locally easily in the time frame I wanted, so I ordered one online. The price of the unit wasn’t bad, but the shipping plus currency exchange gets expensive. But I had found a grinder that would work with my unit that I feel looks great. After receiving the grinder, it was ready to be positioned and marked on the top. After marking the location of the grinder, I had to figure out where in the top to drill the holes for the belt to come through would go.  To do this, I placed the grinder on a scrap two by four and used a string to find the angle the belt would run at. Using my bevel gauge I recored the angles and marked the locations on the top. Using the bevel gauge as a guide, I was able to match the angle drilling with my brace, thus allowing the belt to not contact the wood as it runs. I then top coated the wood with about five coats of Tried and True Varnish Oil, topped with paste wax. I then placed the top on the base and marked the mounting hole locations. I placed a rubber mount between the top and base for vibrations, and allowed for some seasonal movement of the solid top. I installed the Veritas bench grinder tool rest. For a belt I decide to use some vacuum tubing from an automobile cut to length, using a screw with the head cut off as a coupler. It works quite well as a belt, it does stretch a bit at when you first start using it, but is easy to cut a bit shorter.

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I found I love the grinder. It took a bit of learning curve to use, but functions well to hollow grind as well as fix bad edges when needed. Plus it is also my dedicated sharpening bench, I store may water stones in a Veritas pond on the top. One change I have planned is to do a restoration on the grinder, and have a new shaft machined so I can have a wire wheel permanently instead of the polishing wheel. The restoration will be featured on this website when I start it. 

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© Shane Larson 2018