5 TRICKS THE PROS USE TO GET CLEAN BEVELS
"Oh crap!" you think looking down at your freshly heat treated piece of unobtainium steel at 67000HRC realizing what you've done. There's a massive dent in your otherwise perfectly straight flat grind. You've put countless hours into this thing, your client wanted it finished yesterday and you'll never be able to get another sheet of steel in time. Not to mention the heat treat had to be outsourced for cryogenic treatment in dragon urine. You stare at the blade dejected and forlorn, knowing that you'll have to DM the client and let him know that his tactical box opener won't be ready in time for his sons bar mitzvah.
Your clients son now has to savagely rip open his bananas instead of cutting them
We've all been there. One wrong move and everything goes sideways. It's taken me years to learn how to get something even half decent grind wise and I've still got plenty more to learn. Unfortunately, the biggest determining factor is practice (cliché I know). But there are a few small tips and tricks you can implement to drastically improve your grinding performance. Here's a few tricks the pros use!
A pic of me looking like a pro in case you were skeptical
1: Belt grinder
Having a solid belt grinder really does change the game. When I started out I thought I could beat the system and build my own to save some money. Boy was I wrong. Later on I bit the bullet and got ahold of a nice Brodbeck ironworks 2X72 and let me tell you, my grinds got better almost overnight.
Remember kids, "Low and slow is the way to go" I recommend that if you have any sort of high grit finish grinding to do, you MUST have a VFD. Sure there are probably some old timers out there who can laser it in without one but the future is now old man. There's no reason to not have it if you can spare the extra cash.
I made use of the VFD on my Brodbeck quite heavily on this custom Chimera
3: CHECK YOUR PLATEN!
Ever have that one bevel that no matter how hard you try it just doesn't want to go straight? Me too. Unless you're one of the lucky few that splurged on a glass platen, you're probably going to want to check it (and even then, a glass platen will need a check up every now and again). Flat platens can wear over time causing divots and dips in the surface. This can be fixed with a quick trip to the local machine shop. Most places will surface grind a platen for a couple bucks if you ask nicely.
4: Plan your grinds
This one made a big difference once I started getting consistent with it. Get a cheap pair of dial calipers and use the sharp tips to scribe your grind height and centerline along with any other geometric features you're looking to put in (fullers come readily to mind). Before you go scratching away on your steel, consider using a coating to increase visibility. Dykem layout fluid is my favorite option but there are other ways to mark lines including spraypaint, sharpie or sandblasting.
Ever heard the old BladeForums adage "Use belts like their free"? Well they're absolutely right. Fresh abrasives are king when it comes to getting an even and consistent grind. A worn out belt tends to have spots that are sharper than others across the belt which usually leads to denting or wobbly bevels.
A belt finished reverse tanto
THE BOTTOM LINE
At the end of the day, the best way to level up your grinding skill is just practice. Most folks need to grind at least 100 blades before they start getting anything to look good and on into the thousands before it looks like they know what they're doing. Hopefully these small tweaks will speed you along your bevel grinding journey. Good luck and don't burn your fingers!