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Belt Progression Compilation (Steel and Handles)

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by J. Keeton, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. J. Keeton

    J. Keeton Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    So I was going to make a belt order for my new (to me) 2x72 and then I dove into the black hole of BladeForums Google search! Hours later... I have this summery of what I've found.

    I figure others may want to see this for ideas... I know this question comes up a lot. If anyone has a progression for blades or handles please share (personally I'm especially interested in exact handle progressions and belts for a 100% machine finish)! I'll add it to the list.

    • Example Progressions (STEEL)
      • Stacy E. Apelt (12-10)
        • Example: 36,60,120,220,400,800,1200,2500,6000
      • Nathan the Machinist (12-10)
        • Mill,120,220,400, HT, 400, scotchbrite
      • Don Hanson (12-10)
        • Large blades; 40, 120, 220, 400. Small blades; 60, 120, 400.
        • Coarse grits I use; 3M-967. Fine grits, Klingspor yellow J flex.
      • James Terrio (12-10)
        • PreHT: 50,120,400,600 (most of the shaping up to 120)
        • PostHT: 400,600, hand finish
      • Avigil (8-16)
        • 36 VSM, 50 VSM, HT, 50 VSM almost all the way, 100 cubirton II (establish true plunge sweeping), Gator V160 to perfect plunge, Gator V65, Gator, V45, Cork 400 with green compound.
      • Tom Lewis (8-16)
        • The belts I use are Norton Blaze 980 belts in 36,60,120 grits, Klingspor J-Flex belts in 220 and 400 grit, and Norax 22.
        • I will describe how I do a stock removal blade, but when I forge, I use the same progression.
          • To profile the outline of the blade I use a dull 36 grit belt. Some use a bandsaw for this, but I find I can quickly get the job done with a dull 36 grit belt that isn't good for anything else. These belts last a long, long time.
          • To taper the tang I use a new 36 grit belt and use the method in Bob Loveless' book "How to make knives." It's easy and fast.
          • To make the bevels I use a worn 36 grit belt on a 14" wheel. These belts last a long, long time before I use the belt to profile the outline.
          • Next I use a 60 grit belt on a 10" wheel to get the 36grit scratches out. The 60 grit belt lasts a long time and takes just a few minutes to get the 36 grit scratches out.
          • Next I use a 120 grit belt to get the 60 grit scratches out. If I am using CPM 154, I first use the 120 grit belt to do the flats on the blade. When the 120 grit belt starts to get dull, I use it to get the 60 grit scratches out. These belts last a long, long time, and quickly get the 60 grit scratches out.
          • Next I use a 220 J-flex belt to clean up the plunge cuts and get the 120 grit scratches out. These belts do not last very long. Maybe 5 blades, but they are flexible and are good to clean up the plunge cuts. It takes a very few minutes.
          • The I use a 400 J-flex belt the same way. These belts do not last very long, maybe 5 blades, but again they are flexible and do a nice job of cleaning up the plunge cuts. Again, it takes a very few minutes.
          • Last I use a 22 Norax belt. These belts seem to last forever. They get all the scratches out and makes hand sanding very quick.
          • Next I hand sand with 400,500,600,800,1200 grit sandpaper. If I have done a proper job with the sanding belts, the hand sanding doesn't take long.
      • Bob Ohlemann (10-16)
        • 50 Blaze, Atrizact A160, A45, A30, then hand
      • Tom Lewis (2-17)
        • Blaze 36,60,120; Then Klingspore Jflex 220, 400; then 22 Norax
      • Geoff Flato (8-17)
        • Hates Norton Blaze. Favors Norton R999b or 3M 984f cubitron
        • 36, 60, 120 ceramics; a160, a100, a65, then a40 trizact gator belts
        • Uses a160 gator for his plunges. With the belt flush on the edge of the platen.
        • Pretty much everything he makes has a mirror finish
      • John April (8-17)
        • 36, 80, 120 ceramic; then HT; then 120, 220 Jflex, 400 Jflex, 400 cork, 800 cork, 1000 cork
        • Doesn't do plunges till 120 grit
      • Avigil (8-17)
        • Cubrition II 60 grit to hog; then Hermes 346 AO in 100 to set the plunge; then HT; Hermes 100 to perfect grind, 220 to remove scratches, then 400 AO and gators or cork
        • Generally uses AO to give plunge line instead of ceramic 100s
      • Hunstman KnifeCO (11-17)
        • Ceramic 50, 120 and then Trizacts 100A, 45A, and sometimes 30A
        • Suggest using light passes with Trizact belts (Heavy passes damage them)
      • Rhino Knives (5-18)
        • Pre Hted Blades - Ceramic 36,60 120; then scotchbrite and cork
        • Handles (A) - 40,120,220,400
      • Jtknives (5-18)
        • 50 blaze, A400, A100
        • If hand sanding, will go to A65 or a45 then start with 220 paper

    • Example Progressions (HANDLES)
      • Adam Reese (11-2015)
        • Rough shape with grinder; File to shape; sand 150,220,320,400; gray scotch brite pad
      • Avigil (5-2015) - G10 Handle
        • 36 to rough shape; 50 to get it down almost to the tang; 100 to get it to the tang and finalize shaping
        • Then 220, 400, "then decide where you want to go from there"
      • James Terrio (5-2015) - G-10
        • 60 for hogging, 120-220 to knock off corners
        • A30-A45 and sometimes scotchbrite to blend it all along the tang (to match whatever blade finish you have)
        • Rotary tool and then hand sanding with good paper
        • He usually sands to 600 or 800 then sometimes goes over that with a scotchbrite belt
        • Can use windex to lift any metal out of the G-10
      • Aarongough (5-2015) - G-10
        • 36 bluefire belt; final shaping with 120 bluefire or blaze belt (leaves handles at 120 grit)
        • When removing stock quickly with a coarse belt heavy pressure is a must. The material transmits heat very slowly so if you push hard and cut fast you can stay ahead of any burning of the material. If you take it slow the material will heat up, and turn brown and soft.
      • GeoffFlato (8-2017)
        • 36-60 grit high end AO or low end ceramics for roughing
        • J-flex for finishing (Hermes 100, klingspor 220 and 400)
        • Then hand sand
        • Roughing with 2'' belts on a contact wheel, finishing with 1'' slack belt
      • Robert Erickson (8-2017)
        • (AZ-X) AO and Zirconia combination belts 36 and 60 for rough shaping
        • 3M AO belts 120 and 220 before going to hand sanding
      • Butcher_block (8-2017)
        • Cheap 50 then cheap 220 J-flex

  2. Richard338

    Richard338 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2005
    Thanks for summarizing.
    J. Keeton likes this.
  3. 007Airman


    Dec 23, 2018
    Lots of good info.
    I learned the hard way with files and paper on blocks mostly because I couldn't afford a belt. More hours than I could count filing steel. I'm guessing not too many here learned that way.
  4. anvilring


    Nov 29, 2000
    Well at least for me, these are all missing the very first "belt"... Which isn't a belt at all. I knock all the scale off of my forgings with an angle grinder first thing. The scale left on left on forged-steel will ruin any belt almost instantly. It's unbelievably hard. Of course stock removal people don't have to worry about that. Angle grinder discs on the other hand are a whole three bucks a piece and will last many many blades.
    btw j keeton... great post, thanks for going to the trouble to make it.
    Ken H> and J. Keeton like this.
  5. Ken H>

    Ken H>

    Dec 31, 2011
    AnvilRing, you're right, nothing is better than a side grinder for knocking scale off. Here's what I use:
    you'd better be sure you've got a good hold on it - it's a Hoss of a grinder.
  6. J. Keeton

    J. Keeton Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    That thing is a beast! Goodness
    Ken H> likes this.
  7. Josh Rider

    Josh Rider KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 2, 2014
    Or just soak the steel in some vinegar/ acid.
    If you’re not in a hurry.
  8. rjedoaks

    rjedoaks Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 15, 2009
    You could just buy a variety pack to start out with . Then, each time you order, you’ll come closer to what you need. It may take a while. It’s daunting at first.
    J. Keeton likes this.
  9. anvilring


    Nov 29, 2000
    I have the nine inch and also several 4 inch angle grinders as well... All sort of setup to do different things. Can't do without them. When they're on sale, you can get them at Harbor Freight for 14.99 and that includes the damn disk! Hard to beat really.
  10. ashwinearl


    Nov 9, 2006
    That survey research from past threads is pure gold. Thanks for the hard work and effort.

    I did the same research. Lately, I like A. Vigil's progressions where I got AO 100 and 200 after ceramic. Then I got structured abrasives up to A35 Norton and then cork.
    J. Keeton likes this.
  11. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    Where was all this research when I did it about 6 months ago! I will refer to this thread in the future.
  12. Wissler


    Oct 12, 2018
    Nice. Just the thread i needed.
    I just picked up a 2X72 belt grinder made by Brad Jansen. I read this post and got some great info. Ordered a variety pack of belts. By mid next week I'll be diving into stock removal. This site is freakin awesome....
  13. Branson1369


    Feb 17, 2019
    Great thread and as a newbie I really appreciate it
    J. Keeton likes this.
  14. Storm W

    Storm W

    Feb 19, 2019
    Just a point on angle grinders. There is the cheap way and also the buy once cry once way. The past 10 years Matibo grinders have worked their way into a lot of welding outfits. They are a lower cost of ownership than the dewalts that used to be industry standard. If I could only have 1 angle grinder it would be a 5 or 6 inch Matabo with verible speed and heat overload protection. The gearing is lower than the 4.5" and I have never seen one burn up though we all know its possible. They also have a anti kickback system that will add a bit of safety when using cut off wheels. It's a necessary safety device if you want to toss a carbide tipped saw blade on one to use when welding aluminum. If you have the money and more importantly the room it's not going to be better than having large and small grinders. But if you are limited they are way more versatile than you would believe. You can also use them for other things like polishing stone for kitchen countertops and a lit of other uses. I have used a 8 amp Matabo next to a 11amp Dewalt to grind aluminum welds flush and the matabo has noticeably more torque and will grind about twice as long before overheating.

    Cool list. It really shows how everyone grinds a bit differently though there are some standout patterns. In the past year or so I have heard of several well known makers switching to VSM for their ceramics. I think Warren K(can't spell his last name:oops:) and Salim Straub are two that I can think of.
  15. bmilleker

    bmilleker Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 26, 2012
    I typically dont use any AO belts on the steel. I am going to have to try this. I have just always assumed they wouldn't last as long.

    My steel progression is currently: 36g Norton blaze ceramic, 60g Norton blaze ceramic, 120g Norton blaze ceramic, Norax x65 to add radius to the plunge, Norax x45, Cork 400.

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