The Ballad of the Belt Grinder

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The Ballad of the Belt Grinder: Ronnie Hinton

One of my favorite tools in all of Freeside is our Belt Grinder. A fairly unassuming tool hanging out in the back of the shop with the cutoff saw and wire-wheel for neighbors, the Belt Grinder has seen many changes over the years, and is a perfect example of great collaboration. It was originally made as a just-barely-working cludge of random bits of steel frame, some rollers turned on the lathe with way-to-small skateboard bearings stuffed in them, and powered by a weedy little electric motor with a rube goldberg contraption of gas shocks, springs, belts, and pulleys to make it all spinny, all screwed to a random hunk of plywood.

Over the years it's slowly changed and improved as members find parts and time to improve it. I brought a large treadmill motor to make it less easy to bog down, Dominic wired up a chunky bridge rectifier and cap to run the new motor, stuffed it all in a gutted PC power supply, and wired it all through an antique variac transformer as a rough speed control. The old homemade pulleys were replaced after the bearings bore all they could bear and their bores banged around until it was barely believable. The gas shocks and other oddball fittings were slowly replaced with less kludgey bits, and today the belt grinder is a very competent and pleasant to use tool that still looks kinda odd, but works great and I'm sure will keep changing with the times as it needs to.