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F.E. Wells & Son Tool and Cutter Grinder - Set-up and Re-tooling for Hollow Grinding Blades

M.B. Naegle

Diamond
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
I've posted before that one of my ideas/potential projects is to locate or make a machine capable of 'hollow grinding' straight edge blades. Our business deals with lots of machinery with single and double bevel fixed blades used in Leatherworking, and most often they are straight beveled blades that are made by milling to shape and surface grinding before and after heat treating, followed by hand finishing the final edge. Often we are asked to re-shapen older used blades which are not a challenge, but often have been hand ground to odd bevels with uneven material removed, but some time on the surface grinder can correct it. Occasionally we run into 'hollow ground' blades however, which have a radiused bevel perpendicular to the straight edge. These can be hand sharpened simply, but if the bevel has become misshapen (which is often when they are sent to us), there's no simple way to grind it back in. The reason is that the radius of a surface grinding stone wheel is often too large and always changing diameter/radius. You can use a CBN wheel of the desired diameter, but the cross travel on our surface grinders is too short for some blades, as the blade has to be set perpendicular to the wheel. The other caveat is that the re-sharpening service is no place to make money. Often a new blade while expensive, is cheaper than paying machine shop time for skilled operators with expensive diamond chip wheels to fix a blade. So all this has lead me to wanting a machine for our shop that doesn't take a whole lot of skill, space, or precision tools to use, and uses cheap expendables. One of the hollow ground blades we service has a dedicated sharpening machine that works great, but uses 4" diameter CBN wheels that seem to always be wearing out. They're not an off-the shelf wheel and are not cheap. We found a supplier of Chinese wheels, and they barely last 3 or 4 sets of blades before the diamond coating starts to smooth. We used to have a company that would recoat the wheels, but they closed and other companies quotes have been cost-prohibitive.

So with that situation, my solution is to find and utilize an old tool and cutter grinder as the machine because it offers the necessary geometric adjustments and movements, they can often be found cheap because they are missing all the tooling, and these sharpening jobs would require their own tooling anyway which should be simple to make. The other reason I'm looking at those is that often the older ones are much smaller format while still having plenty of work envelope for this job, and they are very simple mechanically with all manual movements. I have an old Cincinnati that would work, but it still needs lots of help and I'm looking forward to setting it up as a typical T&C grinder. Most of these small T&C grinders are or were overhead belt drive, which I'm all for but my line-shaft shop is still a long ways away so for this job I would need an independently powered machine.

The next part of the equation is the expendables, and for that I want to set up a belt sander as the grinding head. Belts are cheap and as many knife-makers find the belt helps to get heat away from the grind. The diameter can be set by whatever the bottom wheel is, with the grinding happening at the radius, not along the flat portion of the belt. These hollow grinding jobs don't require exact precision movements, but are more about material removal that is linearly consistent, so I think a sanding belt would be fine for it.

So I've been mulling this potential job/project over for awhile, and then this machine becomes available locally at a decent price. It's an F.E. Wells & Son, which seem to have mainly made lathes and pipe threading machinery, but also dabbled in milling machines and their cutter grinders. Google pulls up a couple other examples of their T&C grinders, but they don't seem as common as Cincinnati, K.O. Lee, or the others. The grinding head has a spindle and what I think is a motor mounting plate? It's cast, but looks different than the catalog images I've seen, so I think this is a later model machine. The table and all the movements look complete, so If I can sort out a bolt on belt grinding wheel, tensioner, and motor, I'm in business. I don't want to make permanent modifications to the machine and would love to find more info about it. There's a catalog on Vintage Machinery that has a lot of good information and pictures, so perhaps once my Cincinnati is complete and working again, I can get into fabricating replacement tooling for this grinder as well.
F.E. Wells Logo.png
Here's a link to the catalog on VM - F.E. Wells Catalog Pages 28-51 cover their cutter grinder machines.
Wells Cutter and Reamer Grinder.png
This company started around 1900 and were around under this name at least till 1917 when Greenfield Tap bought them out and started discontinuing their lines, name included.

My machine doesn't look to have much rust or damages, but could use a good cleaning, so I want to start there, taking it apart and making sure everything is good, and probably give it a fresh coat of black while I'm at it.
 
Here are some example pieces I want to grind. The first is only 6" long and the radiused bevel is on ok shape so we don't need to grind the entire bevel, but we do need to hit the edge and blend it into the existing radius. We could do this on our surface grinder but setting the blade perpendicular to the wheel means that the we'd be using the cross feed to feed across the blade which is slow and would equate to more heat on the edge. Dressing a radius on the face of the wheel is another way to go about it, but would add more time and skill to the job. Other blades are longer an 8" is our longest cross travel we can do presently. Being able to have the wheel perpendicular to the table would make this much easier to hit.
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These other blades are much smaller. These are done in pairs on a dedicated machine with a 4" wheel. If we could do them with sanding belts it would make them much more economical to do and greatly speed up the process.
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Holding a cup wheel at an angle with turning the wheel until you get a match the part form, then turning the wheel head to the angle, or a straight wheel on the edge
3/4 hp motor in the flat plate.

Cross feed into the part getting the full form may be a good method. Grinding blades to sharp it’s good to have a heavy weight holding fixture because weight reduces vibration.

Nice looking grinder. Good to belt pulley a 3/4 hp motor off the back plate to 3450 and perhaps 5000 for diamond and some cup AO wheels...that is if the back plate turns with the wheel head.

Good to make a pair of weldmit centers.
36 or 46 grit keeps heat down, white or pink AO , brown AO likes to burn. good size fine side hone to finish removes an heat tempring at edge.
*likely you know all this but its good for the new guys.

OT: Do you fish lake Conroe?
 
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Holding a cup wheel at an angle with turning the wheel until you get a match the part form, then turning the wheel head to the angle, or a straight wheel on the edge
3/4 hp motor in the flat plate.

Cross feed into the part getting the full form may be a good method. Grinding blades to sharp it’s good to have a heavy weight holding fixture because weight reduces vibration.

Nice looking grinder. Good to belt pulley a 3/4 hp motor off the back plate to 3450 and perhaps 5000 for diamond and some cup AO wheels...that is if the back plate turns with the wheel head.

Good to make a pair of weldmit centers.
36 or 46 grit keeps heat down, white or pink AO , brown AO likes to burn. good size fine side hone to finish removes an heat tempring at edge.
*likely you know all this but its good for the new guys.

OT: Do you fish lake Conroe?
Thanks. I've still a lot to learn with the finer details of T&C grinding. Long term, I want to fill in as much as I can with this machine to do it's original intended purpose, but most of that will be done with my Cincinnati. Most all of the tooling I intend to fabricate from steel weldments as none of the castings are available and I've found that on these older smaller T&C grinders, or at least with my Cincinnati, the tooling from the newer #2 grinders like their centers and tool holding heads were made around a different higher centerline and made use of the machines larger travels. Simple tooling like what they have pictured in the catalog cuts shouldn't be hard to make.

My primary goal with this FE Wells grinder for now will be getting it to do this one task of hollow grinding, and I want to make it simple enough to do that our mechanics can do it rather than our machinists. Some of these sharpening tasks can only be billed at $10 a piece (most are in the $65 to $120 range though) and the machinists time is worth way more than that. It's gotta be a quick job for the high-school kid to set-up and maintain to make sense.

For the RPM range, having the belt drive between the motor and spindle makes it easy to change if needed. I'm looking at using parts from a 1x42" Kalamazoo belt sander as we have a couple of them already and can get spare parts easily. It's driving wheel is 4" diameter which looks to be the smallest we'll need right now, and it runs at 1725RPM. I might bump it up to 2000-2500 to get a little better surface finish, but probably going to start with the 1725 and see how it performs.

I'm not much of a fisher myself, but like camping and the outdoors and will drop a line "if I'm already there". I've got a small boat I'm getting fixed up to take the kids out on and we'll make good use of Lake Conroe when it's done. Still a bit of fiberglass and paint to do. My tendency for projects isn't limited to machinery unfortunately, lol.
 
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Could you use a wheel that is dressed to the necissary radius 90 degrees to the edge?
PM me, I also have a lot of T&C tooling without a home that I need to sell.
Joe
That would be the way to do it, yes, but the issue I see is that the operator needs to maintain that radius and either change the wheel when it gets too small from dressing, or readjust the angle to provide the correct radius with a smaller wheel.
 
QT; (Could you use a wheel that is dressed to the necissary radius 90 degrees to the edge?)
I agree ...yes, that works fine and the grind lines go long ways on the part.

If you can find the angle to turn the wheel head (angle the wheel) to that angle that makes the hollow grind then you need not dress...and the grind lines go at that angle. The take stock is with the crossfeed, and the the with of the grind controle with the up/down.
 
I grind some non critical radius features in some tools using the swivel the wheel method mentioned by Michigan Buck it is for a much smaller radius and for more of a 1/2 round than a quarter round .
The same principal is shown doing it with a milling cutter instead of a grinding wheel in this book
They show calculations but you can just experiment with the wheels you have and keep swiveling the head until you get the radius you want.
The more you swivel the larger the radius.
I added a picture of one place I use this technique.
All depends on where you position the wheel and the work.
I had a short video clip but can't seem to add it right now.
Jim
 

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Made it about halfway through disassembly, cleaning, and painting the Wells. The only issue so far is some damage to the table traversing crank and pinion assembly, but it's fixable (pics later).
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I'm getting some weird dejavu with this machine. It has a thin coat of dark grey paint, but under that a couple of thick and sloppy coats of bright orange. Very similar color history as the Ames Triplex I used to have and I think I've seen some other machines like it too in the area. It makes me wonder if they were in the same shop at some point. This one also had a plumbing valve wheel used for one of the hand wheels, like what was on my Flather Lathe. Maybe these are all just Houston machine shop tells? People do like their ASTRO orange.

This Wells isn't too bad in terms of wear. There's some scraping marks along the ways, but they might be from a prior owner tuning it up. One of the prior owners had a weird infatuation with anti seize compound, as I'm finding it under screws and used as lubricant (as well as red axle grease). They had it under the main screws holding the vertical post to the cabinet, and they were not tight. It's all getting cleaned out while preping for paint.
 
Search Craigslist for free or real cheap treadmills & check the model of the treadmill to see if it has a MC2100 controller , thats a good controller that is controlled by PWM . Ya can get a cheap controller for the 2100 for @10-15 bucks & yer in business , they have a pretty good RPM range . I've been running one on my South Bend 9A for years & have been super happy with it . Plenty of power for my use .
animal
 
A little more done. Even fitted some new wood shelves in the cabinet.1000004977.jpg
The table traversing pinion assembly pretty much needs to be entirely replaced, but simple parts to do. The body is the original cast iron and is broken in two, possibly from getting hit, and shows welding from at least two other past brakes, and wear from being used while broken. It protrudes out from the machine a bit but looks simple enough to remove and I think that was the intent, to remove it when transporting the machine. The pinion gear is fairly worn while the rack is in very good shape, again from being used while broken and misaligned. The original crank is gone and was replaced with a large old plumbing valve wheel. It dosn't look half out of place and I can only tell it's a valve wheel as the hub still has a tapered square socket, which was wearing on the shaft. I'm not yet sure if I'll re-hub the wheel to better fit the 1/2" shaft, or find/make something closer to the original crank. The wheel is likely better for fine positioning, while I think the crank makes more sense for quick table movement.
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The saddle has a socket which accepts the above pinion gear assembly, and it is cracked and stretched out from the noted damage and use. It will be a little tricky to fix given how thin the wall is, but I think I can grind the crack out and gently bend the sides back over a steel round, then braze it together.
1000004978.jpg
 
Search Craigslist for free or real cheap treadmills & check the model of the treadmill to see if it has a MC2100 controller , thats a good controller that is controlled by PWM . Ya can get a cheap controller for the 2100 for @10-15 bucks & yer in business , they have a pretty good RPM range . I've been running one on my South Bend 9A for years & have been super happy with it . Plenty of power for my use .
animal
For this I'll likely use a single speed motor, and likely 3 phase given we have some stray motors already and the power's available where the machine will be used. I don't think variable speed is as useful on a grinding machine like this, though many will have high or low speed step pulleys based on the ballpark wheel diameter.
 
A 4"wheel will make a 2" radius hollow grind, and as you turn the wheel the edge makes a bigger and bigger radius. You might find that 7" dish or a saucer wheel turned to a certain angle will grind the radius you need with the blade set long ways on long travel, and travel long travel to grind. The in feed to take stock using the cross feer.
For that crack you might drill a hole at the end of the crack to stop it from growing and the fill it with JB weld.
Trying to run hollows on a surface grinder one must dress the hollow into the wheel and down feed to make the grind. I have done that but it is a bugger.
 
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I've posted before that one of my ideas/potential projects is to locate or make a machine capable of 'hollow grinding' straight edge blades. Our business deals with lots of machinery with single and double bevel fixed blades used in Leatherworking, and most often they are straight beveled blades that are made by milling to shape and surface grinding before and after heat treating, followed by hand finishing the final edge. Often we are asked to re-shapen older used blades which are not a challenge, but often have been hand ground to odd bevels with uneven material removed, but some time on the surface grinder can correct it. Occasionally we run into 'hollow ground' blades however, which have a radiused bevel perpendicular to the straight edge. These can be hand sharpened simply, but if the bevel has become misshapen (which is often when they are sent to us), there's no simple way to grind it back in. The reason is that the radius of a surface grinding stone wheel is often too large and always changing diameter/radius. You can use a CBN wheel of the desired diameter, but the cross travel on our surface grinders is too short for some blades, as the blade has to be set perpendicular to the wheel. The other caveat is that the re-sharpening service is no place to make money. Often a new blade while expensive, is cheaper than paying machine shop time for skilled operators with expensive diamond chip wheels to fix a blade. So all this has lead me to wanting a machine for our shop that doesn't take a whole lot of skill, space, or precision tools to use, and uses cheap expendables. One of the hollow ground blades we service has a dedicated sharpening machine that works great, but uses 4" diameter CBN wheels that seem to always be wearing out. They're not an off-the shelf wheel and are not cheap. We found a supplier of Chinese wheels, and they barely last 3 or 4 sets of blades before the diamond coating starts to smooth. We used to have a company that would recoat the wheels, but they closed and other companies quotes have been cost-prohibitive.

So with that situation, my solution is to find and utilize an old tool and cutter grinder as the machine because it offers the necessary geometric adjustments and movements, they can often be found cheap because they are missing all the tooling, and these sharpening jobs would require their own tooling anyway which should be simple to make. The other reason I'm looking at those is that often the older ones are much smaller format while still having plenty of work envelope for this job, and they are very simple mechanically with all manual movements. I have an old Cincinnati that would work, but it still needs lots of help and I'm looking forward to setting it up as a typical T&C grinder. Most of these small T&C grinders are or were overhead belt drive, which I'm all for but my line-shaft shop is still a long ways away so for this job I would need an independently powered machine.

The next part of the equation is the expendables, and for that I want to set up a belt sander as the grinding head. Belts are cheap and as many knife-makers find the belt helps to get heat away from the grind. The diameter can be set by whatever the bottom wheel is, with the grinding happening at the radius, not along the flat portion of the belt. These hollow grinding jobs don't require exact precision movements, but are more about material removal that is linearly consistent, so I think a sanding belt would be fine for it.

So I've been mulling this potential job/project over for awhile, and then this machine becomes available locally at a decent price. It's an F.E. Wells & Son, which seem to have mainly made lathes and pipe threading machinery, but also dabbled in milling machines and their cutter grinders. Google pulls up a couple other examples of their T&C grinders, but they don't seem as common as Cincinnati, K.O. Lee, or the others. The grinding head has a spindle and what I think is a motor mounting plate? It's cast, but looks different than the catalog images I've seen, so I think this is a later model machine. The table and all the movements look complete, so If I can sort out a bolt on belt grinding wheel, tensioner, and motor, I'm in business. I don't want to make permanent modifications to the machine and would love to find more info about it. There's a catalog on Vintage Machinery that has a lot of good information and pictures, so perhaps once my Cincinnati is complete and working again, I can get into fabricating replacement tooling for this grinder as well.
View attachment 438850
Here's a link to the catalog on VM - F.E. Wells Catalog Pages 28-51 cover their cutter grinder machines.
View attachment 438851
This company started around 1900 and were around under this name at least till 1917 when Greenfield Tap bought them out and started discontinuing their lines, name included.

My machine doesn't look to have much rust or damages, but could use a good cleaning, so I want to start there, taking it apart and making sure everything is good, and probably give it a fresh coat of black while I'm at it.
Mr. Naegle,
Missoula Saws in Missoula, Montana was doing exactly the type of hollow grinding you’re speaking of last I knew (~3 years ago) and doing a very good job at a very reasonable price; I’ve never been to their shop but have sent work to them…. I wonder if they might be willing to speak with you regarding equipment, setups and making it worthwhile.
I’ve sent blades from 6” single bevel blades to 18” double bevel blades to them with very good results (I heard about them through a print shop that sent their big-maybe 3’ long, IIRC-blades- to them to be sharpened; might be worth a call.
Hopefully they’ll be willing to talk to you because I think their main business is serving the timber industry.
Herb
 








 
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