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ARTICLE FROM NATURAL ANGLE VOL. 13 ISS. 2 • www.farrierproducts.com/farriery

Belt Grinders and Everyday Work

Doug Workman, CJF APF

A belt grinder is one tool that I, and most of the farriers I know who use them, will not live without.  When you consider the tasks that you can perform with a grinder, only your hammer, anvil and forge are more important. My goal is to give you ideas for what you can do with a belt grinder in your everyday work if you are unfamiliar with them; or maybe give you a new idea you can use with your own.

I use expander wheels everyday so I will start by covering their use and safety.  Most of this information can be applied with any style belt grinder you may use. The expander wheels come in two sizes – 10″ and 6″ models. The 10″ wheel turns the fastest and is the most aggressive at removing material. The 6″ wheel gives a smaller radius that is great for dressing tools or precise grinding.  First, expander wheels must turn in the proper direction or the belt will not stay on. They come with an indication arrow showing the proper direction of rotation they must turn.  Secondly, you must have the safety guard on and in the proper position (refer to photo).  Having the guard in this position keeps the sparks from burning you and anything else that may be nearby, as well as making sure you are using the proper section of the wheel while grinding. I can’t stress enough the importance of always wearing safety glasses, and when grinding aluminum always wear a good safety mask. When you inhale aluminum dust, you have it for life.

Belts – There are three types of belts available for most belt grinders: Aluminum oxide, zircon and ceramic. Aluminum oxide belts are the cheapest and the least durable, they do not hold up very long.
Zircon belts cost a bit more and are more durable and a good choice.  Ceramic belts cost more than zircon but they will last four times longer; these are the only belts I use.

There are many applications for modifying shoes with a grinder and I will cover the ones that are most common in my business.

Boxing and Safing – Boxing refers to grinding the foot side of the shoe and safing is grinding the ground side.  I box and safe every shoe I nail on to protect the shoe and the horse.  Using a belt grinder is much faster and less work than hot rasping.


Deep seating a shoe –
Seating out a keg shoe by forging can be a tricky task if you need a lot of space.  With a belt grinder all you do is seat out the shoe to the desired depth, shape it up and nail it on.  I deep seat shoes for flat or dropped soles or when I use a pour-in pad so I don’t have to use mesh to keep it in place.

Clips – There is no need to put on a windswept clip or you may want to shape up factory clips to aide in fitting. Using your grinder, you can shape it up any way you like.

Heel checks – It takes no time to ensure there are no rock or manure traps in the heel area. I find if the owner can easily get their hoof pick through the heels they tend to clean them more, as well as the feet being self cleaning (all bets are off when they live in a mud hole).

Rolled toes – Rolling the toe with your hammer on a keg shoe causes the shoe to grow and the nail placement will move. I shape the shoe and put the roll wherever I choose with the grinder.

Pads – After applying the pad and removing the excess with your pad cutter or nippers, the belt grinder will clean up the edges and set the angle perfectly to the angle of the wall. Whenever you grind a pad of any kind, whether  plastic or leather, it will tend to clog up your belt.

This makes the belt slick and it will not cut very well, creating a dangerous situation.  Using a rubber belt cleaner after each pad you grind will remove the material from the belt, ensuring a faster cut and safer operation. You can get a belt cleaner from most farrier supplies or the hardware store.

Grinding aluminum can be a pain because of the dust and clogging of your belts. The clogging problem is easy to remedy.  Take a bar of soap and apply it to the belt like you would buffing compound and you have no more clogging.  I like ivory soap best, it sticks to the belt really well, but any bar soap will work. I reapply before each shoe and it doesn’t take much.  Remember, always wear a good safety mask.  You can get them at any hardware store. There are already enough things that can kill us in our profession.

Hopefully you find something in this information you can use that will make your day a little bit easier.