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Becoming a Tool Grinder: An Overview of Tool Grinding

Wadkin Model NXU Profile GrinderTool grinders play a crucial role in commercial woodworking. They use grinders, polishers, and sharpeners to smooth, polish, or sharpen metal objects. Tool grinding involves several tasks, the most common of which are:

Dressing grinding wheels.

Operating grinders, polishers, and sharpeners.

Monitoring machines to determine when their parts need smoothing, polishing, or sharpening.

Inspecting parts to determine if their surface quality and/or sharpness meets specifications.

Performing basic maintenance, such as lubricating and cleaning grinders, polishers, sharpeners, and other machines.

Adjusting cutting tools, micrometers, scales, and gauges according to precision cutting specifications.

Required knowledge

Because tool grinders perform maintenance on various machines and produce new parts, they require the following forms of knowledge:

Mechanical knowledge of the new and used woodworking machines they work with, including machines design, maintenance needs, methods of operation, and repair needs.

Mathematical knowledge for basic arithmetic.

Production/processing knowledge, including knowledge of cost control, quality control, and parts production processes.

Required skills and abilities

Tool grinders need skills and abilities that meet the demands of their tasks and work environment, specifically:

Manual dexterity for grasping tools, adjusting knobs, and disassembling machines for maintenance.

Arm and hand steadiness for manual sharpening processes.

Near vision to observe the surface quality of various machine parts.

Concentration for focusing on projects (i.e., sharpening and grinding) that require patience and close attention.

Memory skills for quickly adjusting machines in the middle of work processes.

Critical thinking to address problems and situations that lack a clear solution.

Job statistics

As of 2008, 19,000 tool grinders are employed in the U.S., with a slow decline of -3% to -9% expected between 2008 and 2018. As of 2009, the median annual wage for tool grinders is $33,280 ($16.00/hr.). According to a national work survey, 63% of tool grinders have a high school diploma or the equivalent; 13% do not have a high school diploma; and 24% have some college. As of 2008, most tool grinders were employed in the manufacturing industry. To learn more about becoming a tool grinder, contacting a trade school that offers grinder training or shadowing tool grinders at a woodworking company are good options.

Other considerations

Although the tool grinding field is expected to contract, most of the contraction will come from companies that automate aspects of tool grinding. Consequently, the number of self-employed tool grinders is expected to stay roughly the same. Next to the manufacturing business, self-employment accounts for the second largest employment group of tool grinders. Self-employed tool grinders are often preferred to large companies because (a) their low overheard allows them to charge lower prices and (b) they often produce better results.

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