How I Converted My Dad's Vintage Bench Grinder Into A Leather Sander & Burnisher!

Recently, the piece of equipment I had been using to burnish my leather straps and cuffs, stopped working. I knew the time would eventually come so I had already done a little bit of research and knew which machine I would purchase as my replacement. Wouldn't you know it, when I now needed it, it was out of stock! What's leatherworking gal to do??

I did what most people would have probably done. I opened up a tab on my computer and began to search Google for a replacement to the would-be replacement. After reading countless reviews on different types of machines, I remembered that I had read an article a while ago in a leatherworking forum about converting a bench grinder into a burnisher. I also remembered that I have my Father's Craftsman Vintage bench grinder that has been sitting in my basement for YEARS. So, I opened another tab and took a journey down a new path trying to figure out the "how to's" on turning his grinder into my burnisher.

Craftsman Vintage bench grinder before its conversion

I did manage to find that particular article and a few more. I also found a few photographs of other people's grinders turned burnisher. I also came across a video about it too, which was sort of helpful. What he didn't demonstrate in the video though, was the process of making the conversion. And, the parts he used, didn't fit my bill.

After doing some more research (this time using different key words in my search), I was somewhat confident that I had found what I needed but, I now had to make sure they would fit my grinder. Open yet another tab to educate myself on shaft thread sizes and the such. Feeling more confident, I placed my orders and then kept my fingers crossed while I waited for my packages to arrive. 

When package number one showed up on my doorstep, I couldn't wait to open up the box and try it out. It was the sanding drum! I pulled it out and slid the sanding sleeves on the drum. I  attached the drum to the grinder and turned it on. Oh boy was this thing FAST and powerful! I almost took the skin off one of my fingers! My first attempt with a piece of leather strapping sanded away a good 1/8 of an inch. It took a few goes, but I figured out how to achieve a smooth finish while still maintaining the full width of my strap. lol

Craftsman Vintage bench grinder after converted into leather sander and burnishing machine

Finally, the burnishing tool arrived, and just as the sanding drum and sleeves, I too opened up the box immediately to give it a go, but before I did give my new "toy" a try, I decided to shoot a video to capture the moment (link to video is below!). Then I figured since I went through a lot to get to this point, I might as well share with others who may be wanting to do the same but are not sure how, all that I have learned. So in the video, I begin from the beginning, showing how I disassembled my Dad's Vintage Craftsman Bench Grinder and reassembled using the parts I had purchased.

running leather strap through wooden burnisher on converted Craftsman Vintage bench grinder
Oh yes, what I failed to mention above is, I equipped my drum with 3 different grits of sand paper. I explain why, and more, in my video. Watch here to see and hopefully learn...and like and share if you felt it was helpful! ♥



Today, my Father's Sears Craftsman vintage grinder, turned Sander and Burnisher, now sits beside my Mother's vintage Singer factory sewing machine that she had once used while a sample maker for a Boston fashion designer way before I was even a thought. It's nice to have both in my shop, and use the pieces of equipment that my Mother and Father had once used themselves when they were working and creating with their hands. That bit of nostalgia warms my heart big time!

Thanks for reading and watching and being a part of my leatherworking journey!


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1 comment

  • Hi Lisa, thanks for putting the details for this conversion together. I really like how you got to use your dad’s grinder. Also the trick of getting three grits on the same drum. Brilliant. I have the same grinder but couldn’t bring myself to modify it. Also while researching it I found the RPMs tend to be a bit high so I found that delta makes a variable speed grinder that can slow down to 2000 rpm which seems reasonable. Only problem is the threads are metric and the drum is standard (this is where your craftsman grinder is perfect with matching threads). Mcmaster had a drum for a half inch shaft similar to the burnisher. Again I really appreciate your information and thanks to you I now have a proper variable speed 3 grit sander and burnisher.

    • Andrew Wood