A cylindrical grinder is a type of tool that shapes a work piece through abrasive grinding and rotation. These tools have one or more grinding wheels and a clamp to hold the work piece. In most cases, both the wheels and the work piece spin very fast. When a grinding wheel contacts the work piece, very small amounts of material are removed. Since the amount of material removed is so low, but the wheel removes so many pieces at a time, the work piece quickly takes on a new shape that requires very little additional finishing.
The types of work pieces shaped in a cylindrical grinder are nearly limitless as long as they are symmetrical to a single axis. This means that one side of the object is an exact mirror of its opposite side. These objects can vary from baseball bats to car parts. The materials ground out by the tool can be nearly anything as well, but wood, metal and ceramic are by far the most common.
The shape, size and purpose of a grinder can vary, but they will all have some features in common. The work piece is held in the machine in such a way that it represents a specific axis. This is fundamental to all types of cylindrical grinder. This specified axis allows the machine to have a specified line around which to perform all the work done to the piece.
The next common factor is rotation. In every grinder, the work piece, the grinding wheel or both rotate at very high speeds. It is this rotation that allows a cylindrical grinder to actually work the piece. As the grinding wheel makes contact with the piece, the rough edge acts like hundreds of tiny chisels, removing nearly dust-sized material. This leaves the work piece in a smooth, nearly finished state.
The last factor is traverse movement. Either the work piece or the grinding wheel will move in relation to the other along the axis of the work piece. This essentially means that the grinding wheel can move up and down the length of the piece without removing it from the machine. This allows a single cylindrical grinder session to perform all the work necessary on the work piece.
Internal computers control most types of cylindrical grinders. These computers use a program that outlines the final appearance of the work piece. The systems uses lasers to read the piece as it moves in the machine and makes cuts appropriate to the specific item fed to it. This allows for an extremely specific level of craftsmanship, something many other tools cannot reach.