To break in cork belts, put them on the grinder with a tool rest in place. Using a scrap piece of blade steel, or whatever, wear on that belt for a good 10 minutes. Be careful not to “break” the corners, or edges, of the belt too aggressively, or all the cork and polishing media will peel off. Buffing compound helps here, I think, in making it easier to “fold” around the edge of the wheel a little. You do need to slightly break or round the corners of the belt around the edge of the wheel, however, but be careful not to overdo it. It is smelly and dirty for that 10 min, but it takes that long (10 min. by the clock) to break the belt in.

A new cork belt looks like a 36 grit belt, it’s so rough. When it’s broken in, it has some smooth spots, some valleys and starts taking on a smoother, slightly shiny appearance. Use the buffing compound during the “break-in.” Be advised that it takes some pressure, and time to do the job. You don’t want to peel off cork, you are trying to just smooth out the surface of the belt somewhat.

These belts will then last you 2-3 years, assuming that you do 50-100 knives per year. Take a little care with the edges, as I’ve noted above. Use ample compound. Hopefully, you might be as happy with this process as I am. The cork belt is the best thing to come along in many a year, as far as I’m concerned.

-Written by S.R. Johnson-Knifemaker