A tool grinder shapes and finishes various types of metal tools, parts, and equipment at a machinist shop or a specialized factory. Since most tools are created with the aid of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, most modern tool grinders are responsible for programming, operating, and maintaining factory equipment. Some delicate jobs must still be performed by hand, however, and a tool grinder needs to be adept at sculpting, filing, and polishing metal parts with the aid of hand tools. He or she also inspects finished tools and parts to make sure they were built correctly.
Modern CNC machines come equipped with laser cutters, grinders, polishers, saws, and any number of other specialized parts to produce a quality tool or part. A tool grinder who works with CNC machines must be able to understand schematics, blueprints, and written directions in order to input program data. Once a machine is running, the grinder inspects progress and makes any necessary adjustments. He or she may also be responsible for cleaning factory space and performing preventive maintenance on machines.
A tool grinder who works by hand needs to be detail-oriented and persistent. He or she takes precise measurements and uses a variety of tools and techniques to grind, file, hammer, and shape raw materials into finished pieces. Some grinders specialize in repair jobs as well, which requires the ability to troubleshoot equipment and identify missing, damaged, or defective parts. Once all necessary repairs are made, a grinder usually tests a tool before returning it to the owner.
The requirements to become a tool grinder can vary. Some factories will provide on-the-job training to new workers who meet the physical standards for the job and have high school diplomas. Others require at least some post-secondary education and experience. A person who wants to work as a tool grinder can enroll in a vocational school or community college program dedicated to the metalworking trade. In school, a student has the chance to gain firsthand experience with hand tools and CNC machines.
Many tool grinders are members of regional or national trade unions. Union membership can be valuable to a new worker, as organizations can help with job placement, apprenticeship training, and advancement. Skilled tool grinders with several years of experience may be able to become CNC programmers or shift managers at their factories. Some professionals eventually open their own machinist shops to compete in the industry.