The number one tool in my shop - used more than any other - the humble belt grinder. For those who know, this is the machine you stand in front of more than any other when you make knives by hand. They can also be one of you largest investments when you begin. Seeing as how my budget was just slightly above $0 I had to see what I had in my shop to make one of these.
Thinking outside the box becomes one of you best tools in this game. I'm in no way claiming this is the best belt grinder out there or that is is the perfect design. Contrary to that, it is quirky and needs upgrading, but it works!
There is a key difference between two words what needs to be set straight at this point. They are the difference between "Optimal" and "Best". Optimal simply refers to the most efficient way to accomplish a task. Optimal would be a multi-thousand dollar belt grinder and an in-shop laser cutter or water jet machine. These would accomplish the task much faster and more efficiently, but the thousands of dollars attached to them might not be the "best" option for you.
Best simply means what gets to to where you want to go taking into consideration where you are. For me the best option was not the expensive equipment. I never would have begun if I had gone down that road. For me the best was taking the scrap metal in my shop, an old motor from a wood working machine, a few dollars in spare parts, and some time designing to build a machine that got me started. The journey of a thousand miles can begin if you get caught up on the first step. The best for me is what allowed me to start this journey. More on that later.
Here is a little video for your viewing pleasure