The modernly used weed grinder is a fairly sophisticated tool that has evolved from a basic engineering concept that was first introduced in the beginning of the 20th century. Although the original centerless was intended for industrial use in pulping and processing cellulose and plant matter, it has been adopted and refined for herb grinding on an individual level. Most modern grinders can range in size, although they are compact and highly portable compared to industrial models.
The adoption of the centerless grinder for processing herbs has been fairly recent, especially as social trends and the acceptance of valid marijuana use has changed. Prior to the centerless grinder, herbs were generally processed by hand, using either a blade to chop the plant into fine parts, or a mortar and pestle to pulverize the dried matter. Often the use of a coffee grinder was also employed, although this mechanical tool could be harder to clean when build up occurred.
The centerless grinder offered a compact, efficient, and highly effective device that could also be easily cleaned. Original adaptations were simple two part grinders, with a top and bottom piece that could be twisted, causing the grinding teeth to grate and pulverize the plant matter. Collection of the material was easily contained within the grinder, and herbs could be processed to a size that was as coarse or as fine as was needed.
Early Roots of the Herb Grinder
Since the weed grinder actually started as an industrial tool, the initial invention of the device is attributed to Lewis Heim. Heim was an engineer who worked for The Ball & Bearing Roller Company, and his contribution of the centerless grinder was developed through this manufacturer around 1905. The patent for the device would later be sold to the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company, although contest regarding ownership for the idea would persist for decades after the sale.
However, the centerless grinder offered a novel idea that eliminated excessive handling and feeding of herbs into a grinder. The minimal amount of parts that were involved also offered better control over the process, less binding, and the ability to easily clean the teeth of the tool. This provided a very effective way to pulverize plants with a reduced amount of effort.
The concept of the centerless grinder was later miniaturized for use in apothecaries and compounding pharmacies, since it offered a quicker way to process plant materials. During the 1960s, it was adopted for processing marijuana, and has been evolving ever since.
The original two piece models did not have a separate collection chamber, but retained the ground plant matter in the lower half of the grinder. This action could become an issue if too much herb had been placed in the grinder or if build up caused the teeth to stick. As a result, the user would need to empty the grinder and clear the teeth, before returning the herb back to the grinder and continuing the process of pulverization. This could become frustrating and was also less than efficient when it came to retaining all of the yield from the ground plant.
As the use of grinders became more common with people who used marijuana, further developments to the design were also instituted. Along with the addition of screens and catch basins, the use of different materials for the construction of the grinder also became common. All of these factors have contributed to a more effective tool that is also easier to use and clean.
Grinder Design takes Evolutionary Steps
Some of the greater changes to the centerless grinder did come in the form of engineering additions, although the basic function and design of the tool was still greatly retained. One of the first alterations was the result of the addition of a third segment of the grinder, so that a separate catch basin would collect the ground plant matter.
This meant that the lower tooth piece of the grinder also contained openings that would allow the ground material to sift out into the catch basin. Unprocessed pieces of plant could continue to be pulverized and if the teeth began to bind or stick, all of the herb would not need to be removed in order to clear the obstruction. One novel aspect of this new design was also the fact that the twisting motion of grinding would help to sift the smaller plant material through the openings.
The issue with this design was the fact that coarser material could also fall through the openings, so that sometimes the herb in the catch basin would still need to be picked through and ground again. The addition of a screen layer has greatly helped this, so that material could be sifted and collected by size. However, the screen could become easily clogged and would often require frequent cleaning, which could also damage the mesh.
Further innovations have addressed this matter, and limited newer grinders also have the addition of screen layer that uses a locking ring to hold the mesh in place. As a result, users are able to fully remove the screen from the ring in order to gently soak it or completely replace it. This could also allow users to interchange screens with ease, and always have a clean replacement that is available.
A Matter of Material
Some of the other major changes to the evolution of the weed grinder have also been in the materials that were used in construction. Initial centerless grinders were made from stainless steel, which was highly durable, easy to clean, and effective at cutting. Stainless steel grinders could be heavy, so the use of other materials was explored.
Plastics and acrylics offer a lighter weight version of the grinder, although these materials can result in teeth that lose their edge very quickly. This meant that grinders would need to be fully replaced when the teeth were no longer sharp. The use of aluminum has offered a good compromise between the cutting power and durability of stainless steel and other metals, while still retaining the lightness of plastics.