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This blog post explores the rich history and legacy of K.O. Lee, a renowned manufacturer of manual machine tools such as grinders and expanding mandrels, along with OES (Original Equipment Supplier) parts for their more recent and legacy equipment.


What is a KO Lee or Kolee Machine?

K.O. Lee machines, like surface grinders and tool cutters, are highly regarded for their durability, accuracy and reliability, making them a popular choice among machinists, toolmakers and manufacturers.


Short History of the K.O. Lee Company

Founded in Aberdeen, North Dakota, in the late 19th century, K.O. Lee has a rich history of providing top-notch manual machine tools, including grinders, expanding mandrels and OES parts

Today, K.O. Lee continues to thrive as a LeBlond Ltd. subsidiary, offering a wide range of tools and parts to meet the diverse needs of machine tool enthusiasts. 

Let’s delve into the fascinating journey of this iconic company.

The Early Years

K.O. Lee, short for Knute Oscar Lee, embarked on his entrepreneurial journey in 1888 when he registered the K.O. Lee Company. Initially, the company focused on selling farm parts and equipment, laying the foundation for what would become a renowned name in manufacturing.


LeBlond LTD and K.O. Lee

In 1915, K.O. Lee joined forces with his son, Clifford Carl “C.C.” Lee, as a partner in the business. Over the years, they adapted to the changing technological landscape, shifting their focus from steam engines to gasoline tractors, threshing machines and plows.

The outbreak of World War II jump-started the company that went into overdrive to produce industrial tool grinder lines and other equipment for the Allies.

In the 1960s, K.O. Lee jumped into surface grinders and the company grew to the point that by 1981, it had 127,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and office space.

In 2008, after careful consideration, the K.O. Lee Company was bought by LeBlond Ltd., ensuring that the legacy of quality and reliability associated with the K.O. Lee brand continues to thrive.



K.O. Lee Machine Types

These machines are known for their precision and quality in various metalworking applications. Some common types of K.O. Lee (or kolee) machines include:


Universal Cutter Grinders

Used for sharpening and grinding cutting tools such as end mills, drills and reamers. These machines are essential in tool and die shops as well as manufacturing facilities.


Surface Grinders

Used for precision surface grinding of workpieces. Surface grinders are commonly used in metalworking and toolmaking industries to achieve smooth and flat surfaces on materials.


Expanding Mandrels

Used to hold and support workpieces during machining operations. These mandrels are adjustable, allowing for secure and precise clamping of various workpiece sizes and shapes.


The Main K.O. Lee Machine Components

Here are some of the main components found in K.O. Lee grinders:

Bed: the base or foundation of the machine that provides stability and support for all other components. It is typically made of cast iron and is designed to maintain rigidity during machining.

Table: the movable platform that holds the workpiece and moves it about the grinding wheel or cutting tool. It can be adjusted both longitudinally and crosswise to position the workpiece accurately.

Spindle: it rotates the grinding wheel or cutting tool. It ensures that the grinding action is precise and controlled. K.O. Lee machines are known for their high-quality spindles that contribute to accurate results.

For more information about K.O Lee machine components, tap HERE.


Contact LeBlond for a K.O. Lee Machine & OES Parts

The journey of K.O. Lee is a testament to the spirit of innovation, dedication to quality and adaptability in the face of changing times. 

From its humble beginnings as a farm machinery sales business to becoming a global leader in manual machine tools, K.O. Lee’s legacy lives on through LeBlond, providing enthusiasts and professionals with the tools and parts they need to shape the future of machining.

If you are interested in pricing for a K.O. Lee (or kolee) machine, please get in touch:

  • Please leave a comment, and we’ll be happy to help.
  • Call a LeBlond Sales Engineer at +1 (888) 532-5663 and dial Option 2 (Monday – Friday 8am-5pm ET)

We look forward to hearing from you!



  • K.O. Lee was founded in the late 19th Century by Knute Oscar Lee and has established itself as a trusted name in the world of manual machine tools.
  • K.O. Lee offers various types of machines, including universal cutter grinders, surface grinders and expanding mandrels, catering to a wide range of machining applications.
  • K.O. Lee grinder machines consist of key components such as the bed, table, grinding wheel, workhead, spindle, wheelhead, controls, coolant system and electrical/hydraulic systems.