The Real History of the Herb Grinder

February 25, 2022 4 min read

Mankind has been grinding up herbs for millennia, but when it comes to the best handheld grinders found in headshops and smoke shops around the world today, the history of the herb grinder has yet to be properly told… until now.

Since we climbed down out of the trees, mankind has been foraging and eventually growing our own herbs for nutritional and medicinal use. For many of these plants, the highest and best use is to harvest the flowers and dry them for later use.

The best way to grind buds from those herbal flowers has certainly evolved from the earliest days of pulverizing the herbs between two rocks.

Top shelf herb grinders today are the ultimate example of the harmony of form and function meeting to give the user a reliable tool that they will appreciate every time they break down those buds.

At first glance, many herb grinders look almost identical and the funny thing is, they’ve looked that way for decades now. The full history of the herb grinder that we’re talking about goes back a bit further, however, to right around the turn of the 20th century.

So, grind some up, roll one up, and light it up while we take you on a trip through time to discover the REAL history of the herb grinder!


The first iteration of what we would all recognize as a handheld herb grinder was the brainchild of two men, both Aussies, who originally came up with the idea as a way to improve the tobacco-smoking experience.

In this patent filed in the U.S. in 1905 by William Henry Wingfield and John Balding illustrated an herb grinder design that has served as the foundation of what would come for the next 12 decades or so.

This earliest rendition didn’t have a bottom chamber as we see in 2-piece, 3-piece, or 4-piece herb grinders today… instead, the ground tobacco simply fell through holes and piled on the table or whatever surface was below the grinder.

The truth is, tobacco companies soon offered pre-shredded versions of their wares making the grinders obsolete for most smokers, and the popularity of herb grinding had to wait for a couple of World Wars to come and pass before it gained mass appeal.

Grab your bellbottoms and protest signs, our next stop takes us to the 1960s to see how the popularity of the herb grinder got a boost from Flower Power.


Industries like agriculture, pharma, and textiles were all using loosely-related versions of herb grinders ranging in size from a Volkswagen Bug to handheld throughout the 1900s, but it was not until the Peace & Love Era of the 1960s that the best herb grinders made their way to the masses.

history of the herb grinder - old school wood herb grinder

Aligning perfectly with the explosion of the hippy movement, and the countless joints that were rolled as a result, the history of the handheld grinder as we know it today really took root in this transformational time in our country’s history.

Even as herb grew in popularity over the next 2-3 decades, it remained a legal liability until very recently, and so once again the design of herb grinders sort of stalled in that generation with wood, plastic, or cheap metal making up most designs.


Around the most recent turn of the century, the collective mindset across America about how we should look at the culture of herb enthusiasts shifted dramatically. States began to establish legal markets for a plant that once carried the risk of long-term incarceration and with those markets came a renewed demand for ancillary products like glass, grinders, and more.

Companies that got on that wave first rode it for a decade or more, banking on the minor improvements that they had made over more primitive designs of the past, but never really pushing their designs into the future.

Brands like Santa Cruz Shredder come to mind. Perhaps the best-selling grinders in history, they have resisted any urge to upgrade some of the archaic features of their products simply because… well… they don’t have to as long as people keep buying them. It’s sort of like the New York Knicks always putting out mid-grade teams, but Madison Square Garden sells out every home game.

Two things that Santa Cruz Shredder did have that most competitors did not were:

  1. They use high-quality materials to make their products
  2. They are made in the USA

That was enough to keep them at the top for years, but times change and so must herb grinder designs which brings us to the current day.


With the return of Phoenician Grinders to the market, herbal connoisseurs are presented with a new option, a better option, when it comes to herb grinders.

What is the point of doing the same thing as everyone else and just stamping a new name on it?

The durable grinders that we offer at here at Phoenician are totally original, patented designs that were conceived and implemented with the user experience - not ease of manufacturing or the bottom line of a financial statement – as our sole motivation.

Just looking at a Phoenician Grinder makes one feel like they are somehow glimpsing some future technology, but you can have the best herb grinders now, shipped directly from Phoenician to you or purchased from your favorite local smoke shop, headshop or dispensary.

Thoughtfully-designed, radial cut teeth and large drop through holes, an innovative “thread-less” locking notch system, removable and replaceable stainless steel micron mesh screens, a paper holder & ashtray feature on the large grinder  – this is science, but it isn’t science fiction… it’s Phoenician!



It is impossible to totally predict the future, but we do know that the best is yet to come from Phoenician Grinders.

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