There are two grinding workshops at Shepherd Wheel. The grindstones in them were used for grinding table and other domestic knives, and pocket and pen knives too. Some of the grinders who worked at the wheel may have worked for the tenant who rented the building. Others might have rented time on the stones for their own grinding work. Industrial buildings with just one function like this could be found all over Sheffield, and are quite different to somewhere like Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, where many jobs were carried out on the same site.
Both grinding workshops at Shepherd Wheel were powered by a single waterwheel. The wheel is 5.5 metres high and 2 metres wide and is made of cast and wrought iron, elm and oak and bronze. The water to turn the wheel comes from the large dam where water is diverted from the River Porter. The waterwheel turned twenty grindstones and several "glazing" stones. The grindstones were used to create a fine, sharp cutting edge on the blade. The final smoothing of the blade was done on the glazing stones, before they left Shepherd Wheel for polishing.