Although today we’ll be dealing only with electric angle grinders, we’ll take a very brief glimpse now at the 3 main types of angle grinder so you can see which power plant would work best for you…
By far the most frequently used type of angle grinder, electric models can be powered directly from an outlet, using batteries or a transformer offering you a wide range of options.
For the purposes of home DIY or light to medium duties on site, an electric disc grinder is by far the cleanest, easiest option. For this reason, our primary focus today is on this type of tool.
If you work full-time on a construction site or you’re a workshop owner, there’s little substitute for a gas-powered angle grinder.
Much more expensive, in return you’ll be rewarded with a great deal of power and the ability to slice your way with consummate ease through bricks and blocks, steel and other harder materials.
Using a gas grinder is a little more complex too so, for the casual home woodworker or DIY enthusiast, we’d advise you give this kind of angle grinder a swerve.
Ramping things right up, auto shops with hardcore requirements routinely use angle grinders powered by compressed air.
An inbuilt advantage of compressed air grinders is the way in which they work well for precision jobs. You can retain the power you need without being weighed down.
That said, this type of angle grinder is unnecessary if you plan to carry out a few jobs in the home workshop but for a seasoned professional it’s the wisest bet offering first-rate power and performance under even the most demanding conditions without being weighed down.
Who Needs Angle Grinders?
Despite the single-purpose name, angle grinders are indispensable for a range of applications beyond basic grinding duty.
A more accurate question might be, “Who doesn’t need angle grinders?”
From home craftsmen to mechanics in an auto shop, construction workers out on site or anyone working as a handyman, a solid angle grinder can be worth its weight in gold.
The most common usage for an angle grinder, as the name hints, is to grind and smoothly remove any excess material. Using a disc suited to the application you have in mind, you can swiftly make notches or cuts in your chosen material too.
Despite this broad spread of possible usage – more on that shortly – don’t for a second overlook an angle grinder if you’re a committed woodworker. By harnessing an aluminum oxide wheel, angle grinders are great power tools for effortlessly buffing and polishing.
Buying any power tool should never be a whim decision. You should always focus on picking up the best equipment you can afford that’s precisely in line with your intended usage.
Once you’ve decided on your budget, your options will be narrowed down naturally. Never spend more than you can afford but never resent spending good money on tools that can last a lifetime if properly maintained.
If you’re honest about your needs and the way in which you plan to use your angle grinder, there’s no reason buying one should be overwhelming.
User reviews give you a sound overview of what a body of woodworkers and craftsmen think about the tool you have in mind. Pay close attention in particular to any flaw that repeatedly rates a mention. Rarely is there smoke without fire.
Beyond that, check out these handy pointers as we move on to our angle grinder buying guide. You can see at a glance what you should look out to maximize your chances of getting the best angle grinder for your personal requirements.
What To Consider When Buying a Angle Grinder
The wheel or disc on the angle grinder is what dictates its designated size along with the range of duties it can perform. Since this site has the home woodworker and hobbyist handyman firmly in mind, 4 of the 5 angle grinders we reviewed here are the 4-½ inch size best suited for a smaller scope of work. We also throw in a 6-inch model for anyone with slightly more ambitious projects up their sleeve. Beyond this, you can also get 7-inch and 9-inch but they fall outside the remit of this article.
Speed Rating (RPM)
The speed at which the disc on the angle grinder spins is rated in terms of rotations per minute (RPM). If you’ve never used a disc grinder before, you’ll be amazed by the amount of power on tap. These various wheels can rotate at anywhere from around 5000 RPM right on through 11,000 RPM for a pretty devastating blast of performance. Don’t obsess over this speed rating but take it into account and relate it to the type of work you’ll be expecting your angle grinder to perform so you can get the best fit.
First up, make certain you choose the correct voltage so you don’t end up stiffed with a 230V model when you’re running on 110V. Wattage varies considerably from 500 watts at the lower end of the spectrum up to well in excess of 2000 watts for higher end angle grinders. Amperage ranges from 4 amps through 15 amps. With all elements of the motor’s performance, tie it closely to your intended usage… If you plan to carry out only a few lighter grinding jobs at home, you’ll need a far less able performer than a professional requiring a tool fit for unbroken daily use on challenging applications.
Ergonomics and Comfort
The most capable angle grinder is useless if it doesn’t feel right and ends up too heavy to handle or too uncomfy to use in the way you want. Aside from a nicely contoured anti-vibration handle, the principal factors affecting comfort are the size and weight of your disc grinder. If you’re working predominantly in the home workshop or around the house, a compact and lightweight angle grinder is ideal. It’s only when you step up to contracting work or professional projects in a metal or auto shop that you need to ramp up the size and weight. Even then, always make sure your angle grinder feels right or it might just end up as an expensive ornament.
Wheels and Attachments
One of the chief selling points of an angle grinder is its remarkable adaptability. By swapping out the wheels, you can switch from grinding to polishing, from woodworking to metalworking as well as being able to sharpen your tools, smash through concrete or stone and a shower of other projects at home or on the job site. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to throw a circular saw blade into your angle grinder. Always make sure that the discs or attachments you use fit snugly and show no signs of wear. Be fully aware that by simply exchanging these discs, you can do far more than just grind off edges with the best angle grinder.
Safety should be absolutely central when you’re operating any kind of power tool and angle grinders are no exception to this. The most commonly experienced injuries with disc grinders are from attachments that break off becoming potentially lethal projectiles. Follow the above guidelines to ensure that the risk here is minimized. Kickback is also a thorny issue so look for a disc grinder with an anti-kickback clutch. Soft-start handles that tamp down vibration, discs that make less noise and restart protection are all features worth looking out for in the best disc grinder.
Linked closely to safety in general is the specific problem of dust. Many of the best disc grinders have some form of dust ejection system in place so that the shards and debris kicked up is kept to a bare minimum. There’s still no substitute for a first-rate dust collection system in your workshop but seeking out an angle grinder with at least some dust management is a great way to make your life easier and to keep your working environment safe and comfortable.
Price should always play a part in any power tool purchase but should never, ever be the driving force behind your decision. This is not to say you should overspend. You shouldn’t. Before anything else at all, work out the most you can comfortably spend to get the tool you need and under no circumstances breach this budget. Far more important that the raw bottom line is to choose an angle grinder that represents overall value while giving you all that you demand, nothing more and nothing less.
Usage and Maintenance Tips
Most electric angle grinders operate in roughly similar fashion. Fire it up, depress a switch and as soon as this is released, the grinder powers down. Often called the dead man’s switch, this protective feature helps lessen any chance of injury.
Although there are myriad different uses for a disc grinder, we can cleave them into 3 broad categories:
- Grinding and Cutting: Whether it’s grinding away surplus stone, metal or mortar, grinding is the primary purpose which is no surprise considering the name of the tool. You’ll also be able to make accurate cuts or notches in material and shape hard material like stone with absolute ease
- Sharpening Blades: Your various home and garden tools need regular sharpening so they remain effective and efficient weapons in your arsenal. From axes to lawn mower blades, shovels to ice picks, anything that needs an edge honing is fair game for your angle grinder. Use a flapper attachment for sharpening
- Removing Mortar: Do you wish you could get rid of the mortar between bricks without needing recourse to a hammer and chisel? With an angle grinder, you can! As with many of the angle grinder’s diverse applications, it’s all about using the appropriate disc, in this case a tuckpointing wheel.
Aluminum oxide wheels are ideal for woodworking, general polishing or buffing.
If you want to cut concrete or stone, use a diamond disc.
Rust removal is simplified using an angle grinder with a fiber wheel. For rounding or cleaning metal, a silicon carbide disc works wonders while a wire disc or brush disc helps you to remove paint or rust and is a great way to clean metal.
Safety should be your prime concern when operating an angle grinder. The chance of injury is disturbingly high if you don’t follow some basic precautions. Wear a facemask, eye protection and some heavy-duty gloves at all times. Ensure that anyone in the vicinity is extremely aware while the grinder is in operation. Be vigilant for kickback and make sure the angle grinder is stored away safely after use.
As with any power tool, always keep your angle grinder clean and make sure there’s no debris or fine particles that can work their way inside. That aside, always check the discs before you fire up your grinder and you should be all set. Angle grinders are pretty low maintenance which is always a bonus with power tools!