As opposed to what many people (even tradesmen) believe, angle grinders aren’t only suitable for – well, you know – grinding. As a matter of fact, I consider these machines to be the epitome of versatility. Not only can you use an angle grinder to grind metal, but you can also utilize one to cut, sharpen, sand and polish different kinds of surfaces and materials.
Now, having said all that, there are certain uses that are more common than others, which we’ll see in detail below. But first, let’s refresh your memory by getting into the very definition of an angle grinder.
What Is an Angle Grinder?
Simply put, an angle grinder is a handheld power tool with a rotating disc that’s mainly used for grinding and polishing. The name originates from the design of these tools, as they feature a cutting head that’s positioned at an angle relative to the drive shaft.
An angle grinder can be powered by one of three power sources: electricity, petrol, and compressed air, and it can be either corded or cordless.
Angle grinders come in different shapes and sizes, but the most commonly used ones are 4 and 4.5-inch grinders. That’s why you can find discs of those sizes at any hardware store. Cutting attachments are equally diverse, and today, there’s practically a different attachment for each purpose, such as:
- Wire discs
- Grinding discs
- Wire cup brushes
- Metal cutoff discs
- Dry-cut diamond discs
- Diamond tuckpointing discs
Depending on the material you’re trying to cut or finish, you can pick a different size, model, and motor. For instance, if you need to cut masonry or another stubborn material, you ought to get an angle grinder that has a powerful drive motor, preferably one that’s five to seven amps.
Now let’s see what are the main uses and how to use an angle grinder safely.
Uses of Angle Grinders
As I said above, angle grinders have way too many purposes, but here are the seven main applications of such a tool:
1. Grinding and Sharpening
This is probably what tradesmen mainly use angle grinders for. Just install a grinding wheel, and you are ready to grind and clean up the welded joints, remove excess material and do deburring and chamfer.
You’ll also be able to restore any edge and sharpen any flat surface with ease. If you have some rough-and-tumble tools that have lost their edge laying around, you can get them up and running using an angle grinder.
Keep in mind that you can easily overheat a metal blade with an angle grinder. When the temperature crosses the recrystallization point, the cutting edge will lose its hardness. If that happens, the edge will become a bluish black or straw- colored and may wear off quickly.
To avoid such an issue, make sure to keep moving the grinder throughout the operation. Also, drench the metal frequently using a wet sponge or cloth.
2. Cutting Metal
With the right attachment, say a cutting wheel, for example, an angle grinder can join your power tool arsenal as a metal-cutting machine. After all, who has the time to cut rods, bars, and bolts using a hacksaw these days?
Get a thin abrasive cutting wheel and you can cut sheet metal and rebars with this tool. Construction workers often use metal cutting chop saws and angle grinders to cut rebars that are used for reinforcing concrete.
Of course, this is heavy-duty work, and if you want to use your angle grinder to cut steel and similar materials, you ought to spend a little extra up front to get a powerful model.
3. Cutting Tile and Concrete
Cutting tiles and concrete pieces are an essential part of construction and renovation jobs. But it can be a real pain in the neck, especially if you don’t have a dedicated tile saw laying around.
Fortunately, you can easily cut these materials using an angle grinder, simply by attaching a dry-cut diamond disc, which would make the task a breeze.
Keep in mind that a professional tile saw is a better option for cutting in a straight line. Hence they are the preferred choice for construction work. But when you want to replace the old tiles, an angle grinder is what you need.
4. Cutting Masonry
Not only can use your angle grinder to cut tile, but it’s also suitable for masonry cutting. All you need is to install a diamond cutting wheel, and no brick will stand in your way. Again, cutting such materials repeatedly can wear off your motor quickly, so make sure to get a powerful unit from the get-go.
5. Remove Mortar
It’s also worth noting that you can use an angle grinder to remove old mortar without damaging the bricks. I suggest you use a diamond tuckpointing wheel with thickness close to the width of mortar. You may need to pass the grinding wheel several times to remove the old mortar completely.
Remember to wear a face shield and safety goggles, though, as the process can be really dusty. And the flying debris can cause serious injury. Trust me when I say that grinding beats using a chisel and a hammer any time of the day.
6. Cleaning Metal
Using a wire wheel or cup brush, you can easily remove rust and flaking paint quickly and efficiently. Those two attachments are designed for slightly different purposes, though. On the one hand, wire cup brushes are suitable for rust and paint removal off flat areas. Wire discs, on the other hand, can be used to clean hard-to-reach spots, such as corners and crevices.
7. Metal Polishing
You can use a buffing wheel with the angle grinder to polish metals like aluminum and steel. But before you polish, ensure that you remove the deep marks and burrs using a grinding disc.
As you’ve noticed, angle grinders are incredibly versatile, and using yours for different purposes and applications is as simple as switching the wheel or attachment. One thing to note here: not all accessories are compatible with all angle grinders, so look for a model that matches your job’s requirements.
Are angle grinders dangerous? Angle grinders are powerful machines, and as you know, with great power comes a great risk of injury, especially that grinder discs spin at high speeds that can reach 10,000 to 11,000 RPM. One slip of a hand and you may lose a finger, arm, or leg. Scary, huh?
I am not saying that to scare you, but to empathize the importance of safety measures. Safety has to come first regardless of what you’re using an angle grinder for. Here are some precautions that you can take:
- Angle grinders toss a helluva lot of dust into the air, so make sure to wear your dust mask, safety goggles, and gloves. If you’re not working alone, make sure everyone in the room is wearing a dust mask.
- While doing masonry work wear a face shield to protect yourself from the flying debris.
- Keep a firm grip with both hands throughout the operation, and attach the handle whenever it’s possible.
- Angle grinders produce sparks when cutting, so don’t use them near flammable materials.
- When replacing a new wheel, run it in a protected area to make sure it isn’t defective.
- The guard is there to protect you, so attach it whenever it’s possible.
- When not in use, store your angle grinders away from children.
- Unplug the grinder when you need to change the disc.
- Secure the workpiece firmly to avoid slippage.
Of course, those tips are directly related to angle grinders, and you still need to follow general safety precautions that apply to all power tools.
Remember, safety first.