Angle Grinder vs Bench Grinder. Pros & Cons.

Throughout multiple trade-oriented industries, the angle grinder, and bench grinder are two of the most utilized forms of tooling. Both are known for their practicality and efficiency when conducting tasks such as the grinding, sanding, and shaping of materials; but what is the real difference between these two machines?

Let us explore these differences in the following article.

Difference Between Angle Grinder and Bench Grinder

Angle Grinder vs Bench Grinder

In a nutshell, an angle grinder is a portable grinder with a rotating disc that spins at high speed to cut, sand, and polish workpieces. On the other hand, a bench grinder is a fixed machine tool with two rotating grinding stones. Bench grinders are primarily used for sharpening drill bits, cutting tools, blades, deburring, grinding, etc.

1. Working Principles

Angle Grinder

The angle grinder is a handheld-portable power tool that is most commonly used for grinding, cutting, and polishing works.

Angle grinder with disc

All angle grinder models will contain either a small motor (or an air compression system) which is used to power a gear head with a spindle. On the spindle, different angle grinder discs can be attached and fastened through the tightening of a nut. When the grinder is switched on, the gear head and attached disc will rotate rapidly and can be applied to the material for abrasive cutting, grinding, or polishing purposes.

Protecting the operator from injury (such as flying debris) is a grinder guard which is located directly behind the gear head/disc. Different discs are designed for different tasks and are generally made to be consumables.

Bench Grinder

The working principles of the bench grinder are similar to that of the angle grinders, but without the ability to cut-off materials.

Bench Grinder

A bench grinder is a stationary benchtop machine that is mainly used for the grinding, sanding, and polishing of various materials. The most common design seen houses two adjacent wheels attached to a gear head with a motor located centrally.

When the bench grinder is turned on, an electric motor powers these two wheels (often simultaneously), and the desired work can be conducted via the application of the material to be worked upon. Much like the angle grinder, the abrasive wheel (in this case) is interchangeable to suit one’s needs although as mentioned, bench grinders are predominantly designed with the purpose of grinding, sanding, and polishing in mind.

2. Portability

An angle grinder is as portable as a power tool gets. It is generally powered by electricity or air compression and it is limited with its freedom of movement only by the location of electrical or air compression output and the length of the electrical lead/air hose on hand.

A step further, there are angle grinder models available that completely eliminate the necessity for a direct power source and are powered by rechargeable batteries. It is important to mention, however, that when interchanging from a direct power source to a rechargeable battery (at least with angle grinders) the lifespan of the tool and power output is less.

On the other hand, the bench grinder is not at all considered a portable tool. These machines will often be found completely stationary and fastened down to a bench or heavy stand which prevents you from carrying it around unless the mounting has wheels. For this reason, a bench grinder is usually considered a shop floor machine tool.

Despite this lack of portability, the bench grinder is not a massive tool in terms of heavy machinery and the location can be changed as desired with a little manpower.

3. Angle Grinder vs Bench Grinder Uses

The Angle Grinder

The angle grinder can be used for tasks upon a range of materials such as metal, wood, ceramics, concrete, and plastics, to name a few. Generally, we would see the angle grinder used upon these materials for purposes such as:

Bench Grinder Uses

We don’t see such a variety of applications from the bench grinder although, it indefinitely makes up for this with its efficiency. Like angle grinders, the bench grinder is useful to work upon materials such as metal, wood, ceramics, concrete, and plastics.

Following are some of the common uses of a bench grinder.

  • Grinding
  • Lathe Tool Sharpening
  • Sharpening drill bits
  • Deburring and chamfering
  • Polishing
  • Sanding

Sharpening Drill bit on a bench grinder

Can You Use a Bench Grinder to Cut Metal?

Bench grinders are not designed for cutting metal since they utilize wide grinding wheels. To cut metal you need a thinner abrasive disc or a saw blade.

On a bench grinder, you could cut metal screws and bar stocks with relatively small cross sections (½ inch or less) using the sharp corner of the grinding stone. However, it will take a lot of effort and wastage of material.

You are much better off cutting metal using an angle grinder or a die grinder with cutting discs.

4. Versatility

Angle grinders have an excellent range of flexibility when working upon metals of different sizes. This makes them an excellent tool to use throughout multiple industries, such as woodworking, concreting works, and metalworking, where material sizes change often. When material sizes do vary, one can simply change the grinder discs to better suit the workload at hand, or otherwise, a completely different grinder size can be utilized.

Grinder disc interchangeability is equally excellent with a huge variety of cutting, grinding, and sanding discs available as well as other more unique discs/tools available for potential usage. For example, one of the most commonly used discs on an angle grinder is the flap disc which is not a grinding wheel, yet works very efficiently at removing material. Angle grinders can even be used for woodworking and carving.

Also, important to note is the obvious portability of the angle grinder which allows an operator to work anywhere that electricity is available.

Bench grinders are certainly much more specialized than the angle grinder which does limit their flexibility of use as a portable object or as a tool with multiple functions.

Despite this, there is a wide range of different grinding wheels available (of different coarseness, thicknesses, and functions) which indefinitely widens the potential applications from simple grinding tasks to include polishing, sanding, and occasional cutting also.

5. Power Source

Another important distinction is the type of power used to drive the motor of the tool. I have briefly mentioned this in the portability section.

An angle grinder is usually powered by one of three following methods.

  1. Compressed air in the case of pneumatic angle grinders
  2. Electricity for corded grinders, and
  3. Battery-powered cordless angle grinders.

On the contrary, bench grinders are usually powered by electricity.

6. Price

The Angle Grinder: $20- $300USD+

An extremely budget-friendly 4.5-inch to 6-inch grinder could be purchased for as low as $20USD (though it would be indefinitely lacking in the department of durability and quality).

The cost of the tool usually depends on the size, type of power source, and brand. The price range for a quality angle grinder of any size is likely to range between $80USD – $300USD or more.

The Bench Grinder: $50 – $800USD+

Starting at $50USD, one can pick up a light-duty bench grinder for basic home use but when requiring a grinder with a little more power and potential lifespan, the price will likely start from $200USD and continue into the thousands. 

Which Grinder Should You Get?

The answer to this question will depend completely on your own individual task at hand; try to utilize the information below for a clear route to selecting the correct tool for your project.

Angle Grinders are most suitable for:

  • If portability is important for you, then an angle grinder wins hands down.
  • The industrial (or home-based) grinding, sanding, polishing, and cutting of materials where manual-control, accuracy, and flexibility are the requirements.
  • Working indoors and outdoors at a location with/without access to electricity.
  • For those who need to complete a wide variety of tasks at a variable price.

Bench Grinders are most suitable for:

  • Fast/efficient grinding, sanding, and sharpening of materials in a fixed location with industrial and residential environments alike.
  • Working upon projects requires production-line efficiency and repetition.
  • Tasks require the operator to have hands free (the angle grinder can be seen as more limited within this area of work).

In conclusion, the bench grinder and angle grinder are both highly practical tools to be used throughout a variety of tasks. Ideally one would have access to both tools for complete flexibility. However, if on a budget one should select the tooling most suitable for their workload.