Published on Workshopshed.com
Angle grinders are a versatile tool used by almost every tradesman, and the handyman is no exception. While they can do serious work on some of the toughest known materials to man and always require healthy respect, they aren’t as dangerous as some would expect when used correctly. They can also complete labour-intensive tasks in record speed with the right attachment.
The welder’s best friend is the angle grinder, and most construction workers have one readily available for daily tasks. Many handymen have them to use regularly, but the full extent of their capability is not always known and therefore not always the first choice of tool to use if there is no metal in the project.
Brief Rundown of How They Work
Angle grinders typically come battery-powered or with an electrical cord, but you can find pneumatic (air operated) versions too. There is a threaded spindle which is positioned at a ninety-degree angle of the tool’s body with a unique nut that locks various attachments to the spindle.
When the angle grinder is turned on, the attachment locked to the spindle is spun up to 12,000 RPM with a fair amount of torque. This makes their ability to cut, grind, and polish very impressive. They range in different sizes which are determined by the largest disc that can fit into the tool from four inches to nine inches with mainly inch increments in between.
For advice for selecting the best angle grinder for your job, visit Healthy Handy Man.
Discs are thin round attachments which can either cut or grind, and are worn away to a small unusable disc. Their range is from 1/32-inch to 1/2-inch-thick, and when they thicker, they are called wheels.
TIP: Don’t use thin disks for grinding as they could shatter.
However, diamond-tipped disks are used for masonry and keep their size, but they do eventually become blunt as the dimonds are disloged by the cutting operation.
These pads are mainly used for grinding or finishing work and are generally attached to a separate backing plate that fits on the spindle. They don’t last very long but do an excellent job smoothing out metal surfaces without damaging it.
Wheels are attached directly to the spindle and are much thicker than most other of attachments. They can be solid abrasive wheels but are generally soft wheels for polishing and smoothing out projects.
Flapper wheels have hundreds of thin emery tap pads which are joined at the center of the wheel and spread outwards for a soft polishing touch that smooths out surfaces without much pressure unlike a sold wheel gives or a soft finishing pad with a hard backing plate. Flapper wheels are slower at completing projects than finishing pads, but they can cover a larger area giving a more uniform finish.
Polishing wheels are a similar principle to flapper wheels, but have either cotton, scotch tape, nylon, or felt as the polishing substance.
Cutters are solid attachments which are usually longer than they are round in diameter. Cutters are used to cut out holes and are also know as a core drill. They can be hollow or have sharp notches or flutes to cut with.
1. Grinding Surfaces
As the name might suggest, the primary purpose for angle grinders is for grinding surfaces. This can be any kind of surface as the grinding discs used, come in a range of abrasive materials like aluminum, carbide, diamond, and others.
When one of these discs are attached, regardless of the material you’re grinding, you turn the tool on and press front face of the spinning abrasive attachment onto the surface. Whether your projects needs flattening, smoothed off, or completely removed you press the disc onto it with pressure in a circling or oscillating motion.
The materials most commonly ground are types of metal like steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Concrete is another common material which diamond inserted discs chew through quickly. It’s recommended to wear a mask with any concrete work and use a stream of water on it, so you don’t breathe in a cloud of dust.
Wood and plastics can be ground, but they need a metal disc with sharp metal blades or diamond tips rather than the abrasive wheels steel requires.
Grinding discs come in a range of styles from heavy-duty ones designed to grind away large amounts of material in a short space of time; this is called the roughing out process. Roughing out discs removes the majority of the material, but they leave an undesirable finish. There is also another range of grinding discs called finishing or soft-touch discs. They are not as efficient in grinding due to their finer abrasive grain, but they leave a smooth appealing surface. This is called the finishing process. Middle of the range discs are also available which are a compromise of these two.
2. Cutting material
Another everyday use of angle grinders is to cut material. You can cut almost anything with an angle grinder, but what’s most commonly cut is metal, masonry, ceramics, plastic, and wood.
The discs used for severing are called cut-off discs. They come in different thicknesses but are much thinner than a grinding disc. The process is straightforward: you turn the grinder on and press the spinning abrasive disc into the material you’re cutting from its end first, not the front face like a grinding disc.
As it spins with force pressed against the material, it slices a thin gouge out of the metal and will continue as you put pressure on it until your gouge is complete and the material is severed. Depending on how much weight you put onto the disc will determine how fast you cut, but if you put too much pressure on, the disc can bend and break due to its thin structure.
You can purchase thick cut-off discs which don’t break so easily, but these require more force to severe material as you remove more material in the process. The discs are often used in large grinders where a thin disc would not last as the size of its diameter would make it too flimsy.
3. Smoothing & polishing
While grinding and cutting discs remove material, smoothing and polishing wheels are designed for removing the unwanted look and feel of the surface. They make a rough finish smooth, or a dull or stained material bright and clear with a uniform color and feel.
Smoothing a project is achieved by fine emery and sandpaper pads or flapper wheels. These are designed to take a fine layer off the material’s surface while leaving a clean finish. They’re also useful for rounding edges and blending angles to make them curved rather than sharp.
Polishing is a similar principle, but instead of using fine abrasive emery and sand particles, the pads or wheels are a softer material like cotton and often us a paste with fine particles that clear the surface up.
Both smoothing and polishing requires more patience than cutting and grinding to achieve the desired result, but they leave an immaculate finish and speed up the painfully slow process of hand finishing jobs.
4. Cleaning Surfaces
Angle grinders are excellent for cleaning up painted or rusty surfaces. However, while any angle grinder’s discs can clean up these surfaces, it’s important to use a cleaning wheel as other discs and wheels can damage or change the surface.
Plastic stripping discs are made from a soft nylon webbed material with fine silicon carbide throughout it which effectively remove paint and lacquer or any coating which isn’t fused to the metal.
Metal cleaning wheels come in various shapes and are made with metal wires that are twirled around each other. These take off both rust and paint effectively it doesn’t leave as clean of a finish as the striping discs do, but it cleans much faster, and they last a longer time. However, they are dangerous and should always be used with glasses as individual wires frequently shoot off the wheel and can cause major damage if they hit your eye.
Did you know you can drill with an angle grinder? Many people don’t ad drilling is not as common as other uses, but it can be handy for specific tasks. You can purchase drill bit chucks which attach onto the grinder’s spindle, once they’re wound on, various sized drill bits can be fastened into the chuck like an ordinary drill chuck.
The most common form of angle grinder drilling is achieved by diamond-tipped hole saw attachments. These are usually attached to the grinder spindle directly and are used to cut through ceramics like tiles or bathroom- and kitchen-ware. They are often easier to use than carbide drill bits and are an effective form of putting holes through ceramics, which is usually a difficult task.
6. Sharpening Tools
Lastly, angle grinders can be used to sharpen other tools. They aren’t always the best way, but they can do a good job nonetheless and are frequently used to do the roughing out stage of certain sharpening processes.
The final sharpening touch is often done by hand or with a specific sharpening tool, but angle grinders are capable of roughing out and finishing the job. Tools that are sharped include anything with an edge both single and double sided for home or industrial purposes. For example, sharpening an axe blade.
Angle grinders are designed with such diversity that they’re used in every trade and produce a portable option to easily cut, grind, and finish products in an efficient way no other tool can match.
While some tools cut better, and others have more accuracy for precision work; the angle grinder goes where few other tools can by producing a quality result in almost every material with the most diverse capabilities.
They are a powerful tool that can chew through massive slabs of metal quickly while having the ability to delicately clean or smooth an expensive product requiring the utmost care. We hope this has inspired you to consider using one for your next project.