Contrary to what many people - including tradesmen – believe, an angle grinder is not only appropriate for grinding. This electric power tool is the real epitome of versatility, as it can handle multiple tasks on the go.
With the right detachable grinding wheel or disc, an angle grinder can tackle jobs like grinding, cutting, sanding, and cleaning. The tool uses a powerful motor to spin the disc at an exceptional speed, making it possible to grind metals, cut tiles, polish surfaces, remove excess materials from surfaces, and even sharpen different kinds of materials.
However, in as much as an angle grinder is a versatile tool for multiple applications, it has a steeper learning curve than many other power tools out there. Gladly, this is where this guide is headed.
Today we’re going to learn everything there is to know about an angle grinder (also known as a side grinder). We’ll start by learning how to use an angle grinder correctly and safely for DIY and commercial tasks.
Let’s dive right in…
How to Use an Angle Grinder
Follow this step-by-step guide to use your angle grinder acceptably and securely.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment or Gear (PPE)
Angle grinders can be dangerous if not handled with caution. Remember, these power tools spin their grinder discs at extreme speeds that can reach 13,000 RPMs.
These speeds are high enough to sever your finger, arm, or leg. Another danger that comes with using an angle grinder is flying debris and pieces flaking off the tool’s attachments.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times to protect your hands, feet, eyes, lungs and hearing from harm. Safety goggles can certainly protect your eyes, but we recommend using a full-face visor or shield for better protection.
Use ear plugs or noise-canceling earmuffs for your hearing protection as the machine can be incredibly loud during operation. For breathing protection, wear a dust mask to protect you from dust particles and fumes, especially when handling dirty jobs like sanding or grinding mortar.
You also need to wear gloves for your hand protection. As the disc spins, it throws out metal sparks and small disc fragments that may cause minor cuts, scuffs, or abrasions. Gloves also offer protection against hot sharp edges of the cut metal.
When it comes to footwear, we recommend wearing boots or steel toe cap shoes with excellent grips. Also, make sure to use steel insoles to safeguard your feet in the event of walking on sharp objects like nails in the work area.
Finally, be sure to be clad in overalls or leather aprons to protect you from sparks. Of course, you can decide to use old clothes made of inflammable materials. Keep an eye on any sparks falling into your pockets, too.
Choose Proper Accessories Matching Your Job
Your accessories should match your grinder’s RPM, so check the manufacturer’s specs before attaching your disc, wheel, or cup. Actually, the max RPM on your accessory should be equal to or higher than your grinder’s RPM.
You need to select and apply your attachment based on the job at hand. Below are the right attachments for different jobs:
Cleaning or Removing Paint Jobs
If you’re going to clean or remove paint jobs from a surface, pick the right wire brush attachment. To apply the wire brush to the edge of the item you’re working on, position your angle grinder such that the brush spins away from the object you wish to grind.
Slicing through Metal, Concrete, or Tile
A cutting wheel is the right attachment for slicing through metal, concrete, or tile. It’s not so different from how a saw works.
Press your cutting wheel gently on the material you need to slice through, and let the machine do its thing. Make sure to choose the right blade for your project because not all blades are equal.
A cutoff wheel is the ideal blade for slicing through metals. On the other hand, a diamond wheel is the best fit for slicing through masonry, concrete, and tile.
A diamond tuckpointing wheel is great for removing loose mortar from your brickwork. Choose a tuckpointing wheel whose width is almost the same as your mortar to speed up the work.
Pro Tip: Do not get closer to the brick than 1/8 inch (3.2mm) when using the tool.
Refining Edges on Metal Tools
Metal tools (such as lawn mower blades, hatchets, hoes, ice scrapers, etc) get blunt from time to time. You can refine the edges of these tools using a grinding wheel.
You shouldn’t allow the blade to get too hot as you work on your project because it’ll become very brittle. Make sure to turn off your grinder and give it a rest for a moment if turns blackish or bluish while in use.
Secure Your Work On a Stable Workbench
You need to secure the guard and clamp your workpiece firmly on a steady work surface. Support your tool with both hands.
You can use one hand to hold the weight of the tool and the other to hold onto a dead-man switch (if your tool has it). A dead-man switch is one that needs to be held constantly in place while the tool is running.
Try not to hold your device on the edge of your work. Instead, hold it with a firm grip across the body of your workpiece or object and in the handle’s direction. This is to prevent the tool from slipping, which might cause an injury.
Allow Your Grinder to Come to Full Speed Before You Apply it to the Surface
An angle grinder must always come to full speed before it is applied to the surface. Press the power button to switch on the machine.
Whether you need to cut, grind, or sand using this power tool, let it come to speed. A full-speed disc helps you achieve smooth and consistent actions all the time.
Think of it this way, if you let the cutting disc gain momentum and full speed, you’ll get a better cut no matter the material you’re cutting.
Never Keep the Angle Grinder in One Place When Sanding or Cleaning
When using your angle grinder to sand or clean up the surface, keep moving the machine around frequently to achieve the best results.
If you keep the device in one place when sanding, you may end up with gouges. Moving the tool in a rotational motion over the surface is a sure way to get a smoother finish.
And, in situations involving cleaning or smoothing one specific area, never hold the machine in one place, either. Rather, move the tool around and over that particular surface until you’re satisfied with what you see.
Light Pressure is Enough for Grinding or Cutting
If you’re cutting or grinding using an angle grinder, make sure to apply just a light pressure to it. The tool may yank on the workpiece if you press it down too hard, thus making it kick.
More often than not, a tool that kicks can cause a lot of injuries. To avoid the likelihood of kicking, just apply a light pressure.
As a matter of fact, you can simply hold your grinder against the object and let the rotation do the dirty work for you. You may need to apply slightly more pressure when sanding, though.
Maintain the Right Angle for the Wheel or Disc Attachment
Always use the accurate angle for your disc attachment when working with an angle grinder. On the one hand, you’re required to apply your machine at an angle of 5°-10° to your work surface when sanding.
On the other hand, you might want to try a 15°-30° when grinding using the wheel attachment. For this purpose, make sure to use the flat part of the wheel for best results.
As far as cutting using an angle grinder goes, you need to hold the disc perpendicularly to the object you’re cutting. You can easily cut the piece head-on using the side of the wheel or disc.
Turn Off Your Machine and Store
When you’re through with your work, gently lift your angle grinder and make sure it has stopped spinning completely. If your tool has the braking system, apply it to bring the wheel to a complete halt.
But if no breaking mechanism is provided, let the wheel move around on the surface until it comes to a full stop on its own. This might take a few moments but it’s worth waiting anyways.
Keep in mind that the tool might start flipping backwards towards you or even cut things you didn’t intend to cut if it doesn’t come to a complete halt.
Now, as soon as the wheel is no longer revolving, shut off the power to turn off the unit. Finally, store your angle grinder in a secure location away from where your kids or pets play.
10 Common Uses for an Angle Grinder: DIY & Commercial Applications Debunked
Now that you know how to use an angle grinder, we can proceed to explore the many uses of this versatile tool. So, what is an angle grinder used for?
An angle grinder is probably capable of handling over 100 different uses. For the sake of this guide, however, we’ll focus on 10 common uses for an angle grinder.
Below is a breakdown of the 10 main applications of an angle grinder:
What is an angle grinder used for in masonry?
Ceramic Tile Cutting
An angle grinder is versatile enough to cut ceramic tiles. It works in the same way as a wet tile saw, and leaves a crisp and even edge to the tile. To cut ceramic tiles, use a dry-cut diamond wheel as it is super thin and ensures a sharper, more accurate cut. Score about 1/8-inch deep to fit over an outlet.
An angle grinder can create nice, smooth and precise cuts in a moment’s notice. We recommend using a smaller grinder for extra mobility. Smaller grinders make bevels and other minor cuts a cakewalk. This task will need a dry-cut diamond blade.
Removing Old Mortar
An angle grinder makes the task of removing old mortar easier and quicker than using a chisel set. Used with a diamond tuckpointing wheel, the tool makes it possible to clean out mortar between bricks without chipping them. You’ll need about 2 or 3 half-inch deep passes to clear out a joint, but make sure the bricks have about 1/8-inch clearance to prevent damage.
What is an angle grinder used for in carpentry?
You can cut swathes of wood pulp quickly and effectively using abrasive carving discs. Equipped with these attachments, angle grinders are useful for rough shaping, such as making kitchen table legs. Even so, these tools are too powerful and not ideal for fine cuts or intricate woodwork.
Angle grinders are bona fide candidates for wood sanding. These tools can smooth out a wood using abrasive flap discs that come in a broad range of grit. Abrasive flap discs are basically turbo-powered sanding surfaces whose role is to remove blemishes and introduce a new finish, which is as smooth as a baby’s bum.
You can use a carving wheel to handle a lot of planing tasks, just the same way you can use a carving disc. A carving wheel is better than a Japanese wood plane regarding versatility. Both the carving wheel and disc have a toothed surface, but the teeth on the wheel are pretty much identical to a chainsaw’s edge.
What is an angle grinder used for in metalworking?
An angle grinder can cut through iron rebar in seconds when used with a metal cutting wheel attachment or a metal cutoff blade. These tools are generally compatible with all metals, but work better on harder metals than conventional tools. Cutting of metals is classified into the “Intended Use” category.
An angle grinder plays a significant role in clearing rust from cars and cleaning dirty metals that are beyond wipe-down. You can clean metals like shovels using a handy wire brush and its little chum, the wire wheel. Use these wire tools for clearing chipped paint, cement fragments, dirt, and dust from your tools. The wheel helps you get into hard-to-reach crevasses while the cup handles big, flat surfaces.
An angle grinder can substitute a bench grinder for tool sharpening. However, note that tool sharpening using an angle grinder requires proper skills for controlling the tool. Hold the grinder and blade securely, and make sure the guard plate is positioned in such a way that it deflects sparks away from you.
What is an angle grinder used for in auto body work?
Removing Paint Job
An angle grinder is commonly used in auto body shops for removing old paint. Combined with the wire cup, an angle grinder helps remove old paint from large, flat surfaces without causing damage to the metal underneath. After extracting the old paint job, auto artists then polish up the metal in readiness for a new paint job.
From this guide, it is apparent that using an angle grinder correctly and safely takes a bit of learning. Besides, you need to get accustomed to the attachments that go with your angle grinder for your specific projects.
Hopefully, this guide has eased up things for you. You should now be in a position to explain how to use an angle grinder easily without any complexities. Of course, always remember to follow general safety precautions recommended for using this power tool.