Angle grinders are versatile power tools that tradesmen and handymen alike can benefit from by adding one to their arsenal, as they can be used for grinding, smoothing, cutting, and polishing many materials.
Thanks to a rapidly rotating disc that can be removed and replaced depending on the task at hand and the material you’re working with, you can tackle wood and metal, but also stone, marble, tile, and masonry. Even removing paint and rust is possible with an angle grinder!
All you need is the right attachment, and you’re ready to perform labor-intensive tasks in a matter of minutes. Since it runs at very high speeds, it can easily cut through almost any kind of material, sometimes even outperforming many saws and replacing numerous tools.
In this piece, we’ll walk you through the most common projects you can use an angle grinder for and give you a good idea on what is an angle grinder used for!
Before we start, remember to always secure the object or surface you’re working on and wear your safety gear. For this tool, you’ll need gloves, safety goggles, and a dust mask to protect you from the sparks produced when cutting metals and from the shards from grinding other materials.
As the name suggests, an angle grinder is mainly used for grinding surfaces. You can smooth off or remove excess material from metal, concrete, wood, plastic, and more. Grinder discs for your angle grinder are thick and strong, and they’re available in a range of abrasive compounds such as aluminum, carbide, and diamond. Each of them are specifically designed to work with certain materials.
The low-cost option for grinding dense materials, like metal or stone, is using a grit disc. Grit discs are light, relatively thin, and can handle fast speeds. The downside is that they wear away quickly, so you’ll have to replace them often.
The alternative for grinding such materials as stone, concrete, and marble is a diamond disc, which is more expensive. The diamond fittings on these discs are designed to get a firmer grip on hard surfaces.
For wood and plastic, you’re simply going to need a metal disc (usually made of aluminum) with sharp metal blades.
Another common use of angle grinders is to cut metal, and for this, you’re going to need a cut-off disc. This type of disc is thinner than a grinding disc, which makes cutting easier and faster, as it needs to remove less material than a thick grinding disc would have to. You can use it to remove welding, cut rebars, shorten bolts, or simply to cut out parts of sheet metal, and other materials.
On the downside, the thin size makes the disc prone to bending and shattering. You’d need to be careful both with the pressure you put on the angle grinder and the speed at which you use it.
You might be thinking that it’d be a better idea to go for a thick cut-off disc then. While you’d be right in that a thicker disc won’t break easily, the truth is that you’ll need to apply more force to cut through the material, which is why they’re typically used in large grinders.
If you’re a beginner, please note that you should only use the edge of the disc to cut and not the face, as doing so will weaken it.
Removing rust and paint
An angle grinder can be a great ally in removing rust and old paint that’s chipping and peeling without damaging the material underneath.
To take off the rust and caked-on cement, your angle grinder should be equipped with a metal cleaning wheel, which is made of metal wires twisted around each other. Metal cleaning wheels are fast and durable, but they leave a rough finish that you’ll need to smooth and polish later. Bear in mind that they can be dangerous to work with because they tend to shoot small pieces of broken wire, so remember to wear your safety gear.
For paint removal, you can use a metal cleaning wheel, but a plastic stripping disc will leave a much cleaner finish. Plastic stripping discs are made from soft nylon and can be used to remove any coating that’s not fused to the surface.
Smoothing and polishing
Whether you need to smooth the rough finish and remove the unwanted look of the surface, enhance the color, or polish a dull or stained material, here’s where smoothing and polishing wheels come into play. Keep in mind that this project requires patience, as it will take longer than grinding and cutting.
You need an abrasive attachment for smoothing that can remove only a fine layer from the material to leave a clean finish behind. There are two options: smoothing wheels or flapper wheels.
Smoothing wheels are made of sandpaper pads, whereas flapper wheels have multiple overlapping abrasive pieces called “flaps”, which are adhered to a central hub. Sandpaper pads work better with softer materials such as wood, and flapper wheels intended to be used with harder materials like metal. Flapper wheels are also really good at blending curves, rounding edges, and deburring.
As you’ve probably guessed already, if you need to polish, you need a polishing wheel. This type of wheel is made of softer materials like cotton, and it can help clear up surfaces easily.
Thanks to smoothing and polishing wheels, you can forget about tedious manual labor. You just need to remember to set your angle grinder on a slower speed than you normally use for grinding and cutting, as you risk removing too much material.
An interesting use for angle grinders is to sharpen other tools. If you have a dull axe lying around or if your lawnmower blade has lost its edge, you can attach an abrasive grinding disc to bring them back to life.
Even though you might need to give the finishing touches by hand or with a sharpening tool, an angle grinder can do a good and quick job in the roughing-out stage.
After securing the blade you’re sharpening firmly in a vise, there are two things you need to keep an eye on.
It’s important to match the disc to the angle of the blade to avoid altering the cutting angle and damaging the blade.
Using an angle grinder for sharpening purposes can lead to overheating the blade. High temperatures make the blade edges more vulnerable to chipping and denting. If the metal becomes hot to the touch, you have to stop immediately and either let it cool or dunk it in water before starting again.
To prevent overheating, you should start sharpening at a low speed and move the grinder along the surface throughout the process.
You can forget about using a chisel and a hammer to remove old mortar. Not only can you do it faster with an angle grinder, but you can also avoid damaging the bricks.
Equipped with a masonry cutting wheel or simply with a thick abrasive grinding disc, you can easily fit your grinder in the mortar joints. With patience, control, and careful movements, you can remove the old mortar completely without even touching the brick.
What’s the difference between discs, wheels and pads?
If you’ve never used an angle grinder before, you might be confused about the difference between the attachments you can equip with. So, here’s a quick rundown of what is discs, wheels, and pads are.
- Discs. They’re thin and round attachments that can be used to grind or cut materials. They typically are between 1/32-inch and 1/2-inch thick. Keep in mind that the thinner the disc, the more likely it’s to shatter if you use it for grinding.
- Wheels. When a disc is thicker than 1/2-inch, it’s called a wheel. Wheels can be solid abrasive, but the most common ones are the soft wheels for cleaning, polishing and smoothing out imperfections.
- Pads. They’re usually made of sandpaper and mainly used for grinding or finishing work without damaging the surface you’re working on. They wear out fast, so they require frequent replacement.
I hope we’ve helped you clear out any doubts you might’ve had about the different attachments. If you’re considering getting a new one for your angle grinder, remember to choose the right diameter, so it fits your tool properly.
Thank you for reading our guide on what is an angle grinder used for! Angle grinders are the very definition of versatility, as they can be used in every trade for a wide variety of purposes. From chewing through slabs of concrete to delicately smoothing a rough surface, and everything in between. Armed with an angle grinder, there’s no material that can stand in your way!
Be sure to also check out our post on the best angle grinders to help you choose the perfect angle grinder for you!