Buying an angle grinder
Buying an angle grinder is not the first power tool purchase that comes to mind for most DIY enthusiasts but once you’ve owned one, and although it tends to get pretty infrequent use, you do tend to be incredibly happy to have one when the need arises. Before I let you know what I believe to be the perfect model for DIY, and arguably most pro use, below are a few more details about angle grinders, what they’re capable of, and what to look out for when buying one.
What is an angle grinder?
Angle grinders are essentially a type of circular saw, except that they’re not used for cutting wood, they’re used for cutting harder materials such as stone, and metal.
A circular cutting blade, normally referred to as a cutting disc, is mounted on the angle grinder body, and the rotation of the blade at high speed acts like any circular saw in that it cuts through material with a whole lot less effort than trying do do it with a hand tool.
Another function of an angle grinder, as referred to in its name, is that it can be used as a grinding or honing tool to abrade, clean, or sharpen a number of materials.
Angle grinder discs
Because an angle grinder is therefore essentially a multi-function tool, you use different discs or attachments according to what the task at hand is. So, if you’re cutting stone, you’ll need a disc fit for stone cutting – normally a diamond blade disc is used. For cutting metal, you need a metal cutting disc, for sharpening metal you’ll need a metal grinding disc, and so on, and so on. Some angle grinders are not suitable for use with all disc types, so make sure you check the tool specifications.
One of the most important factors regarding safety when using an angle grinder is that you must use the correct disc for the particular job at hand. Failure to do so, and there’s no way of being light-hearted about this, you simply risk serious, and possible fatal injuries. Using the wrong disc for the wrong job can lead to it shattering, and you can imagine how much damage that can cause. Another point is that when choosing discs for an angle grinder they must be suitable in all aspects of size specification and rated speed. For example, using a disc that does not have a rated speed at least as high as that rated by the grinder, and again you risk the disc shattering.
Therefore, although I am a consistent preacher of safety with all tools, with an angle grinder, you really do need to be extra vigilant in both preparing for, and carrying out a task.
Angle grinder sizes
Angle grinders come in different sizes relating to the size of disc that they use. In the UK, 115mm (4 1/2 inch) and 230mm (9 inch), are probably the most commonly available sizes. For many years I used the larger option, made by Bosch, and what a beast of a tool it was. Kicked like a mule, lasted for years, but then I got introduced to a smaller 115mm model, and I must admit I haven’t looked back. The smaller angle grinder can pretty much do everything the larger one did, plus it’s much easier to handle, use, and indeed store. Therefore, I would certainly recommend the smaller model as the only time I find I need anything larger is perhaps cutting a hole in a wall – not an everyday occurrence – and one where I’ll opt for using a much larger stone saw, hired from my local hire shop.
Angle grinder uses
The list of uses is pretty much covered by the disc selection that I referred to above. For me, I’m not a huge fan of using angle grinders for sharpening, honing and grinding, but I do find that for cutting slabs, blocks, hard tiles, or angle iron, they are just great pieces of kit to have to hand. Even for thick slabs, the 115mm grinder will get most of the way through the depth, and certainly far enough to then simply ‘break’ the slab along the cut line.
There are a number of great little angle grinders around, but my favourite is the compact Makita 115mm (4 1/2 in) angle grinder, which for around the £50 mark is just superb value for money, and most deals will also supply you with a diamond blade and a range of grinding discs. Amazon generally have the Makita 115mm angle grinder for sale, and other suppliers include Screwfix and Tooled-Up.
A final word on safety – make sure you read the instruction manual supplied with your angle grinder and adhere to every detail, from wearing the appropriate safety equipment to all aspects of operation and use. They’re great tools, but give them serious respect. Please check out my DIY safety guide for some further information in this area.