Why Do I Need An Angle-Grinder?

I may not break out my 4 1/2 inch angle-grinder every day, but it sure comes in handy when I need it! This metal grinding powerhouse-of-a-tool has many uses. Did you know it’s a great handyman tool for making difficult, intricate cuts in tile?

I`m working as a handyman in Maidstone. I noticed a tile setter using it on a job once and found out that it’s his most used tool. He said he used it more than his wet tile saw. I’ve used it for cutting steel, aluminum, morter, stucco, cement and tile. I’ve cleaned rust and paint with a wire brush wheel and, of course, ground and polish metals.

The one shown on this page is a 4 1/2 inch Dewalt angle grinder. Larger grinders are available, but I find that this one works well for 75% of my jobs. The job they do depends on the type of blade or wheel you put on it.

If you want to grind steel, you can purchase a grinding wheel. If you want to cut concrete, call me crazy, but purchase and put on a concrete cutting wheel. Cutting ceramic or stone tile requires a diamond blade.

You can get these tools at any large home center and all the blades and wheels that you need for the different applications. A light-duty one is great for the home DIY’er and can be purchased for about $39 from Sears.

If your needs are more frequent or demanding like cutting stucco or cement, you can get a heavy-duty 4 1/2 inch all the way to a 7-inch angle-grinder. They range in price from $39 to about $169 or more for a professional model like a Bosch 7inch.

Angle grinders are so versatile because of the different wheels and accessories you can mount on them. I’ll only be scratching the surface on what you can do with them here. Below is a list of uses and the wheels you’ll need to accomplish the task.

Grinding Metal 

Slap on a metal grinding disc. Maybe it’s time to sharpen a lawn mower blade. Sure, you could just go out and buy a new blade, but it’s going to cost you. Especially if you’re driving around the yard on a 42-inch lawn tractor with two cutting blades.

Outfit your angle-grinder with a grinding wheel and you can restore the edges of any lawn mower blade. First, secure the blade into a metal vise or use a couple of wood clamps to secure it to your workbench.

Angle Grinder
Angle Grinder

Next (grinder off), adjust the grinder’s angle to match the bevel of the blade by resting the grinding wheel against the blade. Maintain this position as you grind the edge, so you maintain the same bevel angle as the blade manufacturer.

Now you’re ready to sharpen that blade. Position the grinder, so the wheel spins from the blade’s body toward the edge (Most angle-grinders have an indicator as to which direction it turns). Switch it on and let it gain full speed before you begin.

Remove only a little metal at a time and once you’ve sharpened both sides, put the blade on a lawn mower blade balancing tool. A blade balancing tool is a simple tool you can get at any home center. Simply rest the blade on it and if it’s heavy on that end, you are going to have to keep sharpening (removing only a little metal at a time) until the blade is balanced. If you don’t balance the blade after sharpening, you could seriously damage your lawn mower.

Handyman Tip: Be careful not to overheat a metal blade with a grinder. Overheating the metal turns it to a bluish-black color and won’t stay sharp for too long. Keep it from overheating by applying light pressure and don’t leave the grinder in one place for too long; keep it moving. Another smart idea is to keep a bucket of water and sponge handy to drench the metal frequently, which will keep it cool.

When it comes to restoring edges on hoes, shovels and ice scrapers or for the initial grinding of axes, hatchets. If you’re looking for a sharper edge, then follow up with a mill bastard file for a sharper edge. Use the same method described above to sharpen your other edged tools.

 Do you have some metal cleaning to do? A wire wheel works great for cleaning rust or paint and can fit into tight spots or crevices, leaving the metal looking shiny and new. Wire wheel or brush attachments can cost a little more (Sometimes $10-$20), but they’re great for deburring, roughening, or rust/paint removal.

A regular cup brush provides a flexible abrasive for uneven surfaces. The brass coating, like the one shown, helps the brush run cooler and resists the bristles’ corrosion. The knotted steel wire brush will plow through your heavy-duty, industrial applications like the toughest weld splatter, scale or surface corrosion. This one has heavy .020 gage steel wires that are twisted into a tight knot to maximize the abrasive action.

When choosing the right attachment for your application, make sure you match the threads to the spindle threads on your angle-grinder. Most of the 4 /12-inch models will have a 5/8th inch threads, but check to make sure.

 When you have to Cut Steel or aluminum bars, rods or bolts, and you don’t want to spend all day with a hack-saw, you can’t beat an angle-grinder. I’ve used it to cut the re-bar inside concrete pours, angled aluminum, tube steel and rusted bolts. A cut-off wheel is pretty cheap, about $2-$5 depending upon the quality. The higher the price usually means it will last a little longer.

When it comes to cutting stone, concrete, mortar, or making intricate cuts in tile, nothing beats an angle-grinder. If you have to cut a circle in tile, all you have to do is score a line using a diamond blade, then make a series of straight cuts towards the score-line and break the tile off.

If you’ve got a lot of tuck-pointing to do, it’s worth buying one just to remove the old mortar. The diamond blades used to remove old mortar from in between brick or block is called a Tuck Point wheels. They look like regular diamond wheels except that they are segmented and thicker, a least a 1/4 inch thick. These wheels aren’t cheap either ($25 – $125). You’re going to be producing heavy dust, so wear a good dust mask and a face shield. Oh yes, you might want to close your windows too.

  Safety First

Angle-Grinders Are Powerful! Much more so than say a variable speed drill that runs anywhere from 0 – 1,400 RPM. A 10 Amp angle-grinder will run at a speed of 11,000 RPM, making it a pretty scary handheld device that deserves respect. When using an angle-grinder use the following safety precautions:

  • Before you begin, always wear a face shield, gloves, and long sleeves.
  • Disconnect the battery (cordless) or unplug the grinder when changing the blades.
  • Side handle helps you maintain control. Usually has left or right-handed options.
  • Only remove the guard if absolutely necessary.
  • Grind such debris it is thrown in a safe direction.
  • Ensure anyone in the area has safety gear (eye pro) or keep their distance.
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