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Understanding Grinders and Grinder Accessories


New to the trade and curious about grinders, or grinder accessories, but don’t want to expose yourself as a dum-dum by asking someone more informed? Starting a DIY project, but not sure if a grinder is the right tool for you? Do you just happen to be fascinated by spinny, grindy things? Well, look no further than this installment of the “Training the Apprentice” Series over here at ShopToolReviews.com!

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As the resident greenhorn on staff, I haven’t been able to fool anyone around here about the limits of my grinder knowledge. So, I’ve been tasked with researching and learning the answers to some basic questions about grinders and their uses. And, as long as I’ve already outed myself as an ignoramus on the subject, there’s no reason for you to have to do the same; just continue reading, and benefit from the fruits of my labor!

In the first part of this series on grinder accessories, I’m going to be looking to present a brief overview of grinders. We’ll look at a few accessory options and various grinder applications. While the information probably won’t be exhaustive, it might help inform other novices like me.

Grinder Accessories Consider the Noble And Majestic Grinder

Before jumping into the various accessory options and their respective applications, it might be helpful to look at what a grinder actually is, and what it does.

Basically, a grinder is any tool that works by spinning a rotating head holding an abrasive attachment. Generally, this spinning happens quickly and with a low amount of torque. Measured in revolutions per minute, there are grinders that can reach speeds of up to 30,000 RPM. Grinders come in a few varieties, but the two we’re concerned with today are of the handheld variety: the die grinder and the angle grinder.

The die grinder is a high-speed, handheld rotary tool that holds a small diameter grinding bit. One example is the recent video review of the Milwaukee Cordless Die Grinder M18 FUEL.  It can look and work similarly to a drill, though the two tools will be torqued and powered much differently (the die grinder will have a much higher RPM, but a much lower amount of torque). Die grinders can be used in a variety of applications, such as grinding, honing, sanding, polishing, de-burring, or machining. Typically used in metalworking, these grinders can be applied to plastic and wood as well.

An angle grinder, also known as a side grinder, works like the die grinder, but the rotating head is held at a right angle to the motor. Typically, the angle grinder and the die grinder will be used to accomplish different tasks, though they could probably be interchanged for most applications. Angle grinders generally use larger grinder accessories and can tackle grinding, cutting, cleaning, polishing, and sharpening applications.Grinder Accessories

Grinder AccessoriesA Wealth of Grinder Accessories

Of course, the application for which you can use your grinder depends on available accessories. At this point, there is a variety of options. From cutting wheels to polishing wheels, grinding discs to flap discs, wire wheels and cup brushes, the function of the grinder depends on the disc or wheel it’s attached to.

For instance, a wire wheel works well for metal cleaning applications. A wire cup brush will strip rust and flaking paint from wide flat areas really well, while a wire wheel fits more easily into crevices and corners.

Grinders can cut through metal bolts, sheet metal, stainless steel, or even rebar. Metal cut-off wheels are relatively inexpensive. These cut-off wheels can come in a variety of materials, from aluminum oxide to diamond plating to ceramic abrasives. We put some of these new diamond wheels to the test in the Lenox MetalMax Cutoff Wheel video review.

Grinder AccessoriesDiamond plated wheels are also effective for scoring or cutting through stone and ceramic tile. You can get into some deburring applications with a die grinder and a silicon carbide or aluminum oxide deburring wheel. A general grinding disc can help with restoring cutting edges like mower blades.

Cup grinding discs help shape and smooth out concrete and stonework. Grinders can work well in tuckpointing applications as well. Diamond tuckpointing wheels can remove old mortar without damaging bricks.

These are just a few examples of what can be accomplished with a grinder. Die grinders and angle grinders are capable of more, but the applications remain dependant on what kind of attachments you can get your hands on. You can browse your local hardware store to get an idea of what other attachments are available.

Safety First

Of course, as with any power tool, you should practice proper safety precautions when operating a grinder. It takes one quick Google image search of “grinding wheel accident” (just take my word for it; the image results are haunting) to see the merit in wearing a protective face shield and gloves.

Sparks and flammable things don’t mix, so if you plan on working with metal, wisdom dictates that you operate your grinder far away from your gas-soaked rags.

Clamping down your work before sticking your grinder to it is generally a good idea, as you’d probably prefer not to inadvertently send your work spinning off into the air, wild and free.

And, of course, these things make better tools than toys. So, be mindful of how accessible you make your grinder to any children.

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What’s To Come

This seems like a good place to leave off for now. We’ve covered some of the basic functions of the handheld grinder, as well as some of the available grinder accessories. We’ve even touched on some safety precautions. In the next installment of the “Getting To Know Your Grinder” Series, we’ll focus in more detail on some specific applications and accessories. So, look for that in the coming weeks. Hopefully, by the end of the series, you’ll have a decent theoretical knowledge of how to use your grinder for a variety of tasks. And, with any luck, you’ll be able to avoid looking like the biggest dum-dum on the job site.

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Terry Tuerk
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A good basic start to the applications, and happy to see the safety message at the end of the article. BUT!!! The image of the grinder cutting has a few safety no-no’s. First the user is not using the side handle, which allows for full control of the tool in case the cutting wheel binds. It is never acceptable to work without the side handle. Secondly, if the wheel on the grinder is a type 1/41 wheel (straight, no depressed center) then according to international regulation, the wheel should have been covered on both sides by 180 degrees using a… Read more »