So, exactly what is an angle grinder used for? Unlike some other power tools, its name doesn't necessarily give away much about its purpose — after all, a screwdriver is used to drive screws, the name says it all.
Well, the primary purpose of an angle grinder is to grind metal — basically to even and smooth out in the same way that a sander is used for wood. An angle grinder is a handheld tool that does this using abrasive discs, which it spins at a high velocity.
However, over time, angle grinders have been adapted for other uses, incorporating cutters and other attachments that make it a tool that can be used for a lot of different purposes — think of the best angle grinders as high-powered multi-tools that lend themselves to all kinds of jobs.
But, is it worth having one in your tool collection? We look at some of the potential applications of angle grinders around the home, and whether an alternative tool is a better pick for each.
What to Know Before Using an Angle Grinder
An angle grinder is a powerful power tool, and should be used with care. Whether used to grind, cut or sand and whatever material, you should be using appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) to protect you hands, ears and eyes, while covering your mouth and nose.
What is an Angle Grinder Used for?
An angle grinder is a versatile tool, and can be used for many things, depending on what disc, cutter or other attachment you're using.
Here's 7 ways you might use it in your home.
1. Removing Rust and Cleaning Metal
An angle grinder is the perfect tool for removing the likes of old paint and even rust from metal, as with the right attachment, it can remove it without damaging paint underneath. Around the house, this might be useful for a job like cleaning up pipes or even metal garden furniture.
You'll find that there are plenty of angle grinder discs around that are specifically designed to remove both rust and paint. They tend to be made from silicon carbide, a corrosion-resistant ceramic, and look like small circular scouring pads.
2. Cutting Metal
Swap out an abrasive grinding disc for a cutting disc and an angle grinder can cut metal with ease. The most common use for an angle grinder in a home build or renovation would be to cut galvanised steel pipes and sheet metals, as well as shortening metal fixings.
However, an angle grinder should be avoided when cutting copper pipes. A pipe cutter is a better suited tool for a clean cut, something that's important for soldiering together copper pipes later. If you use an angle grinder, you may have to do a lot of work in smoothing and straightening out the cut to make this possible otherwise.
Angle grinders can also be fitted with sanding discs to offer powerful sanding for wood, metal and more. When trying to decide if you use one of the best orbital sanders or an angle grinder, think about the level of sanding you'd like to achieve. orbital sanders are better for finer finishes, and might be needed after using an angle grinder to sand, while angle grinders will tend to be more for tackling tough sanding jobs.
You can buy 'flapped' sanding discs for angle grinders, which can make easy work of sanding hard surfaces, but can be quite hungry when used on wood, even with a finer grit.
4. Sharpening Tools
If you have bladed tools and knives that have blunted through use, you may be able to use an angle grinder fitted with an abrasive disc to sharpen them. From chisels and scrapers to garden tools and even lawn mower blades, this gives you an opportunity to get more use out of these tools, avoiding the cost of buying more and creating waste.
It's important, however, to ensure that you do this correctly. Not only does the abrasive disc need to align correctly with the angle of the blade, you'll need to be careful that the metal tool doesn't overheat from exposure to the spinning abrasive disc. If this happens, you may actually make the tool even blunter and less useful. Keep the disc moving on the blade and wet it with water to cool down during use.
Make sure any tools are securely fitted into a vice before attempting to sharpen them with an angle grinder.
5. Cutting Tiles
There are plenty of ways of cutting tiles, but not all of them lend themselves well to cutting small sections and finer details. Using an angle grinder, especially a small one, can offer a great way to cut details, including holes larger than you'd need from just drilling into tile. Using an angle grinder also has the benefit of being able to cut dry, meaning less mess than using a wet tile cutter.
You'll need to make sure you're using the appropriate cutting disc, however, especially when considering natural stone vs porcelain vs ceramic tiles. As a basic rule of thumb, flat diamond-tipped blades are best for ceramic tiles, notched blades are for porcelain and serrated blades work best for natural stone, but when looking to buy blades, you should find that their intended usage is stated on the packaging.
6. Removing Mortar for Repointing
Your angle grinder can also be fitted with a blade designed to remove mortar from between bricks. These are often referred to as mortar raking blades, and are segmented, appearing almost like a flower head with petals.
With the right blade fitted, removing the mortar without damaging the brick should be relatively easy, allowing for repointing brickwork with new mortar for a fresh appearance.
7. Cutting Concrete and Pavers
Concrete can also be cut with an angle grinder, using a segmented diamond tipped blade. This can be useful for everything from cutting into blocks to cutting pavers for landscaping.
You can choose whether to dry or wet cut — wet cutting in general is better for more detailed cuts, and is easier both on the blade and the person using it.
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Hugh is Deputy Editor of sister title Livingetc.com and former Digital Editor of homebuilding.co.uk. He has worked on a range of home, design and property magazines, including Grand Designs, Essential Kitchens, Bathrooms, Bedrooms and Good Homes. Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture and green homes, and moonlights as an interior designer, having designed and managed projects ranging from single rooms to whole house renovations and large extensions. He's currently renovating his own Victorian terrace in Essex, DIYing as much of the work as possible. He's recently finished his kitchen renovation, which involved knocking through walls, and landscaping a courtyard garden, and is currently working on a bathroom renovation.