The professional and the do-it-yourselfer alike can find several uses for an angle grinder. This is a simple yet effective power tool that is versatile. Though several manufacturers may have slight variations from others, all of them basically offer the same product.
There are some importsnt safety precautions that should be taken before beginning any of these jobs. Simple proactive steps like these can prevent serious personal injuries to yourself or others.
Know How to Use Your Tool
First of all, just like any other power tool, make sure you understand how to use it properly prior to operation. The user’s manual supplied with the tool should provide you with adequate instructions. In the event you are not able to find such documentation, search online for it or consult your local hardware or home improvement store for this knowledge. Make sure you also have the right tool or tools to change out cutting or grinding wheels.
Selecting, Inspecting, and Changing Wheels There is a wide variety of different cutting and grinding wheels available for angle grinders. Depending upon the type of material you are trying to cut, you should find a variety of different choices to suit your needs. There are also different thicknesses of wheels. Though thinner wheels result in more material left behind after the cut, keep in mind that thinner wheels are more susceptible to breaking if torqued laterally while in use. Inspect the wheel you intend to use for defects prior to use. If it looks worn or it shows any signs of cracks or missing material, replace it. A wheel that breaks while spinning can send fragments in many directions that can result in serious injuries. Whenever performing maintenance on your angle grinder, such as for changing out a cutting or grinding wheel, make sure that it is unplugged.
If it is a cordless model make certain that the battery pack has been removed. Also, be sure that Changing out a wheel is actually quite simple. There are a few steps involved, but once you’ve done this a few times, it’s second nature. To change out the disc on your angle grinder:
- With the power still disconnected, remove the blade guard. Depending upon the model, you will either need to push a release latch or use a screwdriver.
- Prevent the disc from turning by pressing in the lock button. You might need to rotate the disc manually to get it into that lock position.
- Take the wrench that was provided with your angle grinder to turn the arbor nut counterclockwise. Should the supplied wrench have prongs, you will need to insert those into the corresponding holes of the arbor nut to turn it. If the supplied wrench has gone missing, you can use locking pliers. Once you have this loosened most of the way with a tool, you can finish by removing the arbor nut by hand.
- With the arbor nut removed, lift away the disc and place the new one in position.
- Replace the arbor nut and tighten back in place. You only need it tight enough such that you cannot loosen the nut by hand.
- Secure the blade guard back in place, and verify that it is securely fastened.
- Once the tool is reassembled, you can connect power and start working on the tasks at hand.
Wear Your PPE Personal protective equipment (PPE) should also be worn when using an angle grinder. Such items include:
- Eye protection: Safety glasses, face shield, or goggles with indirect vent (The last one is especially for any material that kicks up a lot of dust.)
- Work gloves made of leather or Kevlar
- Apron if working with materials that can spark and catch clothing on fire
- Particulate respirator, either disposable or reusable half mask
- Hearing protection, especially if working in an enclose work area (Consider wearing ear muffs instead of ear plugs.)
Some Common Materials to Cut with an Angle Grinder
Now that the safety briefing is out of the way, here are steps to take when using your angle grinder on these common materials.
How to Cut Cast Iron Pipe with an Angle Grinder
The ideal case would be to clamp the workpiece to a miter saw equipped with a cutting wheel. In the absence of such, an angle grinder can be used to cut a cast iron pipe. To achieve good results, be sure to follow these steps:
- There are two possible scenarios:
- The pipe is fixed into place: Verify that the workpiece is secure.
- The pipe is fixed into place: Use at least two clamps that will fit the pipe to secure it to a flat surface. Though the clamping surface might not be perfectly flat, the objective is to keep the workpiece from moving while it is being cut.
- Verify that the workpiece is secure by trying to move it with your hands.
- Make sure the angle grinder is equipped with a cutoff wheel.
- Measure and mark the place to cut with a marking utensil that will leave a visible line, such as bright chalk, a marker, or a colored pencil.
- Position the cutting wheel edge on the waste side of the material to be cut. Lift up slightly from the point of contact. Roughly an inch or two will suffice.
- Power on the angle grinder and ease the edge onto the metal surface. Be sure to push hard enough to cut without experiencing any kickback from the tool. Remember that thinner cutting wheels have a greater tendency to break if moved laterally during the cut. So, be sure to also cut in as direct of a motion as possible.
- Once the cut has been made, pull the angle grinder away from the material that was cut and power off the tool.
How to Cut Asphalt with an Angle Grinder
Since the asphalt to be cut is more likely than not in place, the steps for cutting follow:
- Make sure that you angle grinder has a diamond blade on it.
- Measure and mark the material to be cut. Brightly colored chalk is best for this because it provides the best contrast between the dark asphalt and the chalk line.
- Power on the angle grinder and slowly introduce the diamond blade to the asphalt. Work from one end of the cut to the other.
- Once the cut is complete, remove the spinning blade from the asphalt and power off the tool.
How to Cut Bricks with an Angle Grinder
When cutting bricks, you will create a lot of dust. Seriously, make sure you wear eye protection. The googles with indirect vents are a really good idea. You are also advised to wear respiratory protection, such as one with P95 filters or better to keep from inhaling particles.
- Make sure that the angle grinder has a stone blade installed.
- Measure and mark the edge of material to be cut. A pencil would work, though brightly colored chalk would work even better. You want to see the line while you’re cutting the. material, and you should be able to wash it away after you’re done cutting the brick.
- Secure the brick in place. You can either clamp it to a flat surface or hold it down with a substantial leather work boot worn by either you or an assistant. Just be cautious if you’re using the latter method.
- Power on the angle grinder, and slowly introduce the cutting disc to the brick. Work from one end to the other.
- Once the cut is complete, lift the angle grinder away from the material while the blade is still turning and power off the tool.
How to Cut Tile with an Angle Grinder
The same precautions for PPE apply here as they do for the bricks. You do not want this dust in your eyes or in your lungs.
- Make sure that you have a stone blade on your angle grinder.
- Measure and mark the edge of where the cut is to be made. A grease pencil serves this purpose well.
- Use masking tape as well along the cutting line if you want to avoid chipping the tile.
- Secure the tile in place so that it cannot move at all.
- Power on the angle grinder, and gently introduce the spinning stone blade into one end of the line marked in the tile and work towards the other end. Remember to be gentle with the cutting process to avoid chipping the tile or even possibly cracking it.
- Once the cut is complete, remove the spinning blade away from the workpiece and turn off the tool.
- Remove any masking tape or other markings made with a rag and cleaning solution before setting the tile into grout.
How to Cut Metal with an Angle Grinder
In addition to wearing the proper PPE to avoid exposure to metal shards, the sparks from certain metals present new hazards. Though brass and aluminum themselves are non-sparking metals, the metal grindings can be very hot and should not come in contact with bare skin. So, make sure that you wear clothing made of flame-retardant materials or natural fibers like 100 percent cotton. Clothing made from synthetic fibers or blends of synthetic fibers can leave residue on skin that is painful to remove in the event your clothing catches fire.
In additional to personal protection, the work area should be free of any materials or substances that could be ignited by sparks. You should also keep a fire extinguisher handy in case there is a need to quickly put out any fires that result from grinding.
- Make sure that the angle grinder is equipped with a cutoff wheel.
- Make sure the workpiece is secured. If you need to clamp it in place, do so at this time and verify that it cannot move.
- If there is a need to measure out any of the metal to be cut, do so at this time. Brightly colored chalk is preferred because it is easy to see.
- Power on the angle grinder and slowly introduce it into the workpiece. Work from one end of the cut to the other. You may need to back out of the material occasionally to prevent breaking the cutoff wheel.
- Once the cut is complete, remove the spinning wheel from the material and power off the tool.
How to Cut Concrete Pavers with an Angle Grinder
This material requires PPE for the eyes and lungs. Plus, there are two possible scenarios when cutting concrete pavers. Either they’re already in place and need to be cut, or they have not been placed just yet.
- Place the concrete paver to be cut on the ground or a sturdy surface with the paver secured for the cutting process.
- Measure and mark the material to be cut. Chalk is recommended because it can be washed away after cutting the paver whereas a permanent marker might leave behind a marking that cannot be easily removed.
- Touch the edge of the cutting or grinding wheel perpendicular to the surface of the concrete paver. Lift up from the surface about an inch or two.
- Power on the angle grinder.
- Ease the rotating wheel into the concrete paver. Use caution when cutting to ensure the wheel does not kick back towards you. If you feel this is about to happen, push a little harder on the angle grinder. Be mindful not to twist the wheel from side to side to prevent breaking it.
- Once the cut has been completed, gently pull the angle grinder away from the concrete paver and power off the tool. Repeat these steps for any other concrete pavers you need to cut for your project.
There are many other materials you can cut with an angle grinder, and you will find that the processes for those are very similar to these common materials. On a final note of caution, inspect the condition of the cutting or grinding wheel frequently. Should it appear to be damaged or beyond its useful life, discontinue its use and replace it immediately.