When And How To Use An Angle Grinder

A guide to using an angle grinder.

Power tools can sometimes be intimidating, especially when it comes to some of the larger and louder tools that you find from time to time in construction sites. The angle grinder can be a scary piece of equipment for those who have never seen or used one... after all, it's usually a two-handed piece of machinery that emits a shower of sparks while cutting through metal and concrete. However, when used properly the angle grinder can be useful in a variety of circumstances.

First of all, let's look at how an angle grinder works. They can come in a variety of sizes, but they all work on the same principle... a motor (either gas powered or electric) powers the equipment, causing a disc that can be made of various materials to spin at very high speeds. The disc, often covered with a rough grit like sandpaper, is then applied to metal, concrete, or a variety of other surfaces and cuts through them... though in actuality the "cutting" is really caused by the rough surface of the disc being rubbed against the material at thousands of revolutions per minute. It's the same effect that you could get with sandpaper, a really strong arm, and thousands of hours to rub in the same spot, but with the angle grinder you get it in a matter of a few minutes.

Angle grinders are used in a variety of places for different jobs. Construction workers use them to cut through steel and concrete, road workers use them to cut through asphalt... rescue workers even use them sometimes to cut through the steel frames of cars. The discs, which come in a variety of hardnesses, grits, and materials, wear down with use and can be replaced as needed. Water is sometimes used with certain discs to keep them lubricated and to keep them from producing too much heat... after all, they need to cut the material, not melt it.

When using an angle grinder, the disc is started spinning before it is applied to the material to be cut; after all, you don't want it jerking the material or damaging the disc because it hangs up while it's trying to start. The disc is then pressed firmly into the material to be cut, and the angle grinder needs to be held firmly while cutting... letting it wobble or move can damage the materials or break the disc. (Having a disc break at such high speeds could send the broken piece flying through the air like a bullet, potentially injuring anyone in the immediate vicinity.) Safety goggles, ear plugs, and gloves should be worn, as well as a respirator or breathing mask if working with concrete or any substance that could create smoke or powder. A large amount of sparks can be created when cutting metal of some other materials, so angle grinders should not be used near flammable materials.

Keep your environment and safety in mind when using an angle grinder, and it can be a very useful tool in a number of settings. Be careful, and good luck!

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