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Published Aug 30, 2023 1:00 PM
Though angle grinders are often considered high-powered tools for professionals, they’re helpful for all kinds of users doing various tasks around the home and yard. An angle grinder can cut brick, remove old grout, and shape tile. It can also grind down welds, remove rust, strip paint from metal, chop through rebar and aluminum sections, and even sharpen a lawnmower blade. Much of an angle grinder’s versatility comes from the wide choice of wheels (or disks) available, but the tool should have certain features to maximize performance. Read on to learn how to choose the best angle grinder for various needs.
How we chose the best angle grinders
As an engineer by trade and an avid DIYer, I have owned several angle grinders. My practical knowledge of their performance led me to use the following criteria in selecting the tools described here.
Size: While angle grinders come in a variety of sizes, the 4-½-inch models (115mm) are far and away the most popular with both DIY and professional users. I concentrated on these, but did add one heavy-duty model.
Power: Generally speaking, more power means faster working. Low-power tools did not make the cut.
Gearing: Low-cost angle grinders may have plastic drive gearing. They wear more quickly and have been known to strip, so these were also excluded.
Value: A handful of well-known brands dominate the angle grinder market. They make reliable, durable tools that are tough enough to withstand jobsite environments. Cheaper angle grinders can be found, but I don’t feel that they offer better overall value than those selected.
The best angle grinders: Reviews & Recommendations
If you’re the type to undertake home renovations, you need an angle grinder alongside your impact driver and other specialized power tools. These are our top picks to stock the toolbox or storage shed.
Best overall: DeWalt 4-1/2” Angle Grinder
Why it made the cut: This high-quality DeWalt tool combines excellent power with features designed to ensure reliability.
- Size: 4-½ inches
- Power: 11 amp
- Weight: 8.25 pounds
- High-performance motor with overload protection
- Safety lock prevents accidental starting
- Rapid, 360-degree guard adjustment
- Case quality doesn’t match that of the tool
DeWalt’s 4-½-inch angle grinder is a tough, high-quality tool aimed at those who need consistent, trouble-free performance. The 11-amp motor is the most powerful in its class with a speed of 11,000 rpm. With the correct wheel fitted, this angle grinder will cut concrete or steel with equal ease.
A dust-ejection system blows debris away from the tool, thus protecting the motor. This model also comes with an overload sensor to avoid overheating, and the paddle switch has a safety lockout to prevent accidental operation. Unlike many angle grinders that have fixed guards, the DeWalt’s guard can be rotated through 360 degrees without the use of tools.
DeWalt promotes the low-profile body as an asset for reaching into tight places. Although fairly slender, the tool is 12 inches long and relatively heavy, so it isn’t as maneuverable as some. It’s more a professional tool than one for the average DIY user, but keen home auto restorers and anyone taking on major remodeling could well find it worth the investment. One of the best power drills could also be a helpful addition to your toolset.
Best cordless: Milwaukee Cordless 4-1/2” Angle Grinder
Why it made the cut: Cordless tools offer freedom of movement without reliance on power outlets, and with the right battery, this Milwaukee can compete with many mid-range corded models.
- Size: 4-½-inch
- Power: 7 amp
- Weight: 5.2 pounds (plus approximately 1 pound battery)
- Competitive performance without a cord
- Full-length paddle switch
- Five-year warranty
- Modest run time
- Battery and charger not included
- Case not included
The benefits of battery-powered tools are obvious: no cord to get in the way, and no reliance on power outlets or generators. However, there’s usually some sacrifice in power, and run times can be frustratingly short. The cordless Milwaukee 4-½-inch angle grinder does its best to minimize these downsides while providing freedom and portability.
The 7-amp motor runs the tool at 9,000 rpm—close enough to the Metabo and Makita models described here not to significantly affect performance. Baffles keep debris out of the drive and gearing, and overload protection further improves tool life. The auxiliary handle has three positions, and the guard is a tool-free adjustable design. The full-length paddle switch is easy to use with gloved hands.
If you already own compatible Milwaukee tools and their batteries, you’ll be good to go. If not, we recommend purchasing 5.0Ah or better to avoid restrictive run times. Unfortunately, this means considerable extra expense, plus shelling out for a charger. For more battery-powered tools, check out our guide to the best cordless drills.
Best for hobbyists: Makita 4-1/2” Angle Grinder
Why it made the cut: This angle grinder suits keen hobby users like home auto enthusiasts, welders, and DIY remodelers who’ll frequently use the tool but still hope to maximize value.
- Size: 4-½ inches
- Power: 7.5 amp
- Weight: 4.5 pounds
- Impressive power for a lightweight tool
- Spare wheels for grinding and tile/masonry cutting
- Excellent aluminum case
- Infrequent reports of faulty motors
This Makita packs a lot of power into a comparatively small body. While the main barrel grip is just 2-½ inches across, the 7.5-amp motor powers wheels at 11,000 rpm to offer rapid cutting and grinding of a variety of materials.
For enhanced durability, Makita’s “Labyrinth” motor housing is designed to keep out dust, while the armature has a zig-zag varnish coating for further protection. The gears run on ball bearings, which helps reduce friction and therefore heat.
The paddle switch is easy to operate with either hand and can be locked on for continuous operation. Two guards are offered, one for cut-off work and the other for grinding, though position is not adjustable. A diamond wheel for tile and masonry cutting, plus five general-purpose grinding wheels, are included. And the aluminum case is truly top-notch.
Best heavy-duty: DeWalt 7”/9” Angle Grinder
Why it made the cut: While the 4-½-inch models that dominate both home and professional markets have their limits, the DeWalt 7-inch angle grinder offers outstanding performance for true heavy-duty tasks.
- Size: 7 inches and 9 inches
- Power: 5.3 horsepower (approximately 40 amps)
- Weight: 18.5 pounds
- Hugely impressive performance
- Multiple handle positions offer excellent ergonomics
- Overload protection for the motor
Few tools can match the capabilities of this heavy-duty angle grinder. There are a number of 7-inch and 9-inch models available, but the big DeWalt is the only one we found that offers both, and with adjustable, tool-free guards to suit.
The motor, rated in horsepower rather than watts, runs at 6,000 rpm—and few materials provide any obstacle to that power. Overload protection helps ensure long life, while an epoxy-coated armature prevents abrasive debris from impacting performance. Should the brushes wear unduly, the tool will shut down to prevent damage (and brushes can quickly and easily be changed).
Though clearly a sizable and weighty tool, much thought has gone into control. The auxiliary handle can be fixed in five positions. The main handle rotates for the optimum angle to minimize operator fatigue. Everything about this tool is focused on performance and reliability. Even the rubber power cord has been double-insulated to minimize deterioration in hot or cold climates.
Best budget: Metabo HPT 4-1/2” Angle Grinder
Why it made the cut: Metabo HPT (formerly Hitachi Power Tools) maintains its reputation for high-quality yet affordable tools with this 4-½-inch angle grinder that includes spare wheels and case.
- Size: 4-½ inches
- Power: 6.2 amp
- Weight: 4 pounds
- Light and compact all-rounder
- Outstanding value
- Includes five grinding wheels and a case
- Occasional switch problems
- Not the best manual
DIYers who’d like to own a versatile angle grinder needn’t sweat the price of a quality model, thanks to this Metabo HTP model. Though it’s not a high-performance tool, it’s adequate for light metal grinding, tile cutting, and numerous other jobs around the home. The 6.2-amp motor drives the tool at 10,000 rpm, and vents provide dust control to help protect the motor. The compact, lightweight body is easy to hold, and five grinding wheels are included.
Though the side-mounted slide switch may be a bit awkward for left-handed users, the auxiliary handle can be mounted on either side. The guard is fixed but functional. Bottom line: The Metabo HPT angle grinder is a mid-range tool at a modest price, suited to the occasional user.
Things to consider before buying an angle grinder
Angle grinders are fairly basic tools used to rotate a cutting or abrasive wheel, and as a result, designs are all very similar. However, the following key differences apply:
Angle grinders can be corded, cordless, or pneumatic. Pneumatic models, which require an air compressor, are often found in vehicle body shops but are usually not practical for DIY or construction trades use.
Cordless angle grinders are very convenient, especially where power outlets are not readily available. However, run times mean that a spare battery is something of a necessity, which adds to the cost. Corded angle grinders are the more powerful choice. Heavy-duty 7-inch and 9-inch angle grinders invariably have a cord.
Corded motors are anywhere from 5 amp to 15 amp. Cordless are sometimes rated by amps, but more often by voltage: either 18V or 20V. These are effectively the same. An 18V battery produces a momentary surge, up to 20V, when the tool starts and then settles down to nominal (normal) running at 18V.
Wheel size and speed
Wheel size, which varies from 3 inches to 9 inches, has a major impact on the thickness of material when cutting. A 4-½-inch angle grinder—by far the most popular size—has a maximum cut of about 2-½ inches. A 9-inch angle grinder can tackle material up to 4-½ inches thick. Bear in mind that this is the maximum when the wheel is new. Angle grinder wheels wear as they cut or grind, so it’s a good idea to be equipped with spares.
The majority of angle grinders have a fixed speed. Most 4-½-inch models run at 10,000 or 11,000 rpm. The said, 7-inch and 9-inch models run between 5,000 and 8,000 rpm. A few angle grinders have variable speed and can run slow enough for polishing or buffing. These models come at a premium price, and a dedicated tool for polishing is often considered a better option.
Size and weight
Physical size will impact if the tool often has to be used in a confined space. The majority of angle grinders are held by the operator around the tool’s body, so this measurement is also worth considering for users with small hands. Weight can be a factor if the tool is to be used for extended periods, particularly overhead.
An auxiliary handle is provided to help control the tool. Usually, this can be mounted on the left or right, but some have a third location on top. This can be useful when working at odd angles. Angle grinders use one of two kinds of on/off switches: sliding or paddle. Sliding switches sit on top or at the side of the body, whereas paddle switches are underneath. There don’t seem to be any particular advantages to one or the other, so choice is a matter of personal preference.
Q: What is the best angle grinder for DIY?
A 4-½-inch (or 115mm) angle grinder is the most popular size for home users. These tools usually have good power and cutting ability, without being too heavy or difficult to control. Our best overall, best value, and best hobby picks are all worth considering.
Q: Is a variable speed angle grinder worth it?
The fact that there aren’t many variable speed angle grinders on the market indicates that they are a specialist tool. They do offer easier control at slower speed, and could be worth the investment if you do a lot of wire brush work or polishing.
Q: How many amps do I need in an angle grinder?
Most entry-level and mid-range angle grinders are 6 to 7 amp. Heavy-duty models can be as high as 15 amp. This is the upper limit because it’s the maximum available from a standard electrical outlet.
Final thoughts on the best angle grinders
DeWalt’s 4-½-inch model is a superb choice for those who need a high-performance, general-purpose angle grinder. It will be equally at home in an auto shop or construction site. However, while the price is competitive, the tool itself is more than many DIY users need. The Metabo HPT is ideal for those who want a quality machine at modest outlay, and offers outstanding value.
Anyone planning to cut tile or remove old grout for a kitchen or bathroom construction project, or finally restore that prized vintage vehicle, may want to invest in an angle grinder. In fact, homeowners are likely to find other uses for one of these handy cutting and grinding tools. Like those described above, one of the 4-½-inch models with features that extend durability and longevity are quality choices at different price points.
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