Angle Grinder for Wood Workers

Woodwork is a fantastic craft.  You can make all sorts of useful things and it’s fun and relaxing.  Many craftsmen I know seemed content to leave it there.  If they can build furniture in their basements, then they’re happy.

It’s never been enough for me.  I’ll probably always be primarily a woodworker, but learning what I can do with wood has only made me want to learn other crafts.

Years ago, I bought a new band saw.  I wanted a stand for it, so I build one of 2x4s and it really came out like crap.  Not only was it wobbly, it also looked terrible.  Part of it was that I just wasn’t a great woodworker back then.  I’m sure you can make a great saw stand out of wood.  But you know what would be even better?  Making it out of steel.  The best wooden stand ever built is never going to compare to steel for strength, rigidity and durability.  Weirdly, the steel stand would even weigh less than the wooden one.

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So, I learned how to weld.  But once I had a welder, I also needed a way to cut, sand, shape, grind, de-rust and de-burr my metal.  And so, I purchased the mighty angle grinder.

This tool is basically a Swiss army knife for metal work.  Especially when you consider how little they cost, it’s downright astounding how many operations they perform.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that an angle grinder plus a welder equals a whole metal fabrication shop.  There are many, many more tools you can buy to work with steel and aluminum, but these two alone will allow you to perform an incredible range of operations.

The video covers most of the important points on angle grinders, but I can add a few useful details here.

For one thing, having a grinder allows you to use abrasive cutting discs.  I’ve never found a material that I can’t cut with an abrasive disk.  Recently, I was trying to drill a large hole in heavy-duty steel pipe, and my drill bits simply weren’t getting the job done.  Rather than throw in the towel, I broke out my angle grinder, made four small cuts where I wanted the hole to be, and I was through.  The hole I made isn’t pretty, but it’s just clearance hole so I can stick a torch into the pipe that and heat metals.  It’s going to get the job done and only the grinder would make this possible.

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Having access to abrasives opens up a new world of cutting and shaping possibilities.  You can now cut hardened steel objects like drill bits, high speed steel cutters, or Allen keys.  I use these things to make custom wood turning tools or solve other problems around the shop.

The point is that you might want to grab an angle grinder even if you’re not doing any welding.  A grinder and some scrap steel will still allow you to make custom brackets for mounting things to the wall, or maybe even fabricate some simple drawer pulls for a more modern furniture piece.

 

In the video, I list my top attachments:

1.)    Cut off disc

2.)    Grinding disc

3.)    Wire cup wheel

4.)    Flap disc sander

Just getting these four attachments will let you do almost anything you could want to do to a piece of metal, but the flap disc sander deserves special mention.  I use this thing all the time.  It leaves a nicer finish than a grinding disc, but it’s almost as fast.  Even better, you can also use it on wood.  These discs come in a wide variety of grits and they can shape wood with incredible speed.  You could easily use a tool like this to carve out the saddle on a nice Windsor chair.  Even the great Sam Maloof used angle grinders with sanding discs to create some of the most dramatic sculpted effects on his furniture. 

As far as buying the grinder, there’s no need to go crazy.  I have the Dewalt model and I’m happy with it.  The most famous grinders are made by Makita, and other companies like Bosch are also well-known in this field.  I’ve even heard good things about the ultra-cheap models made by Harbor Freight.  I’ve never used one of these myself, but for $40.00, it’s hard to go wrong.

A few quick notes on safety.  Angle grinders are super-dangerous.  Most of the attachments throw sparks.  A lot of sparks.  You’ll want to keep these away from piles of sawdust in your wood shop.  Even better, do your grinding outside.  Also, thin abrasive discs to have a habit of shattering while you’re using them.  Wear safety glasses at a minimum.  A full face shield is much better.  Finally, all of the dust you will create with your angle grinder is bad for you.  Do not breath it.  Not ever.  By decent respirator with replaceable cartridges.  They’re not expensive.

 

Rex Krueger