An angle grinder which is also called a side grinder or disc grinder is really a must-have for every workspace. Merely because it serves a wide variety of purposes. You can use them for many tasks like auto bodywork, sharpening, grinding, buffing, and even in masonry.
Indeed, angle grinders are very useful and are used all over the world in thousands of workshops for cutting metals and materials on a daily basis. But, this powerful tool can cause serious damage when misused. Laceration, fire, piercing, and death are the most common injuries that angle grinders have caused. One of the most important things is to keep safe because accidents with an angle grinder are indeed horrific.
That’s why we have provided you with this article to discuss how to use an angle grinder safely and familiarize you with smart and safe practices.
Angle Grinder Safety Tips
Given its power, safety is really of utmost concern when using an angle grinder. Here are some safety tips that you can follow to avoid potential danger and careless mistakes:
Wear your Complete PPE
Whether it’s a quick cut or a long process of grinding, wearing your complete Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a must as it is the last line of defense if ever things go wrong.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strongly suggests that you use the recommended PPE such as:
- High Impact Rated Wrap Around Eye Protection
- Face shield
- Class 5 hearing protection
- ear plugs/ear muffs (optional)
- Class 5 cut resistant gloves
- Safety boots
- Well-fitting flame resistant clothing
Pro tip: If you have long hair, make sure to tie your hair before grinding.
Appropriate Wheel Size
Every angle grinder has its own specific disc size requirement. A disc that fits on your grinder doesn’t mean it’s properly calibrated for the safest operation.
Compromising to do so will cause the disc to become unstable and wobble. Thus, will potentially kick back toward the user.
Keep note that sizes can affect the RPMs that’s why guidelines are set for effectiveness and safety.
RPM Along with your Wheel Allowance
Revolutions Per Minute or as commonly known as RPM is another important detail of an angle grinder that you should keep in mind.
Every angle grinder has a maximum recommended RPM. It is of utmost importance that you use the recommended RPM for your tool.
Abrasive blades are designed to function only up to a specified speed limit. When you tend to compromise mismatching your disc’s RPM and the grinder, you are putting your disc at risk of breakage that will also potentially cause you harm.
Secure the Safety Guard
Guards are designed as a safety feature of your grinder. They act as barriers between your body, especially your hands from the spinning disc.
This also protects you in case your disc shatters and flies off. Most grinders have a burst-proof guard that has a locking system.
This will ensure that the guard won’t open itself automatically to the user when your disc shatters.
Take note, it’s very vital to never detach the guard from your angle grinder.
Some grinders also feature a guard that can be maneuvered. This is one great solution to avoid working from uncomfortable angles.
Nonetheless, work in a comfortable position and never attempt to remove the guard.
Do not Customize your Tool
Some are actually customizing their angle grinders. However, we suggest that you don’t customize your tool unless you made contact with the manufacturer of your machine.
Some customization is possible and beneficial but there are also some that could be dangerous when not done properly.
There are accessories that are actually designed for your angle grinder. Use only such. When you use accessories that are not intended for your tool and things go wrong, not only are you damaging your tool but you’re also risking your safety.
Check the Status of your Disc
It is of utmost importance that you check the status of your disc. Accidental drops may have happened to your wheel during shipping, during storage, or during use. Be mindful that a slightly damaged wheel should be trashed right away to prevent future danger.
Carefully check your disc for chips, cracks, and any other dents before even using it. Forgetting to do so might cause your disc to break during spinning and throw fragments of shrapnel. If you are hesitant with its status, might as well use a new disc.
Test Run your Unit
This is a really necessary practice to do. Whether you’re still starting your day with your angle grinder or you are just coming back from an hour break, always make sure to test run your angle grinder.
To do so, let it run for one minute. This will allow the unit to warm up while giving you the opportunity to assess the status of your unit if it is fit to work.
Clear your Workspace from Fire Hazards
Angle grinders normally shoot out numerous sparks around your workspace. These sparks can possibly start up a fire when hazardous and flammable items are nearby.
We suggest that you clear out your workspace from any flammable items, liquids, or gases to prevent igniting an accidental fire or explosion.
Snug Fit and Tighten your Grinding Wheel
A special wrench is included for every angle grinder. This is used to tighten and release your wheels from your grinder.
Make sure to give it a snug fit. This is important so that the wheels won’t fly off during use.
Angle Grinder Safety Checklist Before Using
You need to understand that safety is the most important thing to consider as you use your angle grinder.
Grinding is a procedure that needs to be taken seriously if you don’t want to end up in danger.
To be a responsible operator here is a safety checklist that you can follow as a guide before using your angle grinder:
- Check the power cord and the plug. Inspect for damages such as bent pins. You should also correspond the voltage of the machine to the plug.
- Check the body of the grinder. Pay close attention to its vents. They should be free from dust and debris. Also inspect if the power switch functions properly. The side handle must be securely attached. The guard should show no signs of damage.
- Check the free speed of the grinder. It should not rotate faster than the stated maximum RPM.
- Check that there’s no crack or damage in the grinding wheel. Also inspect if it matches the required RPM and size of your tool.
- Check the flanges. They should be in a good working status and should be attached properly, smooth and no trace of burr.
- Check if you have worn the complete PPE like goggles, earplugs, gloves, helmets and masks.
- Check if the machine has been regularly maintained.
- Use the best angle grinder stand to avoid any hazard.
What Makes an Angle Grinder Dangerous if Mishandled
Although an angle grinder is a very powerful tool, its power is also what makes it dangerous when used improperly. This type of equipment usually spins around 6,000 to 11,000 RPM.
It spins really fast so that cutting hard materials would become possible. But take note that the particular speed is just a few inches away from your body, face, and most especially hands.
Accidentally hitting your fingers from the disc would definitely damage it resulting in laceration or worse–cutting your fingers off.
This tool is known to grind and cut through tough materials like metal and it would certainly cut a part of a human body easily.
That’s why proper maintenance, constant check-up and correct use are really necessary to ensure the safety of the one using it and even those people that are around the workshop.
Respecting the equipment’s safety requirement, recognizing its power, and being a responsible user are always the smartest and safest actions that one can make to keep himself and everyone nearby away from danger and injury.
What Causes the Danger and Brings Safety into Attention?
It is indeed true that mishandling an angle grinder can lead to serious injuries.
However, apart from misuse, operational faults may also happen which could also threaten you with danger.
Here are the following faults that you need to pay attention to:
Design and Speed of Operation
As previously discussed, angle grinders are designed to run at a given speed rating known as the RPM. This determines the appropriate type of disc to use.
When you try to operate the tool beyond its maximum speed, this could lead to overheating or the disc may crack and splinter.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to always use the appropriate disc at its maximum speed rating only and never beyond.
Using abrasive blades will certainly require your special attention. These blades wear off easily, especially when used repeatedly, resulting in breakage and piercing whatever it hits.
To keep away from this, we suggest that you use blades that can take high RPMs and never forget to check your blade before use.
Usually, people use diamond blades compared to abrasive blades due to their toughness. This blade is made from a mixture of various metals and synthetic diamond crystals.
However, despite its toughness, they have a tendency to lose segments and fly those out which will surely injure everything it hits.
This is usually caused by exceeding the RPM rating and mounting a disc that’s not appropriate for the machine specification.
The use of incorrect blades is one of the major reasons for kickbacks. Doing so leads to the blade overheating and wobbling which then leads to a rebound effect between the surface and a grinder.
That’s when kickbacks happen. Be certain to test run the appropriate disc for 30 seconds to ensure good functioning.
Knowing the correct angle grinder cutting direction will allow you to easily cut through metal, tiles, concrete, glass, wood, asphalt, and many other materials.
The proper cutting technique is necessary to achieve the best results while maintaining a high level of safety.
Most angle grinder models have an arrow that indicates the rotational direction of the wheel, however, it normally rotates clockwise.
We will discuss the steps you must follow to use your angle grinder properly using the correct cutting direction. Proper technique will yield the best results, the most safety, and the longest-lasting life of the machine.
Proper Angle Grinder Cutting Direction
Angle grinders are powerful tools that cut through various types of workpieces quickly and efficiently.
By learning how to position your angle grinder properly and knowing which direction to cut, you will lower the risk of accidents that can lead to bodily injury of you and those around you.
With the cutting technique, you will ensure you use the cutting disc in the correct direction to achieve the cuts you desire.
No matter which type of material you use, your angle grinder is likely to be able to cut through it easily as long as you know how to use the tool properly.
Step 1: Create and Prepare a Safe Workspace
The very first step when starting any project is to prepare your workspace. You must create a safe and efficient environment that will allow you to move around freely and use all your tools in an organized manner.
Be sure to clear any clutter from the area and clean any dirt or particles that may interfere with your workspace. You always want to work in a clean area free from clutter no matter what project you have or the tool you use.
Accidents can happen very easily if your workspace is cumbersome and you are not able to move around easily. Imagine a medical surgeon with an unorganized operation room, it would be a disaster!
Once you start using your angle grinder for cutting, dust and sparks are going to fly around. Protect yourself by wearing a dust mask, work boots, gloves, goggles, and ear muffs for noise.
Step 2: Check your Equipment
Every time you use your angle grinder, you must check the disc wheel to make sure it is properly attached. Of course, choose the proper attachment such as a cutting disc.
Always unplug the grinder or remove the battery before changing or checking the disc wheel to avoid injury.
Check if the handles are attached to the grinder firmly. All bolts and screws must be tightened properly for you to be able to grip the grinder steadily.
If you are using a new cutting disc, run it on the grinder for 30 seconds to test for defects.
Your angle grinder is designed to cut, grind, and polish a variety of materials. You may cut through tiles, stone, metal, wood, plastic, and more.
To make precision cuts with your cutting disc the wheel diameter must fit the workpiece you want to cut.
Step 3: Mark and Clamp the Workpiece
With a sharpie pen or marker, place a line on the outline of the cut on the front and back of the workpiece you want to cut. Double-check your measurements for accuracy. As the saying goes: “You can measure twice, but you can only cut once.”
Once your workpiece is marked, you are ready to clamp it down to the base attached to the workbench.
Be sure that your workpiece is tightly secured. As you make the cut you will want to avoid injury from an accident that involves a loose workpiece that slips or shifts.
Step 4: Align Grinder in the Correct Cutting Direction
Now that your cutting disc is properly attached, it is time to turn on your grinder. Once you turn on the angle grinder, the disc will start to rotate clockwise and you should approach the cut with the blade away from you.
As you cut, debris is supposed to fall downwards and in the opposite direction from where you’re standing.
Flying sparks should not make contact with anything combustible because they can start a fire.
Always keep your workpieces securely clamped until you’re completely finished with the cutting and polishing process.
Step 5: Finish the Cut
When you are ready to finish cutting the material, turn on your angle grinder and allow the cutting disc to reach a high speed.
Slowly and firmly, without putting too much pressure, drop the wheel through the material you are cutting.
You don’t have to use any force, allow the weight of the tool to do the work for you. Same as in the kitchen when using a sharp knife, you must use a slicing motion from the back towards the front of the workpiece instead of an up and down motion.
Do not press down on the workpiece with your cutting disc, instead, let the forward-spinning wheel slowly glide forward across the line you have marked on the workpiece.
Once the workpiece is completely cut, polish it using your polishing disc, and you are done!
Tips to Maximize Productivity in Cutting With an Angle Grinder
To maximize the productivity and quality of cutting projects with an angle grinder, several factors must be considered. Follow these tips to optimize cutting performance and results.
Use Motion Through the Cut
Similar to a knife blade, a cutting disc requires that you use a slicing motion instead of downward pressure. A rocking or sliding motion in the direction of the cut is best.
Use Light Pressure
Abrasive cutting methods such as the cutting disc of an angle grinder do not do well with heat or pressure.
Therefore, when cutting, do not push too hard as it can damage the wheel. Hold the tool firmly, but let it do the work itself without your added force.
Properly Clamp Workpiece
A common mistake is not clamping the workpiece properly to the work surface. While you are cutting, you want the piece to stay in place instead of sliding and moving around.
Place the clamp close to the workpiece to prevent vibration, which will eventually damage the tool.
Approach the Cut From the Proper Angle
Cutting discs are designed for straight in-line cuts. The disc should be placed at a 90-degree angle, perpendicular to the work base.
Place your body in a way that will make it easy for you to see the wheel entering the cut line, approaching it from the point of least resistance.
1. Which Way Does an Angle Grinder Cut?
Place the grinder where the wheel spins from the body of the blade toward the edge. The rotational direction of the wheel is clockwise, which makes any sparks and debris fly away from you.
2. What Thickness of Steel Can an Angle Grinder Cut?
The typical size for a grinder cutting disc is 12 cm, which can be cut through steel that is 2-3 cm thick. A standard 4.5-inch angle grinder can cut a 0.25-inch thick steel piece.
3. Can You Use Water With an Angle Grinder?
Yes, it is a good idea to use water. By using water while cutting with an angle grinder lubricates the workpiece, keeps dust contained, and prevents the blade from overheating.
Be sure you use water conservatively and not soak the surface. An important precaution is to keep water away from electrical cords.
4. How dangerous are angle grinders?
Angle grinders can cause severe injuries and serious dangers when mishandled. Kickbacks can lead to severe cuts.
Broken discs may shatter, producing pieces to fly off and pierce the operator’s eyes and any body part or whatever it may hit. Sparks flying off can also potentially cause fire and burn your workshop.
5. What safety precautions would you observe when using a grinder?
First things first, never attempt to use your angle grinder without your personal protective equipment (PPE) worn.
This will protect you from flying parts or any possible threats from operational faults.
Secondly, never use your tool without checking it up and assessing if it is fit to be used. Never hesitate to change a disc when you are unsure of its quality.
6. Can an angle grinder start a fire?
Angle grinders are also used to polish surfaces, thus producing a lot of friction. With its high-speed rotation, that chips off bits of the surface and the disc, flying off as heated sparks.
Those sparks are capable of causing a fire in your workshop when flammable materials are close to it.
7. Should I wear gloves with an angle grinder?
Wearing your gloves is one of the most important things to do prior to using your angle grinder.
Operators should really wear high-quality Class 5 Cut Resistant Gloves that are well-fitted to provide good dexterity. This will protect you against abrasion, heat, and cuts.
8. What are 3 things you should do to use a grinder safely?
- Never compromise your safety. Be certain to wear your complete PPE before starting to use your grinder.
- Never use your angle grinder without checking the unit first. This will prohibit any future accidents that your broken grinder might cause.
- Never use an inappropriate blade for your grinder’s requirement. Use what is required instead. Do not attempt risking your safety by trying to manipulate your grinder’s requirements.
Angle grinders are truly great machines to have in your workspace. They can offer you a wide variety of applications and make the job be done faster and easier.
However, as useful as it can be, it can also be very damaging. That’s why they must be used with utmost attention and caution.
It’s true that rookie mistakes are very common for new operators, but even professionals are not excused for possible faults and careless mistakes.
That’s why I strongly suggest that you carefully follow all the angle grinder safety tips listed in this article. Doing so will secure your safety and keep you away from threats and harm.
That’s all you need to know.
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