Used thousands of times every day by hobbyists and professionals alike, the portable die grinder is a tool that can be successfully used for cutting, grinding, and sanding.
A die grinder is a hand-held rotary tool that can be used with a variety of attachments for a multitude of different tasks. Most commonly, a die grinder is used for cutting and grinding metal. Sanding metal is just as easy with this versatile tool.
In the following guide, we will cover the various aspects you are likely need to know about a die grinder.
We will include information on how it works, what it can be used for, choosing the right one for your needs, and offer you some tips and tricks.
1. What is Die Grinder?
A die grinder is a handheld power tool used for grinding or polishing. It may be a small hand-held instrument or part of a portable drill or fixed heavy-duty model. Die grinders are used to remove small amounts of material quickly and may be used for horizontal or vertical applications.
Die grinders are held and used similarly to a drill-press or standard drill. However, they are cased in a cylindrical housing with the shaft extending out of one side, usually with some type of handle at top for grasping and holding.
No rotating chuck is provided, instead, the grinding wheel is mounted directly into the end of the motor’s shaft (with some designs also mounting the motor into the die grinder).
The motor provides power to run both itself and its attached grinding wheel.
The best die grinders and rotary tools are made of cast metal, to resist absorption of heat and oils that could harm the fine bits.
They typically can be used with an array of attachments, the most common one being a cutting disc, which can be used for cutting metal or wood.
2. What is the Difference Between a Die Grinder And a Cut-Off Tool?
The main difference between the die grinder and the cut-off tool is that they are designed for different types of cutting applications.
A die grinder is used for cutting softer materials like metal, ceramic, rubber, plastic, and glass, while a cut-off tool is built to cut hard materials like cast iron, steel, or concrete.
The die grinder is an electric motor-driven device with a drill chuck instead of the drill chuck, air blower, or sandblast. It was developed for grinding, but now it has other uses.
For example, it is used for polishing small alloy parts. It can be used as a power tool to pour water into the workpiece when it was cut off and cool off. It’s convenient for the beginner to use a die grinder. Since it’s powerful and most importantly cheap, so most people start at this point.
Cut-off tools are designed for cutting metal. They remove excess material with a disc that is held in place by a chuck . The disc rotates freely around a center point, allowing the tool to cut through metal.
3. Can You Use a Router as a Die Grinder?
A router works as a die grinder because, well, it’s got burrs spinning at high speed so it can grind. So yes, they both work for grinding.
The difference is that you would use the router for smaller contouring work and a dedicated die grinder for bigger jobs. But for basic small contouring tasks on thinner materials, a router certainly does the job.
It’s not a bad idea to use a router as a die grinder, but a proper die grinder is better. It’s not that the router won’t do the job, it’s just that you won’t be able to get the same level of precision with it.
It also doesn’t have the same cutting capacity for heavy-duty work.
4. Can You Use a Die Grinder to Cut Metal?
You can use a die grinder on just about anything, from cast iron and steel to aluminum, plastic, even body filler and wood, all depending on the attachment you choose.
These attachments fit onto an arbor (a shaft) that is then mounted onto the machine via a collar.
The most common and versatile die grinder attachment is an abrasive disc, which fits on the end of the arbor.
Abrasive discs come in different sizes (4″, 6″, 8″, 10″) and shapes: cylindrical, rectangular, triangular, conical.
Each has its own purpose. Die grinders are sometimes called bench grinders because they sit on their own bracket across a bench or tabletop.
Utilizing a die grinder is an alternative way to cut metal, instead of using a cutting torch or hacksaw.
Die grinders can easily cut through rust, paint, dirt, and corrosion from metal pieces more safely while creating a smoother finish than hacksaws. Die grinders have precise cutting power that cuts metal quickly and easily.
5. Can You Use a Die Grinder on Wood?
A die grinder is very useful for rounding sharp edges, removing scars and burrs, and smoothing rough surfaces. It’s also good for carving into your wooden piece at a more intricate level.
The general rule for using a die grinder on wood is that the item you will be using it on should be made of (or containing) some sort of carbide. Carbide sharpeners will cut wood without burning up.
Many items are made out of CARBIDE (not steel) because it is an extremely wear resistant material. Common examples of items made out of carbide materials include saw blades, saws, tile cutters, wood carving tools such as a die grinder and even nail sets.
Carbide is an extremely strong and fast cutting material that can remove sharp burrs and hard-to-reach edges without damaging the surface underneath.
The uses for a die grinder in woodworking are many. These range from removing rust and paint from metal hardware and millwork to creating various profiles and sculpturing on wood itself.
While wood carving is a completely different art form, the tools used by both disciplines are often the same.
6. Can I Use a Die Grinder as a Dremel?
Even though Dremel and die grinders do the same thing, they are both designed for different purposes.
The die grinder can be used for slightly rougher jobs, things like sharpening blades or cutting up steel, whereas a Dremel is used for polishing furniture, cutting wood, and other general tasks.
If you are looking for a tool to do heavy-duty tasks, the die grinder is for you. However, if you need a smaller tool that can maneuver into narrow spaces, the Dremel is best for the job.
A die grinder is best used for grinding metal, and if you want to polish or engrave metal, a Dremel might be the better choice.
7. Can You Use a Die Grinder Bit in a Drill?
The design of a die grinder is to be handheld, not used as a power tool. The hand-held nature puts the workpiece in line with the driveshaft. When you mount it in a drill, it’s no longer in line with the driveshaft.
If you use a die grinder bit in a drill, it will cause the chuck to wobble. They are not designed for a side load and will fail if you use one that is powerful enough to spin the die grinder.
No matter which brand of drill or how good of quality it is, if you put a die grinder bit in the chuck you will not have good results. You will basically shear the spurs off, and any left over pieces will fly all over.
This is because there isn’t enough surface area to hold the die grinder bit tangs firmly.
8. Can You Use a Die Grinder on Aluminum?
Aluminum is a metal that most die grinders don’t like to run against and the carbide burrs won’t do well either but there is a fix if you have the right tool.
Most die grinders will work on aluminum with the only problem being the burr will build-up of aluminum chips and will need to be cleaned out at regular intervals.
Carbide burrs can jam easily if you are working with aluminum as it tends to melt around the burr. When the carbide burr plugs up, dip the end of the bit in black grease.
One way to avoid this buildup is to make sure you’re always 1/8 of an inch from the base metal so that the aluminum chips don’t melt into your material.
As soon as you start grinding again it will clean the aluminum right out of the burr and you won’t have issues with carbide burrs getting stuck again.
9. Can You Sand With a Die Grinder?
The die grinder is one of the most under-appreciated tools. It’s not sexy and it isn’t new, but you can do a lot and it will be money well spent.
Being able to get into tight places to sand or grind is where this tool starts making its money back. Not only can you use these tools to remove material, but they can cut, sand, shape, and weld almost anything in your shop.
Sanding a wood surface smooth and flat helps prepare it for staining. Unlike smaller tools like a random orbital sander, the die grinder takes off less material at once so you can have a very controlled sanding experience.
A die grinder is nothing without accessories. You need to be able to attach all sorts of different tools to this machine, and they will all impact how it behaves. You’ll also find that not all accessories are created equal and some will work better than others depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Working with 3M Roloc discs is great because you can change them quickly and instantly reach whatever grit you need for whatever task at hand.