We use an angle grinder to cut various materials such as metals, plastics, stone, concrete, and wood. The cutting wheel or grinding wheel of an angle grinder typically has no teeth.
Should you cut wood with an angle grinder? The short answer is “No.” While it is possible, there are many downsides. While you can cut wood with an angle grinder, it really isn’t the tool for the job. Apart from that, it is dangerous and can result in serious injury. Therefore, cutting wood with an angle grinder should be your last choice.
The typical application for angle grinders is for cutting and polishing metal, concrete, and stone. If restricted to these operations, you can use them with relative safety. But some people use angle grinders to cut wood and it often results in injuries.
A survey in Japan revealed the following statistics from a sample of 15 people who suffered injuries from using angle grinders on wood. The data pertains to injuries that occurred between 2017 and 2018.
Nine out of fifteen people used their angle grinders improperly. Only three out of 15 knew the risks involved. The statistics are as follows:
- Complete finger amputations =2.
- Partial finger amputation = 1.
- Tendon injury and phalangeal fracture = 5
- The rest were minor injuries.
Out of these 5 were on-the-job accidents and 4 were DIY incidents. The accidents involved kickback and glove entanglement.
The figures here aren’t complete in that the information does not add up to all 15 injuries. But it is sufficient to emphasize the seriousness of trying to cut wood with an angle grinder.
Cutting Wood with an Angle Grinder
If the above statistics don’t dissuade you and you still want to know how to cut wood with an angle grinder, given below are some basic steps to follow. Throughout the operation, you need to put a top priority on safety:
Wear Adequate Safety Gear
You need to use personal protection equipment (PPE). It includes safety gloves, safety goggles, masks, caps, and aprons. This should help to protect your body, eyes, and nose from injury.
If you are going to cut wood with an angle grinder, you need to fit it with a woodcutting blade. Ensure that you install the blade correctly and you should fix it securely. Read the instructions on the packaging carefully while installing the blade.
The Cutting Process
When you are about to start cutting, remember that the machine isn’t meant for cutting wood. So, you need to proceed with caution. Do not push the grinding wheel harder than necessary to avoid pushback and the machine kicking back onto your body.
It’s a good idea to take a break intermittently. That way you will also avoid the wood overheating and getting burnt.
Cut at an Angle
Tilt the grinder at a slight angle. Because the angle grinder is not a saw, it behaves differently. By tilting the blade, you reduce the resistance thereby reducing the possibility of kickbacks.
Best Power Tool for Cutting Wood: Circular Saw vs Angle Grinder
We have established that using an angle grinder to cut wood is not a safe proposition. Then, what is the best power tool for cutting wood? Instead of using an angle grinder, you would be much better off using a circular saw.
While a circular saw may have some drawbacks, it is one of the best power tools for cutting wood. Let us take a look at the advantages of a circular saw over an angle grinder:
We use a circular saw to cut wood (and a few other materials too). The teeth of a circular saw blade are such that they dig into the wood creating a pathway called the “kerf.” The kerf is nothing but the line of the cut created by excavated material.
Circular saws are stationary power tools onto which circular blades are fitted. The frame of a circular saw has a fixed base. The part that holds the circular blade is moveable and swings up and down.
The moving part of the frame has a handle. You can use it to push the blade onto the workpiece which is clamped on the fixed base. The circular blade also has an upper and lower guard which protects your hands from touching the blade.
An angle grinder is nowhere comparable to a circular saw. The circular saw is a stationary machine while the angle grinder is a hand-held machine. Instead of cutting blades, the angle grinder has abrasive wheels.
The abrasive wheels grind down the material. These wheels have no teeth and are unsuitable for cutting wood. The ideal purpose of angle grinder wheels is to remove excess materials in construction projects like brickwork and masonry.
Another feature that differentiates angle grinders from circular saws is the guards. The guard of an angle grinder serves as a chip deflector. It diverts flying chips away from the operator while the machine is in use. It offers extremely limited protection to your hands and fingers.
Finally, the angle grinder has no fixed base. It is a handheld power tool and has no baseplate to offer stability to resist vertical rotation, also called “tipping.” It also does nothing to reduce the effect of horizontal twisting of the wheel.
The wheel can sink into the material in an uncontrolled manner. Everything depends on how you hold the machine, so it can bounce upwards in an equally uncontrolled manner. If it jumps upwards, it can become a dangerous projectile spinning at high speed directed back mostly toward the operator.
A further and even more dangerous practice is to replace the grinding wheel with a circular saw blade. Angle Grinder manufacturers prohibit this, but users still do it, often with disastrous results.
Case Against Angle Grinders for Cutting Wood
We can consider an angle grinder fitted with a circular saw blade as a “defective” circular saw. It becomes a circular saw devoid of a baseplate. There is no control against tipping or horizontal twisting movement.
In the absence of a baseplate, the blade sinks into the workpiece in an uncontrolled manner. If twisted, the blade can get jammed in the kerf. In such a scenario, the power tool may kick back and where it lands is anyone’s guess!
We can conclude two things here – firstly, an angle grinder is in no way suited to cutting wood. Secondly, if you do use an angle grinder on wood, under no circumstances should you replace the grinding wheel with a cutting blade, even if you use a cutting blade meant for cutting wood.
The safety hazards of using an angle grinder to cut wood are obvious. This power tool is best-suited for carving, sanding, shaping, and grinding. You can even shape wooden objects if you fit your angle grinder with a wood carving disc.
But if you fit an angle grinder with a three-tooth disc, you can use it for limited purposes. But “limited” is the keyword here, and you need to be aware of those limitations.
When you have more elaborate wood cutting operations at hand, and you have access to a circular saw, table saw, or miter saw, then those are much more viable and safer options.
It is risky to cut wood with an angle grinder. If you are left with an angle grinder as the only alternative, proceed with caution. With adequate precautions and limited use, you can use an angle grinder to cut wood, but our conclusion is still to avoid this practice wherever possible!