Many construction contractors and even most regular DIYers like to have a power tool that they can turn to reliably cut through a variety of materials. Of course, there are a number of options in this department today, making it difficult to know which one is best suited to your individual job-specific needs.
Among these, the angle grinder and cut-off tool are often compared to one another.
But which of these two power tools is best suited to your assorted cutting and slicing needs?
This guide will endeavor to answer that question by looking at each tool at its most basic level. From these, this guide will highlight several key differences that should help you better understand where each of the tools fit in the best.
Angle Grinders and Cut-Off Tools: The Basics
Not all DIYers are fully familiar with both the angle grinder and the cut-off tool. So, before we jump into comparisons of these two tools, let’s take a moment to look at each on an individualized basis.
What Is an Angle Grinder?
Between these two tool options, more folks will be familiar with the angle grinder. But in case you need a refresher, an angle grinder (sometimes called a “disc grinder” or “side grinder”) is a handheld power tool that is optimized for grinding as well as polishing.
This is accomplished through the use of interchangeable disc-style blades, which can be abrasive for polishing or edged for use in cutting through metal.
Angle grinders see the majority of their use in construction sites, though they are also considered a mainstay in metal fabrication shops. In terms of their actual use, this tool can be a bit bulky and tends to require two hands to operate.
They can also present some noteworthy hazards when in use, including extreme sound output and sparking (when used to cut metal, especially). As such, special training is often needed to use this tool properly.
What Is a Cut-Off Tool?
The name “cut-off tool” may not be the most descriptive or distinct in the world of power tools. But there’s no reason to complain because this tool does exactly what it says on the package – it cuts through metal efficiently, regardless of type or density.
To that end, cut-off tools are considered among the best for detailed fabrication work. This is because they utilize a relatively small disc-style blade that is aligned parallel to the unit’s handle.
All things considered, cut-off tools don’t see a ton of use outside of metal fabrication shops.
That being said, these are still fairly easy tools to learn to use if your construction job calls for it. Most models require one hand to operate the device, most often by way of a trigger-based activation switch. This further adds to this tool’s capacity to complete detailed cuts, unlike their larger, more unwieldy counterparts.
Angle Grinders vs. Cut-Off Tools: What Are the Differences?
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at the major differences between the two types of tools.
Scale of Work
The first and most noteworthy difference between these two tools is their capabilities when it comes to the scale of their cutting capacity.
Specifically, you’ll quickly find that an angle grinder is the preferred tool for making extended cuts through most metal materials. At the same time, a properly-equipped angle grinder is far better suited to cutting through thick-gauge metals without excessively dulling its own blade.
Meanwhile, a cut-off tool is a great pick if you find yourself routinely working with smaller metal workpieces. In particular, this tool is very easy to use when it comes to making detailed cuts thanks to its one-handed operation and compact blade size. These blades are still plenty capable, though, allowing them to work with middle-gauge metal pieces without trouble.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use, you’ll find that these two tools differ once again. This is because they actually require differing amounts of support to be used properly.
To that end, an angle grinder is typically considered a two-handed implement that requires extra support to control its vibrations. This can make it more challenging to use over the course of a long day at work.
A cut-off tool is almost a breeze to use by comparison, even if it’s your first time with the tool in hand. The tool itself looks a bit like a garden hose sprayer and operates in a similar manner, as well. To be specific, you often just need to squeeze the unit’s trigger to initiate its compact blade.
Cut-off tools are easy to operate one-handed, too, thus leaving your arms and wrists without strain over the course of several hours of use.
If you’re looking to get extra use out of either of these tools, you should be sure to look into their individual versatility.
When you do so, you’ll quickly see that the cut-off tool is effectively a one-trick pony. The cut-off tool certainly does that one trick well, but beyond cutting metal, this tool won’t be very useful to you.
By comparison, an angle grinder has a variety of used right out of the box.
One of those relates directly to its name, which references its ability to grind down and shape metal. This can be done with an abrasive disc attachment, which isn’t hard to find at a local hardware store. With a separate disc attachment, these units can even be used for polishing metal back to its original condition or for cutting concrete.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
When it comes down to choosing between an angle grinder and a cut-off tool, you should first appraise the volume of metal you intend to work with.
If you only intend to cut a couple of pieces of metal or you are working exclusively with thick gauge stock, then it would make the most sense to invest in an angle grinder. Meanwhile, if you are going to be cutting a lot of metal from now on or will be working on detailed cutting jobs, then a cut-off tool is right for you.
Separately, if you’re new to the task of cutting metal by hand, you may find a cut-off tool to be a more efficient option for quick learning. They do tend to be pricy, though, so that can be an issue to a budget-conscious shopper.
Angle grinders are usually more affordable and versatile, too, meaning that you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck when it comes to practical use.
Should you decide that an angle grinder is the right tool for you, make sure to check my recommendations.
When you look at them side by side, it’s clear to see why the angle grinder and cut-off tool are often compared to one another. But in truth, they are different enough to warrant their use in very different metal cutting tasks.
Some of these important differences are outlined above, so be sure to keep them in mind the next time your team plans on upgrading their metal cutting tools.