When it comes to power tools, grinders are always an important part of the arsenal. They can be used for many different applications, and yes, there are a few different types of them as well.
Because of that, if you are looking to purchase a new grinder, you may be a bit confused as to which one is best for you.
The two most common choices include angle grinders and die grinders.
If you don’t know what the differences between the two types are, this is the right article to be reading.
Angle and Die Grinders: The Basics
Before we get into talking about all of the differences between angle grinders and die grinders, it’s worth taking a couple of minutes to discuss exactly what each of these power tools is in some detail.
What is an Angle Grinder?
This is a handheld power tool primarily used for grinding, sanding, and polishing. However, depending on the specific disc or attachment being used, angle grinders can also be used for cutting. They are relatively small tools designed for single person use.
Angle grinders feature a spinning disc located at the front, one which spins along the horizontal plane.
There are a variety of discs that can be attached to angle grinders, and each one serves a different purpose. Basic discs are designed to grind excess material off of workpieces, usually metal, but they may also grind other materials. There are also discs that can be used to cut through metals, things such as pipes and thin sheets of metal.
These tools can also be used to cut tile, stucco, and pavers. Angle grinders can also rout out mortar, shine and polish materials, and sharpen things too.
You can even use them to remove old and excess paint from surfaces, in a fashion similar to a sander.
What is a Die Grinder?
A die grinder is actually a grinder that comes in the form of a rotary tool. This is a small and handheld power tool that features a rotating spindle and a collet that holds a cutting bit. The front of this tool holds a grinding bit which rotates at extremely fast speeds.
These are used for removing excess material from any workpiece, and they are most often used for grinding metals, but can also be used for wood, plastic, and other materials.
Die grinders can be powered through a variety of methods, usually compressed air or electricity. Die grinders may also be used for machining, honing, polishing, and sanding a variety of materials.
There are some versions which even come with foot controls to make precision work easier to perform. Keep in mind that die grinders can hold a variety of attachments. Also keep in mind that with die grinders, the grinding bit rotates on the vertical plane.
Angle Grinder vs Die Grinder: What Are the Differences?
Sure, angle grinders and die grinders are quite closely related, and yes, there is some overlap between the two. There is no doubt about that. However, that being said, there are a few big differences between these two power tools which you should be aware of.
Size and Weight
One of the most basic differences between these two tools has to do with their size and weight. Die grinders are usually much smaller and lighter in weight than angle grinders.
Die grinders are usually around 5 to 10 inches in length and weight somewhere around 10 or 11 lbs.
On the other hand, an angle grinder is quite a bit bigger and can range from 12 to 18 inches in length, and weigh anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds, depending on the specific model in question.
Therefore, die grinders are a bit more user friendly in this sense. They’re smaller, lighter, and more compact.
Another difference between angle grinders and die grinders to consider has to do with the way in which they can be used.
Die grinders, due to their small and lightweight nature, as well as their single-handle design, can easily be used with just one hand. This makes them very convenient if you need to have your other hand free to do something else or to hold the workpiece.
An angle grinder, due to its larger and heavier design, is required to have a two-handle design. In other words, with an angle grinder, you hold the shaft at the rear, as well as the horizontal stabilization handle located near the head or disc of the angle grinder. You need two hands to use angle grinders. Although, as you will find out later on, this does allow for a great deal of versatility.
Another simple difference between these two tools is how they are powered. Yes, there are a select few electric die grinders out there, but most of them are actually pneumatic.
This means that they are powered by compressed air. This can be a good thing because it allows them to spin at great speeds, but they do require a constant source of compressed air.
Then you have the angle grinder which is exclusively electric in nature. There are both cordless and corded versions. That said, you would be very hard-pressed to find a pneumatic angle grinder.
Something else to consider here is that due to the way in which they are powered, as well as the size differences, angle grinders and die grinders differ a lot in how much power they each have.
With a die grinder, you can expect it to have somewhere around 1/4 to 1/2 horsepower. On the other hand, the vast majority of angle grinders out there have 1.8 horsepower, or even up to 2.5 horsepower, depending on the type you get. This then of course affects their performance.
Based on these power levels, you can probably tell that die grinders are ideal for dealing with smaller items that are fairly thin, and mostly need polishing or light grinding.
With angle grinders, due to their much higher level of power, they can be used to deal with much larger and thicker materials, even for cutting metal. Angle grinders have a lot of sheer cutting force which die grinders just cannot muster.
Speed and Precision Work
Another notable difference between angle grinders and die grinders has to do with the speed at which they spin their attachments. What is interesting to note is that although angle grinders are larger and more powerful, they actually spin slower than die grinders.
A die grinder can spin at a speed of anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 RPM, whereas an angle grinder usually tops out at around 11,000 or 12,000 RPM.
This speed difference allows die grinders to work with smaller attachments designed for precision work, such as diamond head cutters, point wheels, and carbide burrs. Due to their smaller size, higher speed, and ability to work with small attachments, die grinders are therefore ideal for precision work.
Something important to note here is that die grinders can perform a whole lot of tasks, but something they cannot do is cut, especially through something like metal.
With an angle grinder, on the other hand, you can hold it sideways and use it more or less a saw. Doing so is quite effective for cutting through pipes and other such workpieces.
Curved or Flat Surfaces
Seeing as die grinders have small and circular heads which are curved, they are ideal for working with complex internal designs, for working with curved edges and corners, and for polishing and grinding holes.
On the other hand, because an angle grinder has a large and flat disc head, it is best used for flat surfaces as well as large, curved, external surfaces. Angle grinders are larger and better for working with bigger workpieces.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
If you got all the way here but are still not sure which of the two tools is better for your use case, continue reading. Below are a couple of typical scenarios in which you might want to purchase either of the tools.
Starting with the angle grinder, get one if you:
- Need to mainly do grinding and cutting
- Are working on larger, flat, and exterior surfaces
- Need a machine with a whole lot of power
- Need to cut or grind very tough and heavy materials
- Are looking for a steady tool that is ideal for two-handed use
On the other hand, get a die grinder if you:
- Need a smaller and more versatile tool that can handle many attachments
- Need something lightweight that can be used with a single hand
- Are doing small precision work
- Are working with interior and smaller surfaces
- Don’t need to work with overly thick or tough materials
The bottom line is that both die grinders and angle grinders have their distinct advantages and applications which they are ideal for. Before you get either of these power tools, consider which tasks you plan on performing with them, and then go from there.
You might also want to consider a cut-off tool.