Whether you are a licensed mechanic or just handy around the house, often the deciding factor in finishing a project comes down to the tools at your disposal. Yes, skill and experience play a part, but having just the right equipment can make a big difference. After you’ve collected the basics, like hammer, saw, and screwdriver, there comes power tools. One of the most versatile power tools is the angle grinder.
An angle grinder is a power tool that allows the operator to apply a powerful, spinning disk to a surface or object. You can adjust the pressure or angle of attack as you go, since it’s a portable, maneuverable tool. By changing out the wheels (which are the part that actually contacts the surface you’re grinding), you can cut, grind, polish or buff. The applications for an angle grinder are many and varied. Need to make a part fit just right? Need to smooth out a rough surface? Need to cut the head off a jammed bolt so you can remove it? An angle grinder can do all those, and more.
If you’re in the market for an angle grinder, there are many different models from which to choose. It can be difficult to decide which is the best one for you. To help you, we’ve compared four of the top brands, focusing in on the 4 1/2 inch electric (corded) models. We have categorized three or four of the top factors that make any tool, but particularly an angle grinder, a good fit for your workshop or garage. First, is it worth your hard-earned money? How much do you get for that money – does it come with any extras or will those be separate purchases? Is it easy to use, that is: is it lightweight, is it easy to move around, are the handles and triggers well-placed, does it require tools to change wheels or configuration? And how does the manufacturer stand behind it? What’s the warranty, and what’s the reputation?
Because not every buyer is in the same situation, we are looking at three levels. First, there’s the buyer that prefers to buy the most powerful, best quality they can possibly afford. Second comes the person who wants to balance cost and features evenly. And lastly, someone who is just starting out and doesn’t want to drop a lot of cash.
Product / Rating / Price
- PORTER-CABLE PC60TAG Angle Grinder / 3.9/5 / $
- DEWALT DWE402 Angle Grinder / 4.8/5 / $$$
- Makita 9557PBX1 Angle Grinder / 4.4/5 / $$$
- Kawasaki 841428 Angle Grinder / 4.0/5 / $$
Top Quality Angle Grinder
If you want to buy the top of the line model and you do not care about the price, our pick is the DWE402 4-1/2-Inch 11-Amp Paddle Switch Angle Grinder. It only comes in the default brand color of yellow, and is beefy and durable. It is equipped with the most powerful motor among the ones we compared, an impressive 11 Amp AC/DC 11,000 rpm motor, giving it the best power to weight ratio. All that power finishes jobs quickly. To aid in overall durability, they’ve given it a Dust Ejection System that keeps dirt and debris, two things an angle grinder produces just in its normal operation, from clogging the motor and casing, a feature not found in any other angle grinder on this list. DeWalt means quality, and this grinder comes with the company’s 3 year limited warranty.
As for ease of use, the DeWalt DWE402 is a little heavier than the 9557PBX1, at 4.6 pounds vs. the Makita’s 4.6 pounds. The DeWalt uses a paddle switch instead of a trigger, which allows the operator to reach it from many different angles, helping the user more easily handle it during operation, increasing safety as a byproduct. The wheel guard is adjustable and can rotate a full 360 degrees, providing protection during use no matter how it is being applied to the work surface. Some users report that it’s on the large size, which can hinder operation, but overall that aids the tool in toughness. Unfortunately, changing out the wheel requires a key or an allen wrench, but that’s a minor flaw in an otherwise powerful and sturdy addition to your work bench.
Top Value Angle Grinder
If you’re looking for the best value angle grinder, the one that gives you the most extras and is the most overall useful for the money you’re spending, take a look at the Kawasaki 841428 4-1/2-Inch VS Angle 7.5-Amp Grinder. While lower in power than the DeWalt mentioned above, at only 7.5 Amps, which may make jobs take a little longer, the Kawasaki 841428 is a bit more versatile. That is because it is a variable speed angle grinder. The operator can adjust the speed of the wheel from 3,000 rpm, all the way up to full speed, 11,000 rpm. Even though it’s priced at a lower retail price than the DeWalt or the Makita, the variable speed means you can use this one on softer materials, or be more selective in how you apply it. That’s a valuable feature if you don’t need full power.
The unit is one of the heaviest among those we are comparing, at 5.7 pounds, but the manufacturer provides three different positions for the side handles, increasing the ways it can be applied, and reducing operator fatigue if you have a long project to finish. It is built with a paddle switch and does not have a locking switch; that’s lack of a lock-on switch is not necessarily a drawback since locking can increase the risk to an operator during use. The handle is padded and curved, also, giving it a nice hand feel. The manufacturer’s warranty is a 3 year limited one.
Top Starter Angle Grinder
Maybe an angle grinder will be a new addition to your kit, and you don’t know if it will be something you need often. You are just looking at one specific job, and it will go quicker if you have an angle grinder to use. You’re looking for a starter, to see if it will be useful to you, and you don’t want to invest too much on it. In that case, you will want to look at the PORTER-CABLE PC60TAG 6.0-Amp 4-1/2-Inch Angle Grinder. It will more than likely fit your needs. For the lowest overall price among the models we considered, it will give you a 6.0 Amp motor that runs at a full 11,000 rpm.
It is light in weight, only 4.1 pounds, and that weight does lead to some users’ complaint that it does not feel as rugged as the others we are comparing. Owners also report that it is loud, although that is a subjective measure. But if you just need this to finish that one project, those may not matter to you. The unit takes standard 4-1/2 inch wheels so you can change them out to turn it into a cutter, or a polisher, if necessary, with an additional purchase. The guard can be removed without the use of a tool, meaning you can give the wheel a smaller profile to reach into more places, albeit at the expense of a little more risk to a careless operator. But the guard can be moved to control the spark path, also.
The company, Porter-Cable, has a long history of providing quality tools, and the unit comes with a 3 year limited warranty, with a 1 year service contract providing repairs or replacement in the first year of use at no additional cost, with a 90 day money back guarantee, which should ease the mind of any new owner. While inexpensive, this unit will get your job done.
Lastly, we consider the Makita 9557PBX1 4-1/2-Inch Angle Grinder with Aluminum Case. This unit retails for around the same price point as the DeWalt unit we picked for top overall, price-no-object. The Makita would be a reasonable choice for many of the same buyers, though it does lack in some features. For one, at the same cost as the DeWalt, the Makita provides a less powerful motor: only 7.5 Amps. The unit itself is just a tad lighter than the DeWalt, at 4.5 pounds. What the Makita doesn’t provide in power, however, it does make up for in extras. It comes with a nice aluminum case for storage, and the manufacturer ships it with a Diamond Blade for cutting, and five additional 24 Grit grinding wheels for general purpose work. Add the Wheel Guard and side handle, and you’ve got a complete kit.
The construction of the body is described by the manufacturer as labyrinth, which is supposed to seal and protect the motor from accumulation of debris and extend the life of the unit. The paddle trigger includes a lock-on switch that makes longer tasks a little easier. It’s not a variable speed unit, unlike the less-expensive Kawasaki. And the warranty is only one year, which is the shortest warranty among the four we’re considering here. But if extras are what sells you on a product, the Makita 9557PBX1 does pack them in. You could not be faulted for choosing this model over the DeWalt DWE402, as they both would do the work. The Makita might just take a little longer to finish.