The recommendations list is drawn from some of the top power-tool manufacturers in each class of machines reviewed. These are manufacturers whose tools we have found from personal use to be of high quality, with attractive feature sets. Most are also brands generally found to be favored for quality and performance among serious tool-using professionals and craftsmen, in a wide variety of fields.
- Bosch: GWS9-45, GWS10-45E, GWS10-45PE, GWS18V-45
- Dewalt: DWE4012, DWE43113, DWE402, DCG413B
- Makita: GA4530X, GA4542C, GA4534, GA4530, 9557PB, 9564CV, XAG04Z
- Milwaukee: 6130-33, 6140-30, 6121-31, 6146-31, 6146-33, 6147-30, 6142-30, 2680-20
- Dremel: 4000, 3000, 8220
- Foredom Motor: M.SR, M.SRH
- Foredom Handpiece: H.44T, H.44HT
- Dewalt: DWE4887*
- Milwaukee: 5192*, 5194*, 2460-21
*1/8" collet included or optional
In selecting a grinder, there are a number of very individualized, personal-preference decisions you will likely have to make. Specific preferences can stem from your previous experience with power tools, the type of projects you plan to work on, etc. Below are listed some factors for your consideration when electing many of the tool types listed. Most of these apply both to the choice of an angle grinder for use with Kutzall Dish and Disc Wheels, and for various rotary tools for use with Kutzall Burrs.
There are several types of on-off switches on electrically-powered grinders. The type listed below are commonly found on angle grinders and many rotary grinders.
Slide switches: With a slide switch, the slider button moves fore and aft, and is often toggled with the thumb. Switches commonly are positioned on the side of the power tool, but also sometimes on the top. Slide switches feel pretty natural to manipulate from the normal operating hand position on the tool for many people, but a few find the position requires changing their grip position before activating or deactivating the switch.
Paddle switches: Paddle switches are typically wide, paddle shaped levers, most often on the underside of the tool at midsection, which can be operated with one or more fingers. They can be activated with your hands in the normal operating position on the tool.
Trigger switches: Trigger switches are much like the trigger on your power drill. They usually are mounted toward the rear of the tool, and are activated with the index finger.
Making a choice between these options is a very personal thing. Ideally, you can visit a merchant with a wide selection of tools, and manipulate different styles in your hands to see what feels best.
In addition to the above-mentioned switch types, certain specialty rotary grinders, such as the flex-shat tools, usually are used with a foot switch. This has obvious advantages from the standpoint of being able to toggle the grinder on and off, while having both hands free.
Lock on vs. non-lock-on switches
Within the variety of switch styles listed above, you also have the choice of locking or non-locking switches. A non-locking switch is like the gas pedal on your car, it only works when pressed. A locking switch is more like a car with cruise control, it has a button or other feature which allow the switch, once engaged to “on,” to remain in the on position, without constant finger pressure.
Again, the choice between the locking and non-locking switch design can be very personal. Some like the confidence-inspiring feel of a switch which can be immediately released to off when finger pressure is removed (think of how you like to be able to stop your drill immediately if a bit binds in a hole). Other users want to be able to manipulate their grip on the tool, or otherwise reposition their hands during use, and find a non-locking switch to be a constant annoyance.
Fixed-speed vs. variable-speed
While many grinders run at a fixed speed on household current, others have adjustable speed. The adjustable-speed option is another of those factors which are more or less attractive, depending on your work and personal preference. In general, those looking for the greatest flexibility and versatility across a wide range of projects will prefer the variable-speed option.
Some grinders come with a soft-start feature, so that the tool scrolls up to full speed gradually. The soft-start feature is not as useful with Kutzall tools as it might be with, for example, buffing wood or metals with polish. However, some find the gentle start-up feature comforting.
The power rating of a tool is an important indicator of how much work you can do with the tool in a given amount of time, i.e., “how hard can you work it?” Although different manufacturer’s tools show different weight penalties for greater power, other things being equal, you will generally end up with a heavier tool if you opt for more horsepower (a higher amp rating). For those working on large pieces, or with a lot of material to remove by grinding, a higher-power tool is probably the best choice. On the other hand, for those doing more detailed or smaller work, or expecting to have to handle the tool steadily for longer periods of time, a lighter-weight tool, even of lesser power might be a smarter choice.
Many DIY-types like cordless tools for their convenience around the house and garage. It has been our experience, though, that wood carvers and other craftsmen usually prefer the steady and reliable power output of corded tools. Most hobbyists and craftsmen have a fixed location that they usually work in, like a home workshop.
Issues specific to angle grinders
In addition to the general power tool attributes mentioned above, angle grinders have some specific areas to examine.
The first consideration on angle grinders is the spindle design. Most modern angle grinders sold in North America have a 5/8-11 threaded shaft. These typically come with a set of nuts or a nut and backing plate with 7/8” diameter shoulders for mounting accessories. The Kutzall Sanding Disc and Dish wheels have a 7/8” inside (arbor-hole) diameter, and mount onto these accessory mounting components. Please note that mounting a Kutzall Sanding Disc to the accessory adapters supplied with your grinder can sometimes require inverting one of the components. There are special, third-party stacking adapters available to allow mounting 7/8” I.D. accessories like a Kutzall Sanding Disc or Dish Wheel to older designs with a 3/8-24 threaded shaft.
Another consideration is that angle grinders can come with additional features which might be desirable to you.
Some angle grinders have a clutch mechanism in the head. This is intended to let the motor spin free if the tool accessory should bind or lock-up in a workpiece. The feature protects the gear-train from damage in a hard-stall situation.
Angle grinders can also be found with a braking feature, so that when the on switch is released, the grinder stops rotating very quickly. This, of course, is intended as a safety feature.
If these features are attractive to you, look for a grinder which offers them. Bear in mind, though, that added features might meant added cost, and added weight.
Issues specific to die grinders
While die grinders were conceived for the metal-working field, they offer a lot of power in a package that many craftsmen like for wood carving and similar tasks when using rotary burrs. Die grinders typically come with a ¼” shaft collet, and thus can use rather large rotary burrs for big jobs. The die grinders in the recommendations list all feature the ¼” collet, which works with the ¼” shaft size Kutzall Burrs. Some have an included reducer bushing, so that you can also use the smaller, 1/8” shaft size Kutzall Burrs. Even for those grinders not offering this included accessory, it is often possible to buy a sleeve or accessory collet which would allow for the use of 1/8” shaft burrs.
Die grinders can be had with somewhat greater power and physical size that those recommended here. Our recommendations are based on the lighter-duty usage that customers most often experience when wood carving. The really heavy die grinders are probably more suitable for ironworkers, or others who require a lot of power for intermittent, high-load applications, and are willing to deal with the much higher tool weight.
Issues specific to rotary grinders
“Rotary grinder” is a very broad term. Here we use it specifically to refer only to small electric hand grinders. Some might be marketed directly to woodcarvers, while others are often advertised as a do-anything household DIY tool. These can usually be easily balanced and maneuvered with just one hand, while manipulating the work piece in the other hand, and are very good for fine detailing work. Their overall size might be compared to a small to medium-sized banana, although some can be as small as a dental hand-piece. These are all pretty small as compared to die grinders, which are generally much larger and more powerful.
The primary attributes to consider on a rotary grinder are its size and manipulability, as well as the size tools it accommodates. For the smaller Kutzall Burrs, you want a tool with a 1/8” shaft collet. The rotary grinders are not normally able to handle tools with larger shaft sizes than 1/8”
Issues specific to flex-shaft tools
While the majority of flex-shaft tools are perhaps applied in the jewelry-making field, a great many carvers prefer flex this style of tool for their rotary-tool needs as well. With a flex-shaft tool, the motor hangs on a hook or other fixed support, and powers a covered flexible shaft, which connects to a rotary-tool hand piece. Flex-shaft tools have some significant advantages for many users. For one thing, the user pays no fatigue penalty for using a rather powerful machine, as the motor is supported by its support and not by the operator. The hand-piece, then, can be rather small, allowing for deft manipulation when doing very detailed work. Most grinder manufacturers offer a number of hand pieces, so the size and type of rotary burr or bit, and the accessibility to different kinds of work-pieces, are highly adjustable with the use of accessory hand-pieces. Possible the most limiting factor with a flex-shaft tool is the fixed length of the flex-shaft. One would not work over as large a physical area or work piece with a flex-shaft tool as could be done with the other types of tools discussed here.
As with all power tools, don’t forget to use proper eye protection and safety devices at all times!