Welder using grinding wheel on metal pipe with sparks flying

Cut-Off Wheels for Grinders: What to Know Before You Buy

If you’re getting involved in any DIY project that necessitates a grinder, then you might be wondering what kind of tools and materials you need.

Cut-off wheels are essential equipment for many jobs, but if you’re unfamiliar with them and their purpose, you might be confused about how to differentiate them.

In this guide, we aim to provide you with all the knowledge you could need on what cut-off wheels are, what makes them different from one another, and more.

What Is a Cut-Off Wheel?

Cut-off wheels are similar to grinding wheels but aren’t quite the same. Grinding wheels will use rough surfaces to slowly whittle away large chunks of material, whereas cut-off wheels (also known as cutting wheels) do things differently.

It is a thinner wheel than a grinding wheel, and they use this to their advantage to make small but deliberate cuts to materials to chip away at them.

While they work a bit slower than grinding wheels, the benefit they bring to the table is that they allow their user to be more precise about what materials are being taken off and where.

Cut-off wheels are used in various circumstances, including metallographic cutting, to deliver carefully crafted results that deliver stellar finished projects.

With careful 90-degree cuts, cut-off wheels allow users to craft out their materials as they work on them, which is one of the main things separating them from grinding wheels, which are rougher.

Sure, grinding wheels allow you to chip away at more material at once, but you won’t get as exact a result.  Studded diamond abrasive cut-off wheels

Types of Cut-Off Wheels

Different cutting wheels come with different grits. A wheel's abrasiveness determines what kind it is – grit levels vary from very coarse to ultra-fine.

These grit levels allow users to choose exact tools to ensure the materials they are working with are handled as they should be.

A type 1 cutting wheel is the most common kind of cut-off wheel. It is missing a depression in its center, giving you more of a work surface to utilize.

It also has a reputation for being one of the easiest cutting wheels to use. It is widely regarded as a fantastic all-purpose cutter.

While it might not do some things as well as more specific cutting wheels, it can perform on most types of cutting without much fuss.

A type 27 cutting wheel comes with a depressed center. This depression aims to give users more clearance when handling materials.

However, this can make this type of cutting wheel more challenging to use for beginners.

The main difference between type 1 and 27 is that type 1 cut-off wheels are usually used exclusively for cutting, while type 27 also has some grinding applications as well.

Materials Used in Cut-Off Wheels

Different cut-off wheels make use of different abrasive materials for varying results. For instance, aluminum oxide is one common type of abrasive material used.

This material is used for blending and deburring and can be used on non-ferrous materials, wood, and other materials. It is tough, cheap, and an excellent choice for beginners because of its all-purpose nature.

If you’re working with any commonly-come-across material, aluminum oxide is probably the right pick to cut it with.

If you’re looking for a harder material that is better for precision cutting, ceramic will likely be your best option. It’s ideal for the precise grinding of a number of different kinds of metals, making it supremely sought-after for all types of cut-off wheels. It’s also a great pick if you’re cutting exotic materials you don’t want to be damaged by friction because ceramic cut-off wheels deliver cooler cutting temperatures.

Stack of cut-off wheels for grinders

Safety Tips for Cut-Off Wheels

Cutting wheels can be very dangerous to use, so here are some things to keep in mind before using them:

  • Ensure you always wear proper protective gear. Cut-off wheels spin at an extremely high rate, so it’s recommended that users wear protective eyeglasses and coverings to protect exposed skin and orifices from bits of material that might fly off when being cut or ground down.
  • Ensure that you are using the properly-sized disc for your cut-off wheel.
  • Ensure you are operating at or below the wheel’s maximum operating speed.
  • Conduct a test for a minute or two before actually doing any cutting. This can clue you into any potential problems with the wheel, i.e., whirring, unexpected noises, smoking, etc.

These are just the highlights of the most important safety tips to keep in mind when using cut-off wheels. Remember to always follow the instructions laid out for you in your cut-off wheel’s owner’s manual.

Final Words

Now that we’ve been able to fill you in on the basics of cut-off wheels and their uses, we hope you feel more informed about them. Cut-off wheels are a handy tool when you need to do precise material cutting, so knowing the basics of how they function can help you greatly in the long run.

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