Industrial surface grinding wheel working in machine shop

Surface Grinding Wheels – What to Know Before You Buy

A surface grinding wheel is used to grind and shape surfaces to a more desired shape and smoothness. They are essential equipment in metalworking, woodworking, masonry, and more. They are made from various abrasive particles, which are bonded together into a round, disk-like shape that can be used by a handheld grinder tool.

While most surface grinding wheels have the same basic purpose, you must choose the correct type for your specific project and needs. Not only can using an incorrect surface grinding wheel negatively impact the quality of your work, but it can also damage your workpiece and even pose a potential injury risk.

This is where we can help! Not only will we explain what you should consider when choosing a surface grinding wheel, but we will also explain how to use them effectively and safely!

What Is a Surface Grinding Wheel?

As mentioned, a surface grinding wheel is an abrasive wheel used for various grinding applications. Essentially, they are replaceable components in grinding tools that can be made from various materials and with numerous grit ratings.

They can vary in size, thickness, and composition, as the surface grinding wheel must match the needs of its intended purpose. While most are used for industrial and professional purposes, they are also used by hobbyists and homeowners.

Types of Surface Grinding Wheels

There are numerous types of surface grinding wheels available. Each is designed for a specific purpose, which is why it is worth familiarizing yourself with the most common types:

Straight Surface Grinding Wheels

These are the most common type, and they are used mostly for flat surface grinding work. The simple design involves shaping the abrasive material into a flat, disc-like shape. The wheel size and the abrasive materials it is made from can differ, but all have an even and flat outer surface.

Cylinder Surface Grinding Wheels

As the name suggests, these surface grinding wheels are designed for shaping and cutting cylindrical surfaces like pipes and tubes. The grinding wheel also has a cylindrical shape, which can be found in various lengths and sizes.

Dish Grinding Wheels

These unique grinding wheels have a dish-shaped profile, which protrudes at the edges. They are usually used for grinding contoured surfaces, as well as for polishing and finishing flat surfaces. Since they are designed for more complex jobs, they are commonly used in industries that need to produce items with precise edges and finishes.

Tapered Surface Grinding Wheels

As the name implies, these grinding wheels shape and grind tapered surfaces. The wheel is also tapered, meaning it is thicker at one end than the other. This gives them a cone-like appearance, which makes it easier to work on difficult-to-reach surfaces.

They are also very useful for smoothing and finishing rounded surfaces, as they are very manoeuvrable.

Choosing the Right Surface Grinding Wheel

Surface grinding wheels on blue background

Now that you know a bit more about surface grinding wheels, we can understand how you choose the correct option for your specific needs. The following are some of the most important factors you should always take into consideration:

What Type of Material Will You Be Grinding?

Determine what types of materials you will be grinding, as this will inform your decision on what your grinding wheel should be made from.

The abrasive material that surface grinding wheels are made from varies according to the needs of the material it will be used on. Aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, and even industrial diamonds are all used as the primary abrasive materials in a grinding wheel, and each has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.

For example, aluminum oxide grinding wheels work well on steel and other metals that contain iron, while silicon carbide wheels work better on non-metallic materials, like stone.

What Is the Hardness of the Material?

Will you grind softer surfaces, like aluminum tubing, or much harder surfaces, like thick steel? This will help you choose the correct grinding wheel, as you want to choose one made from an abrasive material that can handle the heat and wear that occurs when grinding that type of surface.

Grit Size You Will Need

The size of the grit on the exterior of your grinding wheel will determine how smooth or rough the finish will be on the surfaces you use it on. Smaller grit wheels produce a smoother finish, so they are more suited to finishing and polishing work, while larger grit sizes are better for jobs where you need to remove more material, but smoothness matters less.

Wheel Size and Compatibility

You also need to consider the size of the grinding wheel, which will depend on the size of the surface you will be grinding and the physical size of the tool you will be using. Naturally, large wheels are better suited to grinding large surfaces, while smaller wheels work better for smaller, more detailed jobs.

Tips for Choosing the Right Surface Grinding Wheel

  • Research – Research the types of materials you will be grinding and find surface grinding wheels capable of working on that particular material. You can also research brands by reading reviews from both professional and non-professional reviewers.
  • Compatibility – Check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific grinding tool to ensure it can accept the type of grinding wheel you are looking at. Using a grinding wheel that is not designed to be used in your tool can damage the wheel and the grinding machine itself.
  • Professional Consultation – If you are still unsure about your needs, consider consulting with a professional. They will be able to recommend the correct type of grinding wheel for your needs and may even offer advice on proper use and how often it should be replaced.

How to Use a Surface Grinding Wheel

Before using a surface grinding wheel, you must understand the appropriate safety precaution and how to use the correct technique.

Safety Precautions

Construction safety gear on wooden surface

Wear Personal Protective Equipment at All Times

No matter what you are using a surface grinding wheel for, always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This means wearing shatterproof safety glasses, hearing protection, fitted protective gloves, and a dust mask or respirator.

Follow Safe Operating Procedures

  • Check that the grinding wheel is installed and mounted correctly in your grinding tool or machine.
  • Inspect the grinding wheel for cracks and other visible signs of damage.
  • Secure the workpiece.
  • Ensure that your fingers and other body parts are always away from the grinding wheel, even if it is not in operation.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the grinding wheel and the grinding tool you are using.
  • Wait for the grinding wheel to come to a complete stop after you have turned the machine off. Ensure that it is unplugged before touching the grinding wheel.

For more information about the safe use of surface grinding wheels, we highly recommend visiting the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHA) Regulations for Abrasive Wheel Machinery.

Surface Grinding Techniques

Using a surface grinding wheel is just as important as making sure you choose the correct one. Not only is it essential to use the right grinding techniques for good results, but it is also important for your work's overall safety.


Position the wheel at the correct angle and height to make clean and even contact with your work surface. Always hold the tool with two hands to ensure a firm grip and controlled movements. Ensure that whatever you work on is secured and will not move when the grinding wheel touches it.


Apply an even and controlled amount of pressure. Understand that applying too much pressure can damage the wheel and the piece you are working on, while too little pressure will result in poor results that take much longer to achieve.


Your grinding tool will operate at various speeds, so using a speed that your grinding wheel can withstand is vital. Grinding wheels have various speed ratings, which reflect the temperatures they can withstand.

In general, slower speeds are better for grinding harder materials, while fast speeds remove materials quickly and smoothly, making them better for detail work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a surface grinding wheel and a bench grinder wheel?

A surface grinding wheel grinds smooth, relatively flat surfaces, while bench grinder wheels are used more for shaping and sharpening. To achieve these two purposes, the two types of grinding wheels have different shapes and are often made from different materials.

How often should I replace my surface grinding wheel?

There is no specific time you should wait before replacing a grinding wheel, as it will depend on how worn out it is. The type of materials being ground, the quality of the grinding wheel, and the way it is used will impact its lifespan. Visually inspect the grinding wheel for signs of wear. If it is damaged or it has worn away to half of its original thickness, replace it.

How do I know which grit size to use for my project?

Consider the types of materials you will be grinding and the finish you hope to achieve. Larger and coarser grits have low numbers and are better for quickly removing larger and harder materials.

Fine grits have higher number ratings and are better for smoother finishes, but they struggle with removing larger materials. This is why they are more suited to finishing and polishing work.

Final Words

To purchase your own surface grinding wheels, visit our Grinding Wheel Collection.

We carry a variety of high-quality grinding wheels from Wrenna Abrasives. Feel free to contact us if you have questions about the grinding wheels we carry!

For More Information

We recommend watching That Lazy Mechanist’s informative video guide to Surface Grinding Basic Principles and Operations if you want to learn more about surface grinding.

We also offer an informative and comprehensive guide to Concrete Grinding Wheels and a thorough Metal Grinding Wheel Guide packed with useful tips and tricks.

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