Cut-Off Tool vs Angle Grinder: A Comparison Guide

When it comes to cutting tools, there are several saws and handheld rotary tools to choose from. Sometimes it can be confusing when to distinguish one from the other. For instance, what can a cut-off tool do that an angle grinder can’t and vice versa? Both cut-off tools and angle grinders are handheld power tools that can be used to cut and sharpen metal. Two main features can help you tell them apart – the size of the cutting disc and the orientation of the blade.

BOSCH Angle Grinder

Angle Grinder

In this article, we’ll talk about what each of these is, what they can do, and which of them would be the better overall tool to own.

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What is a Cut-Off Tool?

A cut-off tool is a small, handheld tool with a disc that’s fitted perpendicularly to the shaft. They usually have motors of less than 1 HP, so they’re not designed for cutting through thick slabs of metal. Instead, if there are tiny welding beads or thin metal pieces that need to be sliced off, a cut-off tool would be the go-to tool to use.

What can a Cut-Off Tool do?

The most common size cutting disc on a cut-off tool is 3 inches. The small-sized blade makes the tool ideal for cutting through thin pieces of metal and tiny welding beads. The tool is also rather compact – about six inches from head to bottom – so fitting into tight spaces under the hood of your car is possible with one of these tools in your hand.

Cut-off tools can use one of two sources of power – air and electricity. Pneumatic cut-off tools are the more powerful variety and are primarily used for automotive jobs such as cutting off hose clamps, mufflers, bolts, and sheet metal. Electric cut-off tools are larger than their pneumatic counterparts but pack a weaker punch. They’re mainly used for light-duty metalwork like cutting conduits and sheet metal.

Cut-Off Tool

Cut-Off Tool

Downsides of a Cut-Off Tool

Whether you want to consider it a drawback or not, the cut-off tool comes with a small-diameter cutting disc meant for precision work. For large projects, this is an inefficient tool that would take forever or be unable to slice through thick metal bars and beams.

What is an Angle Grinder?

An angle grinder also referred to as a side grinder or disc grinder, is a handheld power tool that can be used for a wide range of applications. Compared to a cut-off tool, an angle grinder comes with a much larger grinding disc – between 4-1/2 and 9 inches – for heavy-duty jobs.

The disc is locked onto a spindle and juts outward in the direction of the trigger. The blade is parallel to the handle and comes with a blade guard to protect your hands and fingers from accidentally making contact with the spinning disc. There’s also a second handle (movable from left to right) that gives you a better grip and better control when grinding and buffing.

Makita Angle Grinder

Angle Grinder

What can an Angle Grinder do?

An angle grinder can be used on many different materials – plastic, metal, mortar, and wood. It’s a handy tool to have regardless of what type of work you do.

Angle grinders are extremely versatile tools that can do just about anything that any rotary tool can do. Cutting welding beads, buffing your vehicle’s body, finishing woodworking projects, getting rid of pesky nails, eliminating rust, grinding mortar in preparation for tuckpointing – the list goes on.

This tool is mainly found in metalworking and automotive shops for cutting thick bars, nuts, hose clamps, beams, poles, and sheet metal. However, woodworkers looking to make final touches on their products and plumbers who need to cut through copper pipes can also find value in an angle grinder.

Cut-Off Tool

Cut-Off Tool

Downsides of an Angle Grinder

When working in cramped spaces like closets or under the hood of your car, an angle grinder’s large disc can be quite troublesome. Imagine trying to maneuver the tool to the side of your car’s engine to chop through a rusted nut only to accidentally shave away at the engine’s cover. Not a pretty thought…

Another downside of having such a large grinding wheel is that an angle grinder isn’t exactly the right tool for detailing. If you want to add fancy carvings in stone or need to chop through small, delicate metal bars, we recommend sticking to a die grinder or even a cut-off tool.


Angle Grinder

Cut-Off Tool vs. Angle Grinder – Which is Better?

So now we that understand what a cut-off tool and an angle grinder can do, how do we determine which of them is the overall better tool to have?

Ultimately, it depends on what you plan on doing. Take a look at the size of the materials you use regularly. If you need to slice through anything thicker than 3 inches, then a cut-off tool isn’t the right tool for the job. If you primarily deal with tiny pieces or thin sheets of aluminum, then an angle grinder might be overkill.

Cut-Off Tool

Cut-Off Tool

You should also be aware of where you plan on performing your cutting tasks. An angle grinder won’t be able to fit into cramped spaces so unless you plan on working out in the open, a cut-off tool for cutting through metal would be the better option.

The good thing about both cut-off tools and angle grinders is that they’re not too amazingly expensive to purchase. Also, if you’re looking to give your air compressor a workout, there are pneumatic versions of both of these tools. They also require about the same PSI and CFM count so if your air compressor works for one; it’ll work for the other as well.

Final Remarks

Like so many rotary tools out there, the differences between a cut-off tool and an angle grinder are minor. They can both be used to saw off pieces of metal, but the difference in blade size indicates that one is for smaller tasks while the other can handle larger projects. Choose the tool that you’ll end up using more depending on what type of tasks you have at hand.

PORTER-CABLE Angle Grinder

Angle Grinder

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