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Cut Off Tool vs Angle Grinder

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Cutting and sharpening metals is certainly a challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge we like. However, for it to be efficient and enjoyable, it needs the right tools.

Here’s where it gets tricky; the market is saturated with tools. The abundance of options makes it extra hard to find the one suited for your work and budget.

We’ve narrowed the search down to cut-off tools and angle grinders. Both tools work perfectly when it comes to cutting metals.  They do, however, have some decisive differences we’ll outline in this article. 

What is an Angle Grinder?

An angle grinder, also known as a disc or a side grinder, is a compact power tool that’s slightly bigger than a cut-off tool. It has a sturdy motor with a power of 3-7 HP and a large grinding disc, measuring between 4 ½” to 9 inches.

An angle grinder cutting through metal

The cutting blade is placed on a spindle in the same direction as the trigger. Unlike the cut-off tool, it’s at an angle to the driveshaft rather than perpendicular to it. Despite the angle, it can still get close enough to remove tiny parts of a machine, such as frozen bolts.

It comes with two handles, one parallel to the blade and an extra handle to allow full control. There’s also a blade guard as a safety addition to prevent injuries.

What Is an Angle Grinder Used for?

The best angle grinders are incredibly versatile tools, not only for cutting, but also grinding and sharpening. They can cut all types of materials including wood, plastic, steel and rebar, but they are most commonly used on metal.

They work well on metals of different thickness including heavy-duty applications as well as masonry like bricks.

How Does an Angle Grinder Work?

An angle grinder is a robust tool with immense ability and flexibility.  It can be disabled and reassembled or attached to different blades to serve a variety of different functions.

It’s also powered by electricity, batteries or air pressure, but has a much more powerful motor that can cut through thick metal bars, beams, and sheets as well as other materials.

The cutting disc is larger making it fast and efficient to work with, even in large materials. However, the large disc isn’t ideal for detailing and precision work.

What is a Cut-Off Tool?

A cut-off tool is a small, handheld tool used for cutting and sharpening metals. It’s around 6 inches from head to bottom. It has a cutting blade aligned perpendicularly to its driveshaft.

Man using a cut off tool to remove a cast

The tool also has a strong motor with a power of 1 HP. It’s run by electricity, battery or pneumatic power.

It’s lightweight and can be operated with one hand, which is an important advantage. Nevertheless, it might be inconvenient for some as it doesn’t give them full control over the work.

What Is a Cut-Off Tool Used for?

Because of their weight and size, they’re more suited for cutting thin metal pieces and tiny welding beads rather than thick material. It’s particularly handy in tight spots, even under the hood of a car.

How Does a Cut-Off Tool Work?

As we mentioned earlier, a cut-off tool is powered by electricity, batteries or air pressure. The latter is the original and most common method of operation, as pneumatic power is the most powerful.

On the other hand, corded or cordless cut-off tools are ones powered by electricity or batteries respectively. They’re safer and easier to handle than pneumatic ones, allowing them to be well-suited for beginners. They’re, nonetheless, a bit weaker which limits their use to light-duty work. 

It should also be noted that a cut-off tool has a small cutting disc, measuring around 3 inches. Although the compact size makes it ideal for precision work, it can be cumbersome and time-consuming to use it on larger pieces of metals.

Cut-Off Tool vs. Angle Grinder

Although cut-off tools and angle grinders appear quite similar and can be used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences that might not be obvious for the inexperienced eye. 

Here’s a guide on what they have in common and what they don’t:

Man using an angle grinder to cut through metal

Similarities

Cut-off tools and angle grinders are both cutting tools made up of the same parts and powered by the same methods. For example, both tools have these parts aligned in different ways:

  • A cutting disc or blade
  • A driveshaft
  • A handle
  • A Motor

They also run on the same energy systems, which come in one of these three types:

  • Cordless
  • Corded
  • Pneumatic

Differences

Despite the things the two tools have in common, they do have many structural and functional differences.

Use

You have to determine what you need the tool for and what kind of work you do more often. A cut-off tool is used for cutting metals, obviously while an angle grinder can do so much more.

Angle grinders can be utilized in cutting and removing corrosion from metals, polishing other tools and sharpening lawnmower blades. It’s a very adaptable tool, with plenty of applications on a variety of different materials, including:

Operation

Cut-off tools and angle grinders don’t work in the same way. Angle grinders are larger and heavier which makes them need a bigger space to operate, while cut-off tools can easily squeeze in tight spots.

Person cutting metal using an angle grinder

In terms of dexterity, a cut-off tool is operated using one hand, which is convenient since it’s light in weight. However, some people with poor coordination might find it difficult to work with. On the other hand, an angle grinder has two handles and is heavier usually needing both hands.

Besides, there’s also a difference in the placement of the cutting blade in relation to the driveshaft, and as a result a difference in operation and positioning. In a cut-off tool, the blade is aligned perpendicularly to its driveshaft, while in an angle grinder it’s placed at an angle.

Safety

Working with cutting tools is especially dangerous. They account for several thousand emergency room visits a year. The only way to avoid or reduce its risk is by following the safety precautions carefully. 

Regardless of whether you’re using a cut-off tool or an angle grinder, the safety procedures are similar and equally important. Here’s what you can do:

  • Always put on protective gear such as aprons and gloves.
  • Eye goggles are of utmost importance to protect your eye from sparks.
  • Wear a nose mask to protect your lungs from interstitial lung disease caused by dust particles.
  • Put on noise-canceling headphones to protect your ears from long-term sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Make sure you unplug the tools or turn off the power after usage.
  • Never leave your tools unattended around children.
  • Make sure you carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions manual before usage.

When it comes to which tool is safer, the jury is still out. Angle grinders have blade guards that protect your hands from injury. However, cut-off tools have less powerful motors and produce less noise pollution.

Price

Deciding what your budget and what is it you’re getting out of it before shopping is important.

Generally, a cut-off tool is more affordable than an angle grinder, as it has fewer uses, uses less power and works on a narrow range of materials. With a basic cost-benefit analysis, a cut-off tool might be a reasonable option for you if you’re a beginner or an amateur.

Man smiling and holding an angle grinder instead of a cut off tool

On the other hand, an angle grinder is quite expensive as it offers more power and versatility. It’s 5 different tools in one. So the question you should ask yourself is whether or not you want to invest in such a tool and if you’d compromise on the budget for stamina, durability, and adaptability. 

The blades in either of the two tools are very affordable and roughly cost the same. Therefore, the blades aren’t a deciding factor in the budget question.

The Verdict

Once you go for a cutting tool, a saw is a no-go. There’s no coming back. Nevertheless, choosing a tool for your work is a whole different kind of challenge. It’s one that needs careful thought and assessment of your needs and budget.

In the end, if we had to choose between a cut-off tool and an angle grinder, we would opt for the angle grinder. While more expensive, it is far more powerful and versatile. You’ll be able to use the tool in a wide variety of situations. 

Alternatively, if you’re more concerned with precision and detailed work, go for a cut-off tool. The tool is perfectly suited for detailed work. 

Finally, whatever is the option you go for, always follow the safety precautions every time you use your cutting tool, safety always comes first.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.