How do I choose the right grinding wheel for weld prep and cleanup?
Grinding wheels vary in shape, size, and aggressiveness. When choosing a grinding wheel, it is important to know what tool it will be used on, and what material you'll be working with. At ShopWeldingSupplies.com, we believe in the safe and effective use of any tool in your shop. That's why we only stock brands we know and trust. At the time we're writing this article, you'll find PFERD and Walter brand grinding wheels in our store.
Know what tool you'll be using
Wheels are manufactured to run below certain speeds (rpms). Never exceed the safe operating speed listed by the manufacturer. The RPM rating is printed right on the wheel label. If your tool (such as an angle grinder) has various RPM speeds, make sure the speed is set within the limits of the grinding wheel you're using. In addition, make sure you're using a grinding wheel that fits your tool. Never try to use a larger grinding wheel than what your grinder or other abrasive tool is designed to handle. That's scary, and it'll get someone hurt.
Once you've got a grinding wheel that'll fit your tool and match your tool's RPM rating, you'll need to make sure that the wheel is a good match for the material you will be grinding and not to use the same wheel on different types of alloys. For example, you wouldn't want to use the same wheel you just finished grinding carbon steel on to grind stainless. We know, people do it all the time but you can cause contamination of the stainless steel. We don't recommend it.
Common Grinding Wheel Materials
The abrasive part of the grinding wheel varies from wheel to wheel. The abrasive is the part of the wheel that does the actual cutting - It's the business end. An abrasive should be chosen that best fits the material you're working on. We've outlined some of the common abrasive materials below:
Aluminum oxide a common abrasive and is used on carbon steel, alloy steel and high strength steels.
Zirconia alumina wheels provide an extra aggressive and durable abrasive but need a more powerful tool to get the benefits of the grain. They can be used on a wide range of steels and other alloys.
Silicon carbide is often a choice for grinding nonferrous and softer metals plus are well suited for masonry applications.
Ceramic abrasives are newer to the market (i.e. ceramic aluminum oxide). These tend to have a higher hardness and strength and are effective on difficult to grind applications.
Most reputable manufacturers will provide you with a guide to help you match your wheel to the correct material to be worked. PFERD and Walter both do, and if you aren't sure we can help! Just reach out to us and we'll provide you with some first-class technical support.
But wait, there's more!
In addition to the type of abrasive, the bond, grit, size, thickness and shape of the wheel are other factors to consider when choosing your grinding wheel. Most manufacturers use a standard code to identify the wheel. It will contain type, grit, and bond hardness. Again, it is vital to match the wheel with your tool, and the material you are working with. Always consult the manufacturer's specification when choosing a wheel. If you aren't sure, we'll do our best to help you. Just ask.
Manufacturers of abrasive products differ in quality, selection and price. It is important to note that even the same type, grit, style and size abrasives will vary in quality based on the bonds, materials, and manufacturing methods used by the maker. The life and effectiveness of a grinding wheel will depend on those factors as well as proper operating techniques. At ShopWeldingSupplies.com, we carry premium abrasives, and sometimes the price is a bit higher, but you'll see that they last longer than the cheap stuff and you'll end up save time and money by using quality products.
There's a lot to consider when choosing the right grinding wheel for what you're working on. We hope this guide helped steer you in the right direction. Do your research to make sure you're using the right product for your application. Buying quality abrasives means you'll spend less time changing out your wheels, you'll get more done, and you'll stay safe. Needless to say, all wheels are not created equal. Choose wisely, and remember that we're here to help.
- Eli Winkle