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Grinding Metal: How to Select the Right Tool for the Job

Kevin Caron: I received an e-mail the other day from one of my YouTube video subscribers, who said, "I've watched some of your videos and I've seen you using all different kinds of equipment in your studio. How do you choose which piece of equipment to use, and when? For example, a grinder; sometimes you use big ones; sometimes you use little ones."

Let me get some grinders out and show you. Come over here.

It really depends on what type of metal work you are doing. There are many different kinds of grinders from the great, big, heavy-duty (I hate to say the name, but everybody knows what the big red one is). It's a big, two-handed monster that you would use when you need to remove a lot of metal, such as when I need to grind down a big weld on one of my large metal sculptures. Or, if you need to cut something loose with it, you can turn it and use it like a little chop saw.

There's also a little one-handed grinding tool. I use this one one-handed grinder for doing detail work. You can put different types of flex pads and different grits of pads.

You can put a real heavy grit on it and get a lot of work done, or you can go to the lighter grits where you can smooth out all the little marks and make your metal bright and shiny.

You can get these same pads for the big grinder, so you can work back and forth.
You can use the stones or you can use the pads on it. You can even get masonry pads for grinding off a piece of concrete, or smoothing off a seam. Or metal pads; it?s very versatile.

The Voice: What are those called? Grinders, or?

Kevin Caron: These are grinders, hand-held grinders. This is seven-inch grinder. (The red one). And this is a four-and-a-half-inch grinder. And here you have the corresponding grinding pads; pads or wheels to go with them.

The Voice: Do they sometimes call those angle grinders?

Kevin Caron: Yes, these are also called angle grinders. This is actually a piece of woodworking equipment. This is a detailed belt-sander. It's only three eighths of an inch wide, but you can get the different adapter; the different arm to go out to a half an inch wide, if you want.

I've found these metal belts online so I can use this wood tool as a metal working tool, for grinding a tight little hole, such as when you want to get down inside something like a pipe. Great, great little tool for reaching down in there.

And of course there are the air powered tools: a little angle grinder, just like those, but instead of 90-degree angle grinder, this is a 45-degree. It has little flex pads that go on here and little sanding pads that go on the end of it. These come from one inch up to three or four inches wide, with all kinds of different grits.

Then you get into the Dremels. This is what everybody knows as a Dremel, the little electric ones with the eighth-inch collet on it with a little grinder, or little burrs, up to the big air-powered ones. There?s even a little pencil grinder with the burrs on it. Then there are all kinds of wood burrs and metal burrs - the choices are endless.

There's always going to be the right tool for the right job, especially for a metal artist; but these are the most important ones: safety glasses, hearing protection, and gloves. Wear them!

The Voice: How do you choose electric versus pneumatic tools?

Kevin Caron: I really can't answer that. I know I like this die grinder versus the pencil grinder because it's really powerful. I can put the bigger burrs in it, or the longer burrs. But this one is really easy to get down into something, even with a glove on, if you need to shave a little weld off or shave a little edge off.

This grinder, on the other hand, is just a big horse. It's hard to get down in tight spaces. I don't use this one very often. I've actually found that the air-powered pencil grinder works just as well as the electric Dremel, and I can run the quarter-inch burrs over the eighth-inch burrs and these don't snap as much as those.

I think it comes down to experience. It's just using them and playing with them. It's finding out what they'll do and what they won't.

Hope that helps. See you next time.

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