Finding The Best Die Grinder For Your Woodworking
Recently, there was a very interesting reddit sub about selecting the best die grinder. A decade ago, most people who are not into metallurgy or machine work like grinding or sanding wouldn’t even have heard about a die grinder which is also known as a straight grinder.
Cut to today, there’s a whole subculture of people who prefer doing things themselves and with reddit and YouTube, handling specialized machinery is only getting easier.
Anyway, coming back to the reddit sub, it is that which spurred us to create this blog post. A die grinder is one of the most versatile tools ever. It is compact, allow you to reach and perform tasks in places that conventional bulky angle or bench grinders won’t be able to reach and most importantly, you can attach a whole bunch of tools to it to improve its versatility.
It is preferred for tasks that demand a certain amount of precision and detailing though. Some of the common tasks in which a die grinder is used are increasing the size of the bore for bolts, altering the size of door hinges, sanding your woodworking projects and buffing metal among others.
But, as always, first time buyers can be overwhelmed at the variety of shapes, sizes, air capacities and configurations that these tools are available in. And it is very easy to end up with an overpriced tool that’s not suitable for your application or just a poor quality one.
That’s precisely where we step in. We have been working with die grinders for over a decade now in our workshops and we have hands on expertise in spotting gimcracks from a mile away. We have worked with almost every single brand of die grinder that exists including Dewalt, Ingersol Rand, Chicago, Dynabrade and Husky. Today, we are going to share with you, our picks of the best die grinders in the market.
#1 – Ingersoll Rand 301B Air Angle Die Grinder
There is a reason why the 301B from Ingersol Rand is the #1 selling die grinder on Amazon. This is an ingeniously designed package that has a laundry list of amazing features that are considered to a premium at this price point.
Also, this makes it an excellent choice for hobbyists as well as professionals who are looking for a versatile go-to die grinder without breaking the bank.
Ingersol’s Rugged construction
The moment you hold the 301B in your hands, you’d know that this is a quality product. The aluminum housing feels solid and this can easily sustain vigorous use without a dip in performance. But it is not bulky, mind you. It weighs just a touch more than a pound and is approximately 5 inches in length. The slight added weight due to the aluminum casing and the bearings allow vibration-free performance and helps to improve balance even when using this in tight corners. From polishing to de-burring, the compact form factor clubbed with the right-angle configuration allow this to reach almost anywhere. Most importantly, an accidental fall isn’t going to damage it.
Accurate, fast and powerful
Beneath the housing of the Ingersol Rand 301B lies a very strong 0.25 HP motor that powers it to 21000 rpm. Powerful machined-steel gears give it the durability and the precision that your tasks demand. Run it at 90 PSI and you should have excellent performance. But for continual operation, this demands at least a 30-gallon compressor tank. For short term use, even a 10 gallon tank may suffice.
The 301B also has a safety-lock function where the unit auto-locks and prevents the throttle from being pressed accidentally. Like most of the other die grinders in this list, the Ingersol Rand 301B also has a front exhaust that keeps the work area clean and prevents the dust and debris from being blown straight on to your face.
- Durable aluminum housing
- Lightweight design (1.02 pounds)
- 25 HP motor
- 21000 free RPM
- Self-locking throttle mechanism
- Perfect for general purpose grinding as well as specialized tasks
- Priced under $60
- #1 bestselling die grinder on Amazon
#2 – Makita GD0601 1/4-Inch Die Grinder
If your tasks demand the precision and the durability of a professional grade tool, then the Makita GD0601 die grinder should be on the top of your wish list. Priced just above $100, it is not an overly expensive tool.
The quality, the ergonomic construction, the easy handling and the versatile potential applications, make this a favorite among technicians across industries that include automobiles, welders, plumbers and HVAC techs.
The Makita GD0601 is sleek and compact due to its stepped-neck design. It has a die-cast aluminum housing and weighs a tad above 3 pounds making it easy to handle even if you are positioned off-balance or trying to reach a crevice. The standout feature though is the internal construction that keeps the motor and the mechanisms protected from debris. There is a network of layers that are positioned like a labyrinth above the motor and this enhances the lifespan of the tool. That’s not all. The armature is secured with a zig-zag layer of varnish that prevents it from contamination when it is rotating.
Perfect Ergonomics For All-Day Use
Despite the slightly heavy profile, the Makita GD0601 has perfect ergonomics and intuitive controls that make it a breeze to use for all-day tasks. For example, it contains a sliding switch to power on/off which is positioned perfectly on the barrel grip allowing you to control the grinder any time with your fingers. Powering the grinder is a 3.5 AMP motor that delivers 25000 RPM. Air vents are placed both on the front and the rear that allow the debris and the dust to flow away from the user and this also keeps the motor cool even if you are using it continually. The Makita GD0601 features a AC/DC slot too that allows you to power the device using an alternative power source.
Also, the package includes a 1/4-inch collet cone and wrenches.
- Die-cast aluminum housing
- Internal labyrinth construction that protects the motor
- Weighs 3 pounds
- Zig-Zag varnish to protect the armature
- Ergonomic design with a perfectly positioned slide switch
- 5 AMP motor that delivers 25000 RPM
- AC/DC slot
#3 – DEWALT DWMT70783 Straight Die Grinder
Dewalt’s DWMT70783 is the only reliable die grinder in the entire market that is priced under $40. But don’t let that fool you into believing that this is any lesser than some of the higher priced models that you normally see. It may lack some of the bells and whistles for sure. But with an all-metal construction, a powerful motor and weighing less than 1 pound, it is the best die grinder for home use as well as for small professional set ups.
You’ve got to hand it over to Dewalt here. Despite pulling back on the price tag, there’s no tradeoff in quality or ergonomics. The DWMT70783 has an aluminum and plastic dual casing that will easily sustain wear and tear without hampering performance. The design is sleek (7 inches in length and approximately 2.3 inches wide) and easy to grip, thanks to the cushioned grip. You can easily maneuver this into tiny corners and crevices. The controls are kept to a bare minimum as expected at this price point. But Dewalt manages to spring a surprise by adding a speed control trigger on the casing. Accessing the trigger is easy and you can alter the speed on-the-go.
Impressive Feature Bundle
Dewalt throws in some extras into the package. You get a ¼ collet and one ¼ NPT male air hose connection which allows you to get started right out of the box. The Dewalt DWMT70783 also works with a 1/8 collet which is not included in the package though which is a slight let down. The performance of the grinder is top notch. It has a maximum 25000 RPM speed and a safety throttle that prevents it from getting started accidentally. Air vents are strategically directed away from the user and this also helps to improve the motor performance. Backed by Dewalt’s 3 year warranty and with these features, it offers unbelievable value for money and you’d be hard pressed to find a better die grinder at this price point.
- Aluminum casing
- Weighs less than 1 pound
- Compact form factor at 7 inches x 3 inches
- Ergonomic design with a cushioned grip for easy handling
- 25000 RPM
- Speed control switch
- Single touch throttle
- Safety lock which prevents it from switching on accidentally
- 3 year warranty
- Priced under $40
#4 – Chicago Pneumatic CP875 1/4-Inch 90 Degree Angled Air Die Grinder
The CP875 from Chicago Pneumatic is a right angled die grinder that is priced under $60. But the performance and the features rival any right angled grinder that is priced above $200-300. It is incredibly compact and that ‘incredible’ is added there for good reason because if you compare this with some of the other die grinders from Chicago Pneumatic, you’d think that you ended up with a toy instead.
Add to this, versatile performance and a flawless customer rating and you’d be tempted to pick this one right now.
Tiny But Powerful
At less than 7 inches in its length, the CP875 is truly pocket sized. If it were not for the right angled head, you’d serious consider slipping this into your pocket and heading out to work. To top it off, it weighs just 1.1 pounds. That translates into easy and deft maneuvers during tasks that demand precision. It also means that you get some much needed flexibility when you are using this in confined areas with little room to move. Another plus due to the limited size is that it is very silent. You can ditch those earplugs when you are using this. On the casing is a variable speed-control lever clubbed with a forward facing vent that directs debris away from you.
Excellent Torque And Speed
The grinder is fast and it is powered by a 0.3 HP motor that delivers 22,500 RPM. Also, this is one of the only die grinders that we have used that has the least vibration during usage. Irrespective of whether you are sanding or polishing, you wont feel this vibrate in your hands. For continual operation, that is one of the best features to have in a die grinder. It reduces the strain on your wrists. Also, the CP875 features an integrated air regulator that ensures that the grinder works at the precise RPM needed even when the motor is experiencing a heavy load due to ongoing operation.
The package includes a 1/4″ collet that is compatible with a whole range of accessories and tools.
- Right angled die grinder
- ¼ inch collet
- Compact form factor
- Weighs just 1.1 pounds
- Extremely easy to use even in limited space applications
- Reduces the strain on your wrists
- Minimal vibration during operation
- Integrated air regulator
- 3 HP motor
- 22500 RPM
- Safety throttle
- Front facing vents
- Priced under $60
#5 – Astro 219 ONYX Die Grinder Kit, 3-Piece
Last but not the least; we have the Astro 219 Onyx, which is a sturdy little unit that comes with a 3-piece grinder kit. You have a ¼ inch 90 degree angle die grinder, ¼ Inch mini die grinder and an 8pc. double cut carbide rotary burr set.
That gives you twice the flexibility and a sturdy little set that does not vibrate as much, is silent and allows you to control the throttle at the touch of a finger.
Composite Handle For Reduced Vibration
Out of the box, the Astro 219 looks very different from all four die grinders that we have included in this list. It has a composite handle in an all-black finish and features a ribbed texture for easy control, especially in space constrained applications. At 13.5 inches in length, it is certainly not compact in dimensions. And it weighs more than 3 pounds too. But with the composite casing, you’d hardly feel the additional weight. It also reduces the vibration during usage which is an added benefit. Usage is effortless. You can easily swap the die grinder heads and control the throttle too with a lever.
Reduced Air Consumption
If you hate die grinders that guzzle air and sputter to a stop the moment the air pressure drops a tad, then the Astro 219 will be an excellent choice for you. It has a 3cfm air consumption which is excellent considering that it has a free speed of 25000 RPM and is powered by 1/3 HP motor. An integrated air control regulator allows the device to work flawlessly despite drop in pressure. Also included is a safety lever that will prevent the 219 from accidentally powering on. The only letdown is that it has a rear exhaust. You’ll have to grab the mask and those goggles while working with this.
Another quibble that we had with the Astro 219 is that despite the immense potential applications and accessories that can be hooked up with it, there are no connectors in the package. So, that will be an additional expense that you’d have to bear.
Priced just under $130, the Astro 219 is not an inexpensive air grinder. But the versatility that you get with it makes it completely worth the extra dollar. Oh yes, almost forgot to mention that it has excellent customer reviews as well.
- Composite casing that reduces vibration
- Ribbed textured handle for comfortable use
- Three die grinder heads that include a right angled head and straight one
- Lever throttle that allows precise speed control
- 1/3 HP motor that delivers 25000 RPM
- Rear exhaust
Choosing The Best Die Grinder Guide
Due to the precision and the detailing that is involved with most of the tasks that are typically completed with die grinders, buying the right one is a very crucial decision. We have witnessed numerous instances where people have picked up a die grinder only to realize that it is not fast enough or does not have enough torque.
At the same time, you must also pay attention to the usage and the handling. No matter how good a product is, it will be useless if you cannot use it for the intended amount of time.
Here are a few factors that you must consider before you pick any die grinder.
Cheap die grinders usually have plastic bodies that feel featherweight only until the first time you drop them. You’d wonder why you pinched pennies as you gather the bits and pieces off the floor. Pay the extra buck and go for die grinders with aluminum casings. They last longer and have excellent resistance to corrosion and general use wear and tear. The first four grinders in this list have aluminum casings.
Most die grinders weigh between 1-2 pounds. However, it is not uncommon to find a few models that weigh as much as 3-4 pounds. Depending on how frequently you will be using the best die grinder and for how much time duration, pick the lightest one that you can get your hands on. There are some excellent models in this list that weigh just 1 pound. That is a phenomenal choice if you have to work long hours. Your hands will thank you and you will also be able to control it better.
The more compact a die grinder is, the easier it will be to use in space-constrained applications. It will be easier to grip and use even in tight spaces which is where it is used a lot of times. Another advantage of choosing a compact one is that the dimensions are proportional to the weight. The smaller it is, the lighter it will be.
Type Of Grinder Head
Conventional die grinders have a straight head and the tool that you attach to it will rotate in a perpendicular direction to the grip of the grinder. However, in selected applications, a straight head grinder is limited by its reach and design. In such cases, a right angled grinder head works better. It allows the operator to reach into tiny nooks and crevices that need to be accessed without worrying about the handle obstructing the way. Both styles have their own share of pros and cons. If you’d like to have the best of both worlds, it is recommended that you check out the #5 pick in this list.
The positioning of the air vent will determine whether the debris that results from the job will flow away from you or will be blown to your face instead. Most operators prefer a forward air vent and manufacturers are well aware of this fact. For this reason, most of the models in this list also have forward air vents.
Some tasks demand a certain degree of precision that can only be achieved if you can control the speed of the die grinder. Variable speed models are quite popular and usually feature a lever or a throttle that allows the operator to control the speed on-the-fly. Most users will still use the best die grinder at full speed for normal tasks. But speed control is a desirable feature nevertheless.
Last but not the least; it also depends on what you are willing to spend to buy the best die grinder. Contrary to popular notion, you do not need to spend $500 to get a reliable grinder. We have picked models that are priced under $50 too in this list. Having said that, even if you are looking to save a few bucks, always buy a grinder from a reputed brand. No-name Chinese imports will most probably conk off sooner than you’d imagine.