As a professional wood carver, I've had a 4-1/2-inch or 5-inch angle grinder with a carving disc attachment in my hands for six to eight hours a day for the last eight years. Speed, power, and dependability are all important to my productivity (as my wife and I say, "If I don't carve, we starve.").
Over the years, I've used many different high-quality angle grinders to rough-out projects from small songbirds all the way up to 10-foot grizzly bears. Recently I was introduced to two new 5-inch grinders; both have similar new safety and performance features that seem particularly suited to my type of work.
The Bosch 1803EVS and DeWalt D28131 angle grinders are packed with the latest high-tech features based on their innovative electronic motor control systems. They both share desired details such as soft starting, maintaining constant rpm under varying loads, and motor overload protection. But the really exciting advance is in their electronic clutch technology, which protects against dangerous kickback. When circuitry inside the tools detects a sudden, significant drop in speed, the units shut off instantly. So in the case of a bound carving or grinding disc, the tools stop before you have to fight for control like you might have to do even with mechanical clutch protection.
Over the years, I've had a few close calls, but have been lucky enough to escape unharmed so far. Whenever I have experienced a serious kickback with a coarse-toothed carving blade spinning at 11,000 rpm, the grinder has been violently torn from my hands and sent flying 10 feet–sometimes even farther if I was on scaffolding.
To see if this new technology really works, I recreated a common kickback situation by hollowing out a large V-channel in wood. Usually when the cutters on a disc contact the work in two places at once, I experience an adrenaline-rushing yank and I react by jerking back on the tool, resulting in two uncontrolled and potentially injurious sweeps of the cutting end. With these new electronic clutch tools, however, I am happy to report that I only experienced a momentary tug that resulted in a mere 1 to 2 inches of unexpected movement as the grinders shut off. In fact, every time I carved my way into a hazardous situation and caused the grinders to bind, the motors stopped right away but without being too sensitive and slowing down my work.
Another welcome safety feature is the manual switch reset required by each if the power is interrupted. I can't tell you how many times I've reconnected an unplugged power cord to find that I had left my grinder's switch locked on–resulting in the tool skittering dangerously along the ground or off the scaffold. These new tools will not start up until you switch them off and then back on again.
Improved ergonomic features include rubber-dampened vibration-reducing side handles that improved overall comfort and reduced fatigue after a long day of carving, and side-mounted locking switches that didn't allow chips and sawdust to build up around them. My older grinders have top-mounted switches, which gunk-up quickly and become difficult to turn off.
Tool-free guard adjustments make rotating the guards a snap. The DeWalt even features a tool-free wheel nut for attaching and removing discs with ease, even if you've lost your wrench.
Both of these angle grinders really impressed me and added a new dimension of safety to my work. They are smoother-running, quieter, and more feature-packed than other quality grinders I own. The 9-amp Bosch 1803EVS is a wonderfully versatile tool with the added benefit of a 2,800- to 11,000-rpm variable-speed dial that really came in handy for more controlled sanding at around 5,000 rpm that didn't burn the wood or turn the sandpaper into hurtling shrapnel. The lower speed also was useful when carefully cutting flagstone bases with a diamond blade. The DeWalt D28131 is a real workhorse with its monster 13-amp motor; I estimate that the power and sustained speed of this grinder improved my productivity by at least 15 percent.
–Lueb Popoff owns Hollow Log Tree Carving and Sculpture in Boulder, Colo.