Die grinder recommendations please

parhamr

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I'm wanting a rotary grinding tool for some upcoming carving work. What do you recommend?

Criteria:
  • Good value (not cheap; not expensive)
  • Reasonably quiet
  • Good for detailed work
  • Durable
  • Low maintenance
Do I want it electric or air? If air, please recommend a compressor, too!
 

Cadillactaste

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Sorry, no guidance here...other than when I read your post title...off in the distance...I could hear a manly bark. :cool:

Die grinder = manly barking off in the distance in my mind's eye.
 

A. Gorilla

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Consider how much water you might be working around and through which extension chords might be running. That would a possible check against electric.

I've just been putting the paces through a Central Pneumatic, 21 gallon, oil lubricated, air compressor for other reasons (various car stuff). It's very affordable compared to others, so I can't really tell where corners are cut, but so far so good. Get reasonable work out of it before it has to kick back on to recharge.

At first it might be tempting to get "oil free", but when I compared my 3 gallon small oil-lubed compressor to the same size of an oil-less, the oil-less seems to take forever to build up pressure, and seems possibly noisier. And it was a teflon piston ring which has a more limited life span before degradation.
 

A. Gorilla

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I also know this...I did some tree grinding with my dremel tool and that was a drag for significant wood removal. That's more grinding a dog's toe nails, cleaning grout, shaping tiffany diamonds, and other small jobs.

This affordable set up would be a huge improvement on that. I'll probably pull the trigger myself on it next year.

 

Dav4

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I've been using a Makita variable speed die grinder for years and love it. I think I paid around $200 +/- close to 9 years ago for it. Look into having a deadman switch/foot paddle to use with it...certainly comes in handy when the unexpected happens:confused:.
 

markyscott

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I urge extreme caution. I have two Makita die grinders and rarely use them. I consider them to be whirling blades of death and use them only when absolutely necessary. For me, hand carving is far safer and produces a result that is much more natural.

That said, who could resist a good power tool? And for some applications there is just no other way to get the job done. Makita is the go-to brand for most folks doing this kind of carving work. I used to use it with various router bits until I discovered the Samurai brand. I'm totally sold on it, but it's specifically for removing vast quantities of wood. There are some other attachments that are good for debarking and the like. And a big caution - many of the blades that you buy for carving are not rated for the RPM that the die-grinder spins. I don't know exactly what that means, but I have bad visions of the bits exploding into a million high velocity bits of metal spinning off in random directions. So definitely get a rheostat that allows you to control the RPM of the tool. And please make sure to wear the proper safety equipment when you use them - particularly safety glasses.

The second power tool I use is a dremel. I'm much less nervous about these things. I use them specifically for detail work - getting bark out of little crevices, finishing some of the hand carving work I do, carving out/cleaning deep holes - that kind of stuff where it's just to dang hard to get my hand chisel (which is by far the most important carving tool you can get).

Hope that helps.
 

CWTurner

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I haven't used air tools in years, but they were noisy M.F.'ers for sure. Maybe new ones are quieter?
Compressors can be loud too.
CW
 

parhamr

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This is all helpful info! I’m young and value my limbs and arteries.

I do have some hand chisels and I was expecting they would be useful. I do like the point that the expense of an air compressor and die grinder might not be worth the time they would be sitting around. I’ll think on this… I do have access to a tool library.
 

Random User

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If you are lucky and have an old tool swap/store in your area, you can find all kinds of tools that have hardly been used. The palm, or wood blocking tools, are pretty handy and unless you grunt a lot white you work, they are much quieter than powered tools. I used to use mine for carving soapstone... a quick peruse through Lee Valley Tools would give you an idea what I mean.
 

Adair M

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If you do go the die grinder route, check out the cutter blades that Graham Potter sells on his web page. You can find him on YouTube.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Check out Foredom. You can get it with a variable-speed foot switch, and a good flexible shaft. Mine is pretty quiet, but not super high RPM; which isn't altogether bad.
 

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If you do go the die grinder route, check out the cutter blades that Graham Potter sells on his web page. You can find him on YouTube.
I've been looking periodically for these at places like Lee Valley Tools, but have yet to find something remotely similar. Seeing that LV does handle a lot of items from the U.K. (like Haws watering cans) I've been thinking of e-mailing his people to see if he can make them available to us at the retail stores since I don't do any internet purchasing... have yet to get off my ass and send the e-mail... :p
 

markyscott

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This is all helpful info! I’m young and value my limbs and arteries.

I do have some hand chisels and I was expecting they would be useful. I do like the point that the expense of an air compressor and die grinder might not be worth the time they would be sitting around. I’ll think on this… I do have access to a tool library.
Now in terms of the chisels - that I'd like to talk about! Woodworking chisels are always tempting, but remember that we're trying not to make a smooth flat surface. We're trying to engrave. And the rule is to break, tear, pull and crush, but never cut. So the chisel you want is not sharp like a woodworking chisel - it's dull with a shallow bevel. Typical woodworking chisels are very sharp with a pronounced 25-30 degree bevel. For deadwood carving they should be more flat and dull like a flat head screwdriver tip. The blade should be short and the steel and handle should be good quality so you can put some force on it without worrying about it breaking.

Here's an inexpensive one that can work:
IMG_8151.JPG IMG_8152.JPG

Downside of this one is that I'd like it to have a big round handle. After a couple of hours with the end of the stick jammed into the palm of your hand, it gets uncomfortable. This is the one in Francois Jeker's book. I think all of his are modified from other tools.

IMG_6013.jpg IMG_6010.JPG IMG_6011.JPG
 
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Random User

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The "old tool stores" shine for this type of thing... the only one that I knew of shut down many years ago, but I'm sure you can find one in a large U.S. centre.
 

parhamr

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@SKBonsaiGuy agreed! Ted’s Tool Shed is that sort of place, for me. I didn’t find a die grinder last time but I will try again. They had some Dremels I could abuse.
 

wireme

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Now in terms of the chisels - that I'd like to talk about! Woodworking chisels are always tempting, but remember that we're trying not to make a smooth flat surface. We're trying to engrave. And the rule is to break, tear, pull and crush, but never cut. So the chisel you want is not sharp like a woodworking chisel - it's dull with a shallow bevel. Typical woodworking chisels are very sharp with a pronounced 25-30 degree bevel. For deadwood carving they should be more flat and dull like a flat head screwdriver tip. The blade should be short and the steel and handle should be good quality so you can put some force on it without worrying about it breaking.

Here's an inexpensive one that can work:
View attachment 136901 View attachment 136900

Downside of this one is that I'd like it to have a big round handle. After a couple of hours with the end of the stick jammed into the palm of your hand, it gets uncomfortable. This is the one in Francois Jeker's book. I think all of his are modified from other tools.

View attachment 136906 View attachment 136904 View attachment 136903
Hand tools...these are just for fine detail work, otherwise I like to use a feller buncher. image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg
 
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I'd lean heavily toward listening to markyscott, in that unless you have a LOT of large deadwood to carve, your dollars might be better spent on other tools than large die grinders... even a used Dremel will at least allow you to get a feel for what is "needed". Most trees aren't large enough to accommodate a 12" tool and obviously, the maneuverability of a larger tool restricts it's usefulness if there is the least bit of branch structure to work around.

Then, the bits aren't cheap either, I just happen to have a variety of them here from industry.

Like someone else pointed out, if you make your living as a pianist of as a guitar player, I'd stick with the manual choices... hospital bills to replace ground meat near the extremities come with a cost too... and a bit more pain than one would hope for when first heading toward that tree after start-up.

The problem that occurred within the used tool place started when I went into the place one summer's day and the RCMP were talking to the owner asking for receipts from the original owners of the tools he had on display (because many of them were engraved for ID). I'd say within 6 months, he was out of business, so obviously he was a fence for the kids who'd break into garages, looking for a quick buck. If this possibility bothers you, Kijiji might be the better option.
 

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"Hand tools...these are just for fine detail work, otherwise I like to use a feller buncher."

Surgical.
 

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