So, you’re in the market for an angle grinder. Maybe your boss needs you to get one for the next job, or you just want to pick one up for some casual DIY work at home or on the side, so you check out your favorite place to shop online (who else but Ohio Power Tool, of course), head over to the Milwaukee section, and wow there are a lot of options! Paddle switches, slide switches, braking or non-braking, and what the hell is this variable speed thing? Fear not, dear reader, for we’re here today to discuss what options you have, and why some might be a better option for you than others.


One of the first things you’ll want to look at is the type of switch you prefer. Slide switches are typically found on top of the grinder, so you can activate it with your thumb. Slide switches feature a locking mechanism so you don’t tire the muscles in your thumb too quickly, but this also presents a bit of a safety hazard, as the tool will remain on if it’s dropped. Paddle switches, on the other hand, are found on the bottom of the tool and are activated by squeezing it, allowing you to turn the tool on or off by simply adjusting your grip. Granted, this requires slightly more forearm muscle use, but you won’t have to worry about a runaway grinder on the jobsite if it falls.


With that out of the way, let’s briefly cover brakes, which is another relatively broad topic. Some grinders include the word “Braking” in the description, others don’t. Why? Safety! All you really need to know about braking grinders is that they include an automatic shutoff feature, almost like you’d find on a table saw, as well as a Kickback Protection feature that does, well, just that–absorbs and reduces kickback, providing further protection to both you and the tool should something go awry during use. It’s not an entirely necessary feature if you’re just breaking into the grinder game, but a little extra safety could never hurt.

A variable speed grinder at work.

Variable Speed

Variable Speed, we feel, is a too-often overlooked feature when it comes to grinders. To really break it down, we’re going to compare two different Milwaukee M18 grinders: the 2883-20 4.5/5” braking grinder, and their 2889-20 4.5/5” variable speed braking grinder. At first glance, it’s pretty difficult to tell the two apart. They’re both the same size, they both use slide switches, and they’re both braking grinders. The only difference between them (other than the fact that the 2889-20 includes Milwaukee’s One-Key support, but we’ll just move past that) is that the 2889-20 has a range of five different speed options compared to the 2883-20’s single speed. Milwaukee includes a dial setting on the bottom of all of their variable speed grinders, which allows you to adjust from five speed settings, ranging between 3500 and 8500 Rotations Per Minute (RPM).

If you don’t see the variable speed denominator in the name or the dial towards the bottom of the tool, you’re likely rocking a single speed grinder, such as the 2883-20. These grinders are typically locked in at the highest RPM, 8500 in this case, with no way to adjust the speed. These are probably the most common angle grinders you encounter in your day-to-day, and are ideal for your typical angle grinder projects: cutting, brushing, grinding, you get the idea. The high RPM’s help remove material faster and increase your productivity, but at the same time, you run the risk of eating through wheels at a faster rate than you would with lower RPM’s.

Best used for polishing or buffing stone or concrete, or in some metal fabrication applications, Variable Speed Grinders allow the brushing disc to throw significantly less wires at a lower speed than it would at the highest setting, elongating its shelf life and saving you money in the process. The multiple speed settings allow for greater control of the tool itself, and can help leave your projects looking clean and fresh. Need to remove that pesky spot of rust on the fence or piece of siding, but also want to use the same tool for your heavy-duty projects? Variable speed is a great option to do both tasks efficiently.

Get Grinding!

At the end of the day, the choice in angle grinders is really up to you and depends on what you need the tool for. Some people swear by their 8500 RPM grinder and think variable speed is just a waste of time, while others are adamant that variable speed is the better option because of its range of applications, especially those that require a finer touch. We hope this breakdown was able to help, but if you have any further questions, feel free to give us a call at 614-481-2111, send us an email at, or stop by the shop. Be sure to follow us on social media so you can stay in the know with everything OPT!