You make a mess ~ you clean it up. That’s a simple discipline that follows us throughout life, from the playroom, kitchen or classroom to the backyard, office, laboratory, workplace and construction job site. Grinding can be especially messy, and masonry grinders and vacuums go together like a ticker tape parade and a street sweeper. There are many instances of grinding that require great skill, human protection and the ubiquitous clean-up – like dental procedures, woodworking, metal grinding in a machine shop or auto body shop and masonry tasks. Varying levels of precision are involved, and there’s an overlap in every instance of:

  • training
  • artistic skills
  • experience
  • tool proficiency
  • safety precautions
  • competence handling equipment.

Grinding masonry products embraces myriad purposes, and each one presents the unique opportunity to get the job done with the best equipment while protecting workers and keeping the dust residue contained. Whether you are cutting bricks, shaping stone, fitting tile, working on mortar joints for re-pointing or engaging in surface prep for final finishes, having the right tools in operating condition, along with appropriate protective gear, is paramount to success.

Grinders

Of all the attributes of a grinder, cordless might just be the most coveted. Some of the forerunners of today’s cordless power tools were developed for NASA in the early 1960s, like a zero-impact wrench and cordless rotary hammer drill for collecting rock samples from the moon’s surface. As battery technology has advanced, battery packs and rechargeable batteries have played a huge role in reducing the cord attachment to an electrical outlet and with that, a reduction in cord hazards snaking around a construction job site.

“The gap between corded and cordless grinders is being bridged with our M18 FUEL™ cordless products, including our M18 FUEL™ Cordless Grinder,” states Kevin Gee, product manager for Milwaukee Tool. “This was the world’s first cordless grinder to deliver true corded performance without the cord. Delivering up to 10 times longer motor life and two times more run time, the M18 FUEL™ grinders were the first grinders on the market with the power to grind. They are fundamentally changing the way cordless tools are used on the jobsite. In fact, we have best-in-class solutions for our entire range of core applications. With continued advancements in mechanisms and motor technology, grinders are getting smaller, more powerful and overall delivering greater productivity to the user without sacrificing durability.”

Nate Pellerin, senior product manager with DEWALT, is confident of the company’s launch of the 60V MAX* FLEXVOLT Grinder. “It offers users the power of a 13 amp corded unit with the ease of use of a cordless tool. Offering corded power without the need for a power source or extension cord reduces inconvenience and a potential trip hazard on a jobsite. A grinder is a very versatile tool when utilized correctly with the appropriate accessory.”

There is almost universal consensus on the cord issue and satisfaction in the new cordless options. “The nature of grinding is varied, and the tasks are diverse,” explains David Pizzolato, group manager for Robert Bosch Tool Corporation. “Not being tethered to a cord offers greater function that goes beyond convenience. In addition, the advent of quality grinders that have a lifespan beyond a few months has impacted the market. It’s inefficient to purchase a new grinder every few months, so enhancements in sealed motors have drastically increased tool life and ensured less down time. The price of the grinder may be low, but if you’re replacing it regularly, the overall cost of ownership and replacement is high.”

Other factors in choosing the right grinder for the right job includes disc size and motor power which generally increase simultaneously. Discs run from four to 10 inches in diameter, and cordless, corded and pneumatic power can dictate rpm’s and arbor size. Pneumatic grinders are usually the choice tool for light jobs with precision requirements because they come small and light but can be powerful. Electric grinders are often preferred for big, heavy duty work, though there are some small electric grinders and large pneumatic grinders on the market. Choose your grinder(s) for its (their) most common application.

Vacuums

 Many people are credited with vacuum cleaner development in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Puffing Billy, a large vacuum cleaner, was introduced in 1901 and met with limited success for needing a horse-drawn carriage for transport. Among the early portable electric vacuum cleaners was one designed by James Murray Spangler, a department store janitor. Suction from an electric fan blew dirt and dust into a soapbox and a pillowcase, and his rotating brush loosened particles. He got a patent, but did not have money to commercialize his idea and sold it to William Henry Hoover in 1908. The last century has seen many advancements, and it’s reassuring to note that those robotic vacuums can never replace human operation on the construction job site or in masonry work.

Dust collection in masonry work has been center stage since 1933 when Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet, assembled a group of experts to study silicosis and its prevention. Manufacturers have risen to the occasion by developing products to collect dust generated by grinding and accessories to protect the mason.

“Since introducing the universal self-powered dust extractor in 2013, the M12™ HAMMERVAC™ Universal Dust Extractor, Milwaukee Tool has been dedicated to introducing productivity-focused dust collection solutions,” Gee relates. “We recently announced the largest expansion of our Dust Extraction System to date, completely compliant with the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation on respirable crystalline silica dust. With the launch of an 8-Gallon Dust Extractor and accessories, our full lineup of rotary hammers and grinders are compliant through either Table 1 or Objective Data Requirements. The heart of the system features an automatic filter cleaning mechanism to allow for sustained airflow at 148 CFM in dust-producing applications. The extractor’s dual filtration system (complete with HEPA filter) captures 99.97% of particles greater than 0.3 microns. Available will be new 5-inch and 7-inch surface grinding dust shrouds and a 5-inch cutting dust shroud that work with the Extractor to maximize dust collection during concrete cutting with grinders.”

Bosch offers its PRO+GUARD™ system as an end-to-end solution for users seeking maximum dust containment for masonry applications. “From grinders and tuckpointers to best-in-class dust extractors,” Pizzolato continues, “our products provide a complete solution to help meet new OSHA guidelines for respirable silica dust exposure. The PRO+GUARD system also includes shrouds and other attachments to ensure the largest selection of dust solutions by application. The automatic filter-cleaning feature found on dust extractors reverses airflow to blow out the filter as often as every 15 seconds while maintaining high suction. This technology improves both filter and tool life, but more importantly, minimizes exposure to harmful dust.”

Safety

Masonry work can entail grinding stone at ground level to grinding brick on a restoration project 30-plus stories high and everything in between, so safety concerns are taken seriously every day, every hour, everywhere on a construction or renovation job site. Thus, training in safety precautions and equipment operation is extremely important to protect workers, materials and equipment. Grinders, for example, should never be used without the guard or handle in place. The item being ground should also be firmly in place, which in the case of a building is not a big issue. Individual bricks and smaller things need to be firmly in a vice that itself is well anchored against any shifting or movement during grinding. Blades can break, and every piece of equipment should be inspected every day for operational safety.

“User protection features have been a big focus for our customers and in our development process,” relates Pellerin of DEWALT. “One of our newest grinder launches, the 60V MAX* FLEXVOLT Grinder (DCG414), has Kickback Brake™ which engages when a pinch, stall or bind-up event is sensed and the electronic brake engages with maximum force to quickly stop the wheel, reduce the movement of the grinder and shut the grinder off. In addition to the Kickback Brake™, DEWALT offers an E-Clutch™ option on many of our Perform and Protect grinders. This feature also senses a bind-up or stall event and shuts the tool down in less than a tenth of a second, allowing the user the opportunity to regain control of the unit, reset the work piece, whatever is needed and restart the tool with a simple cycling of the switch.”

In 2015, Milwaukee Tool introduced the world’s first cordless braking grinder solution – the M18 FUEL™ Braking Grinder. “We are not only ensuring the wheel comes to a stop in under two seconds with a rapid stop braking feature and kickback-reducing clutch, but also eliminating a tripping hazard on the jobsite with the world’s first cordless braking grinder,” Gee explains. “While existing cordless braking grinders are effective as cut-off tools, this product is the top cordless solution available that can effectively grind, cut and surface prep.”

Words: Joanne M. Anderson
Photos: Milwaukee Tool, DeWalt, Bosch
Joanne M. Anderson is a freelance writer and magazine editor with more than 1,000 articles and blogs in print. She especially enjoys home improvement and building topics. www.jmawriter.com