We found the Hitachi G12SR3 4-1/2 Inch 6 Amp Angle Grinder to be an easy-to-use tool that should be high on any handyman's shortlist. Price, performance and ease of use make it an easy choice for those looking for a flexible tool that can be used for tile, metalwork or concrete applications.
There are some tools that should be in your arsenal. While you'll probably want a good cordless angle grinder for the field, a corded model like the Hitachi G12SR3 angle grinder is also a great option for those looking for a basic all-purpose grinding tool. Its ease of use and low retail price make it an easy choice for just about anyone. Plus, the G12SR3 is lightweight, so you won't feel like you're working out while using the tool.
The G12SR3 continues Hitachi's slimmer trend, with a narrow body that's part die-cast and part plastic. The grinder comes with a nice Hitachi plastic tool case, with plenty of room for a spare blade, and storage for wheel covers and side handles that no decent handyman is likely to use. This kit includes 5 (counting) grinding wheels for steel applications out of the box and is a metalworker's tool. These discs (about $10 retail value individually) are great for cutting off bolts, drilling into galvanized pie, or cleaning out welds. We immediately purchased a diamond wheel for the tile application – it was a great alternative to a wet saw and would greatly simplify the process of installing custom tile.
The grinder is activated by a side-mounted thumb switch, which we found easy to use, but not as simple as some Dewalt paddle switches we've seen. Pushing the switch all the way up automatically locks it in place and allows for extended use of the tool without physically pressing the switch. The G12SR3 has replaceable brushes that can be accessed by removing the front four screws securing the plastic housing and the rear self-tapping screws securing the housing assembly. Pull it off to access the two carbon brushes. It's not the easiest process (and it's certainly not externally accessible, as Hitachi would have you believe), but it's definitely useful for those who aren't afraid to get in with a screwdriver and get the job done.
Blade changing is easy as the grinder has a button that sets the lock pin and prevents the wheel from spinning. The button is very easy to press with little resistance. The included wrench provides enough torque to secure and loosen the wheels and discs with ease. A blade change takes about 20 seconds on average to complete – fast. We were able to switch between masonry, metal and diamond wheels effortlessly.
Ergonomics and use
For such a powerful tool, it feels light in the hand compared to some of the competition. Although Hitachi claims the grinder weighs only 3.1 pounds, we actually found it to weigh 4 pounds, 3 ounces—and that's without the handle and wheel covers. We still feel relaxed. We like the way it allows us to easily manipulate the tool position and remains stable when bending around tile and making complex cuts. The thumb switch is still easy to use, and we're used to locking it into place with one smooth motion. It's also a tool that's easy to use one-handed, which is crucial in our practical tile and cardboard applications.
testing on the spot
To fully test the grinder, we removed the side handle and blade guard (sorry UL). We then started cutting out the pattern in the cardboard, which made for a very quick result that would have taken longer (and harder) with a jigsaw and masonry blade. We've done some comparisons of angle grinders, circular saws, and miter saws for various cuts. In the end, we ended up ditching the miter saw and using an angle grinder for all but the extended rip cuts. This is faster, more accurate and allows us to make complex cuts with ease. Hitachi has never cut a Hardiboard like hard butter.
Then we turn our attention to tiles. While using a full-size tile saw like the new Ridgid R4040S 8-Inch Wet Tile Saw may be fine for larger jobs, sometimes it's nice to have a diamond wheel attached to an angle grinder for small cuts. We used a Hitachi G12SR3 to cut off the corners of the 12×12 tiles to fit the inlaid marble tiles into a wall pattern we created on a bathroom project (worth being in the middle of a renovation project while reviewing the tool). The angle grinder did a brief cut job on the tile, and we found that we could also do simple circular cuts on the tile where the toilet drain exits. Not only are these cuts easy to make, but they are also easy to make one-handed, with a clear line of sight for the cutting lines. In any cutting tool this is important, but for precision tile cutting it is an absolute must. Even though you can make rougher cuts around the toilet, it's nice to be able to get it right and create an exact circle on the tile with little effort. It also makes a great impression if a client walks in when you're at this stage of the project.
In many of our in-house test items, the angle grinder really seemed to be a one-stop shop for many applications—which is why it's one of our "mandatory" handyman tool recommendations for A project for people who outfit themselves. We found the Hitachi G12SR3 4-1/2-Inch 6-Amp Angle Grinder to be an easy-to-use tool that should be high on any handyman's shortlist. Price, performance and ease of use make it an easy choice. For $50, there's no reason why you shouldn't own one.