Small Business Brief


Choosing the Right Grinding Wheel

Did you know that 70% of the uncovered diamonds go to industrial use? That glittering rock that’s so prized in fine jewelry is also in high demand for the industrial applications of polishing, drilling, and grinding. 

Just because diamonds are the hardest material, doesn’t mean they’re the best choice in all grinding wheel applications.  Choosing the right wheel for your activity will ensure it’s effective and safe during operation. 

Follow this guide to make sure you buy the right grinding wheel. 

Know Your Purpose 

There are several different types of grinding wheels. Knowing your intended use will help you determine which one you need. 

  1. Straight grinding wheel 
  2. Large diameter grinding wheel 
  3. Grinding cup wheel
  4. Grinding dish wheel
  5. Segmented grinding wheel 
  6. Cutting face grinding wheel 

The difference between these grinding wheels is their shapes. A straight wheel is the one we are all most familiar with. It has a straight, flat side for sharpening blades. 

Large diameter wheels are the same shape as a straight wheel, just significantly bigger. A cup wheel polishes concrete and stone. If the grit on them is fine enough, you can also use them to remove paint. 

Dish wheels perform a similar function as a cup wheel, but on a smaller scale. Their shape lets them get into smaller spaces that the cup wheel won’t fit. 

Segmented grinding wheels are meant for use with a cooling or lubricating liquid. This lets you remove a large amount of material quickly without damaging your work surface. 

Cutting face wheels perform more of a cutting action by removing a large amount of material quickly. They tend to be narrow so they can cut through your material. 

Choose an Abrasive 

You need to choose an abrasive that has the right qualities when it comes to hardness, impact resistance, fracture toughness, and strength. There are two main categories of abrasives, natural and manufactured. Though manufactured materials have almost completely replaced natural ones. 

Within the manufactured category, there are two types of abrasives formulated. 

  1. Conventional abrasives
  2. Super-abrasives

Conventional abrasives are going to be materials such as ceramic, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide. Super abrasives will include diamonds and cubic boron nitride. 


This material is one of the most often used when creating abrasives. It works well for working with ferrous metals such as steels.

You can tell the toughness of the abrasive material based on its color. The whiter the grinding wheel, the tougher it will be. 


If you have a non-ferrous material to cut that silicon-carbide can do the job. This includes stone, cement, or grey and chilled iron. 

These wheels are more brittle than aluminum-oxide ones. They’re also harder and extremely sharp. Use these wheels under light pressure when you need a beautiful finish. 


If you need precision grinding, ceramic can deliver quality results. Ceramic material is made up of a microstructure aluminum-oxide. This makes the grains in the grit super sharp and highly effective at cutting. 

Use light to medium pressure, and ceramic can help you cut stainless steel, high-nickel alloys, and titanium. 

The downside of the abrasive material is that it is heat-sensitive. You’ll need to be careful how you use these grinding wheels to ensure you follow proper procedures. 


This is a type of ceramic that is both durable and heat resistant. This abrasive material works well for cut-off activities and rough grinding. 

Natural Diamonds 

Since diamonds are the toughest material available, it’s used to cut other very hard materials. This includes stone, marble, granite, and cemented carbides. 

These days, you’re more likely to find synthetic diamonds instead of natural diamonds on your grinding wheel. 

Cubic Boron Nitride 

The next hardest material for grinding wheel abrasive is cubic boron nitride. It works well for high-speed grinding of steel, cast irons, die steels, and stainless steels. 

Bonding Material 

There are six common types of bonding material that attach the abrasive material to the wheel. 

  1. Metal 
  2. Silicate 
  3. Shellac 
  4. Resinoid 
  5. Rubber 
  6. Vitrified 

The most common bonding material on the market today is vitrified, which is a glass-based bonding material. It’s a good general use bonding agent since it stays strong even in high heat and doesn’t react with water, oils, or acids. 

Consider the Grit Size 

Grit sizes range from quite coarse to super fine. The lower the number you see, the coarser the abrasive grains are.

The number indicates the size of the openings in the screen. So the higher the number you see, the finer the grit, the smaller the openings are. 

Choosing a grit size will influence the material removal rate, the finished surface smoothness, and wheel chip clearance. Choose a coarse grit and you’re going to remove material fast but have a poorly finished surface. 

Choosing a finer grit will mean that you have a nicely smoothed finished surface. But it will take forever to remove the bulk of the material. 

Wheel Structure and Bond Strength

The bond used to secure the grit to the wheel can vary from very hard to very soft. The softer the bond, the faster the wheel releases the grit. This makes the wheel wear out faster. 

A harder bond will hold onto the grains longer, but this causes glazing. So now you’ll lose your sharp cutting edge and be left with dull grains. 

Pay attention to the density of the grit, as this can affect your results. A less dense grit will have more of an effect on the finish and cut more freely. These wheels can also cut deeper and wider with a lower requirement of coolant.  

Choose Your Grinding Wheel

When it comes to choosing the right grinding wheel, you need to know what you want to use the wheel for. This will dictate your decisions through the several features we’ve discussed here. 

No one wheel is better than the others. Think about the project, materials you’ll work with, and intended results. 

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