Festool AGC 18 cordless angle grinder: Compact, tough, durable?

ANGLE grinders are essential tools – they do what they do very well and are used in almost all trades. I have heard stories of industrial applications, like boiler making, where angle grinders are bought by the pallet load and have a working life expectancy of anything from a few days to a week. I dread to think how hard they must be worked and what sort of jobs they must be doing.

They also come in an amazing array of sizes, motor power and (surprise, surprise) in various levels of quality. A cheap £15 angle grinder would do for occasional use but the general rule of thumb for tools applies: you get what you pay for. Cordless angle grinders are the latest innovation, and for many users increased battery capacity and EC (brushless) motors have made them ideal site tools. I can’t remember the last time I used a corded angle grinder, whereas my couple of cordless ones get regular usage, usually cutting bolts, brackets and the occasional bits of sheet metal.

However, a couple of metal fabricators I spoke to told me that they always had corded and cordless grinders available. For sheer convenience of wattage and not having to worry about battery life, a corded grinder was needed for cutting heavy steel tubing, while deburring, polishing and occasional weld grinding were best achieved using a cordless machine.

This grinder is
not a delicate
flower – it has a
robust weight
and size – 2.7 kgs
and 355mm long.

Against this background, the launch of the new Festool AGC 18 angle grinder should be noted because it promises durability, robustness, cordless flexibility and safety via the various features built into the machine. Ideally, I should get six months to test all of these, but deadlines being what they are, I had only a couple of weeks to use the grinder as hard as I could in as many applications as I could find. I received the ‘full monty’ AGC 18 packed
into its custom Systainer with auxiliary handle, wrench, cutter guard, two 5.2 Ah battery packs and latest Festool smart charger. It’s a lot cheaper to buy the ‘naked’ version without the batteries and charger, and most Festool fans will opt for that I am sure.

On a side note, I now have a case for almost every power tool I own and although they take up far too much space, they also make packing up at the end of the day much easier, and Systainers make it even easier than most because there is a place for all the bits, (even charger cords) so you can spot anything missing. First impressions – Up to the job? This grinder is not a delicate flower – it has a robust weight and size – 2.7 kgs and 355mm long – that felt to me a bit of a handful when I first picked it up. But the handle is not short of grip, with some strategically placed and vibration absorbing rubber. Unlike old brush motor tool bodies, the AGC 18’s feels smooth
and with only a few places where dust might collect.

Picked out in Festool green as usual, there are two main controls – the variable speed selection dial selection and the sliding on/off switch. These are within reach and are easy to use with gloved hands. The on/off switch gets my vote because it has an easy two-stage motion of push forward and then push down to start and then just push down on the back of the switch to turn off. My guess is that the switch will stay that easy to operate as long as the user keeps it relatively free of the inevitable dust and filings associated with angle grinding.

Other important considerations are the ‘cast electronics’ and the encased and sealed EC motor. EC motors are maintenance-free and long-lasting, so will be well protected from the dust that would usually destroy the commutator and bearings of a brushed motor. Ironically, brushed motors have fans that pull in cooling air – and the grinding dust – at the same time. I have not heard about ‘cast electronics’ in power tools before, but it seems like a great idea for protecting potentially delicate items from damage and dust. Safety features The modern electronics that the Festool engineers have applied via the EC motor gives the opportunity for several sophisticated safety features like soft start, a motor brake, constant speed maintenance when working and restart protection. It is great to have a whirling cutting disc stop in a second or two. It beats having to wait for it to stop before
you can put the machine down.

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We are sort of used to constant speed controls in many power tools these days but restart protection is another great safety feature. Motor electronics will cut the motor after a cutter jam, but the user will have to consciously restart the motor via the switch to get it going again.

Well, maybe a pin wrench Toolless operation is a must-have these days so the AGC 18 has a spring-loaded lever for adjusting the cutter guard and a quick action clamping nut that enables tool-free disc changes. Should you need extra tightening on a disc a pin wrench is supplied…

Great to use

I was worried that my small hands might make for uncomfortable use of the grinder, but somehow, when the motor starts and the grinding disc is whirling about, the mind is concentrated and handling becomes instinctive. The battery and the gear head balance each other out so, in use, it feels neutral – not tipping to the front or back. I found that the addition of the vibration-resistant auxiliary handle helped the handling of the grinder a great deal, providing balance and security that one-handed use couldn’t give me. There is also no reason why two hands couldn’t be used on the main body – there is enough room.

Setting the correct speed for the work to be done is a necessity, as is choosing the right disc for the right job. I did cutting, grinding and polishing with a mix of generally high-quality discs and the AGC 18 felt like the thoroughbred that its designers no doubt intended. Festool fans will take the purchase of the AGC 18 as a natural step, but I think there are enough reasons to have a hands-on with it at a tool show near you to see what you think.

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