View Full Version : Wire wheels in the shop.

12-30-2008, 07:55 PM
Do you use them? I have a Chraftsman 6" pedestal grinder that has been changed over to wire brushes. It is in an unhandy location and never gets used. Thought I might relocate it for use. I have had a couple of uh-ohs with brushes in the distant past. If you use them what precautions would you recommend? I have prescription safety glasses but I still pick up a goggle type for better side protection.

12-30-2008, 08:20 PM
Safety glasses with side shields under a full face shield.

12-30-2008, 08:44 PM
I use them all the time. I use it to deburr parts and to remove rust from small and irregular shaped parts. It's also useful for removing friction ridges from your fingers in a jiffy :D

The wires do go flying so wearing eye protection is an absolute must, but generally I think it's one of the the safer tools in the shop.

Bill Pace
12-30-2008, 09:07 PM
Im always surprised when somebody says they dont have -- or dont want! -- a wire wheel set-up in their shop... I cant imagine having to do with out one. Been using one for 40+ yrs and so far all Ive got is an occasional wire stuck in my shirt front,-- but it goes with out saying to use glasses.

12-30-2008, 09:10 PM
Don't skimp on the wheel.A good quality stainless steel crimp brush will outlast a plain steel brush several times over with much less shedding of wires.A good wheel may set you back $40-50,but it's worth it.

Weiler makes the best IMHO-


Rich Carlstedt
12-30-2008, 09:29 PM
The key to safety is to use a brush with knotted wires.
See this MSC product:


The "crimped wires" are dangerous and fly out all the time.
Knotted wire is retained and far less likely to go into your eyeball !
They outlast a crimped wheel 5 to 1

This is one area where safety is demanded fellows !

12-30-2008, 09:33 PM
I've been using the cheap Home Depot wire wheels in the never ending battle with rust. The mild steel wheels are pretty gentle on cast iron -- how harsh are the Weiler twisted stainless wheels?

They outlast a crimped wheel 5 to 1

The cheap wheels sure get bent really fast -- I'm guessing the twisted wire wheels resist that tendency to bend over away from the center-line of the wheel?

Rich Carlstedt
12-30-2008, 09:34 PM
One more safety tip.
Never stand in line with a wire wheel, always stand to one side.
I make it a habit to view all wheel work from the side and have purposely set the wire wheel end of my grinder so standing in front of it is difficult.

Right Lazlo.
The knot keeps the wires intact and less prone to breakage from flex

Your Old Dog
12-30-2008, 10:01 PM
I use a cup wire wheels on my angle grinder but am afraid of using one in my regular grinders. I like the Scotch Brite wheels but they are a bit pricey. The Scotch Brite wheels leave a beautiful frosted finish on stainless firearms very similar to factory finish.

12-30-2008, 10:15 PM
I use what is called a Platers Wheel. It is a crimped wheel with .003" stainless wires. Works great. Not aggressive, donst even pull off skin. But it cleans real well. About $60.

Steve Stube
12-30-2008, 10:18 PM
No loose clothing!

12-30-2008, 10:28 PM
No loose clothing!

Or long hair!

12-30-2008, 10:33 PM
I've been using the cheap Home Depot wire wheels in the never ending battle with rust. The mild steel wheels are pretty gentle on cast iron -- how harsh are the Weiler twisted stainless wheels?

Weiler sells various wire sizes and trim lengths in both types of wheels.Generally the smaller the wire diameter the gentler the wheel.

I run an 8" x 1" wide stainless crimped .011"wire on the grinders at work,mostly thread cleaning.They typically last 2-3 years seeing 3-4 hours a week of use.The wires actually wear down shorter long before they start to come loose or break.

12-30-2008, 10:35 PM
Safety glasses and face mask are a great grinder/wirewheel/buffer practice. I have a cheap little six inch grinder and it's too easy to disrespect the risk. I've never had a wheel blow up on me but what I thought was a flake of rust or scale hit me in the forehead one time. When I later brushed my brow I had a little 3/4 inch wire sticking out of my forehead like a unicorn.:eek: :eek:

One note of extra caution using buffing wheels. I've never had anything taken out my hand by a grinder but a buffer can take something out of your hand quicker than quick. A light touch on a finish item coupled with a loose stringy mass spinning at over 3k rpm can be lethal or costly for you or your widget.



12-30-2008, 10:39 PM
I too have used wire wheels on pedestal grinders for over 40 years. I always use safety glasses and have found that if you flip the wheel every month or so the wires don't get bent over and the wheel lasts longer. They do shed wires but I have never had a problem with that.

With that said, there are people that are afraid to do a lot of things that are not really dangerous, it just scares them to do it.

Tim Clarke
12-30-2008, 10:54 PM
Well, I've used brushes on my grinders for 40 years or more. Ever since I got into the lawnmower repair game when I was 13. Like grinding wheels, there's many kinds available. Like grinding wheels, the coarser the wire the more severe the duty. Knotted wire wheels are for more severe duty than crimped wheels. As a general rule, the wider the wheel, the less conformable or yielding it'll be. For a bench grinder, in my home shop I use a 6" by I think 3/4. I use fine wire, say, .008 or so. It's nice for gentle cleaning and polishing. I have another thats about the same size but a little coarser wire, but since I've had it a long time I can't remember exactly what the wire size is. Likely .012 or so. I tend to keep them on a grinder that runs at motor speed, 1750 rpm.

When I was rebuilding engines at home, and doing my own head work, I used one of the previously mentioned knotted wire wheels at 3600 RPM for removing carbon from valves. It was pretty agressive, and did a good job. This wheel was too agressive for most uses on mild steel, it would round edges when I wasn't careful.

Nowadays I use the softer, finer wheels most of the time. When I have some heavy duty work to do I use a knotted, coarse wire cup wheel in my 4 1/2" angle grinder. Agressive, portable, and both hands are out of harm's way. Also allows me to go outside, for lots of fresh air. I hate the smell of the fog of rust and scale that comes off nasty iron.

A point of safety is that I don't believe in toolrests on bench grinders for use with wire wheels. The reason is with the felxability of wire wheels, the work can be grabbed by the wheel, and pulled in, between the wheel and rest. Guess where your thumb is? Yup, between the work and the wheel. Everyone needs to evaluate their own safety equipment for use with wire wheels. I wear impact resistant bifocal glasses all the time. They're as big as I can find around here. When the $chitt really flies, I grab the full face shield.


noah katz
12-30-2008, 11:23 PM
I replaced mine with a 3M finishing wheel and love it.

Besides wires flying, instead of making a gnarly surface that looks like it had been rusted even if it wasn't, it gives a much nicer looking finish; on steel it looks like it was finely ground.

noah katz
12-30-2008, 11:24 PM
I replaced mine with a 3M finishing wheel and would never go back.

Besides wires flying, instead of making a gnarly surface that looks like it had been rusted even if it wasn't, it gives a much nicer looking finish; on steel it looks like it was finely ground.

12-30-2008, 11:27 PM
Another technique that I've found that works well with wire wheels of any type is to not lean into it and over work the wheel. Not only will the wheel last longer, you'll actually find it does a better job.

As an example I've put a lot time running a front-end loader with a hydraulically driven ten foot wide broom and have found that just like a push broom, or anything with bristles for that matter, if you let the bristles flick the work you will find it does a much nicer job and the wheel will last much longer as well. Try brooming a dirty floor with a lot of pressure and see how much easier it is when you ease off of on the amount of pressure you apply. That's not to imply that you shouldn't apply any pressure...just don't over work the wheel, let the bristles do the work. Much like a Dremel where you let the rpm do the work...not the torque.

Steve Stube
12-31-2008, 12:39 AM
I agree with no guards and that cheap wheels throw wires but the better ones seldom do.

I spin my brushes at ~1725 (not 3450) RPM.

Here is a setup I use frequently. The 6" brush on the left is past changing time but fits a particular job - so it gets to stay for now. The 10" brush is a very nice performer.


These brushes will have your full attention in use, otherwise, you loose.


12-31-2008, 08:56 AM
I use the knotted version of a 6" wheel on the RHS of my old Baldor grinder. The retaining nut was removed and replaced with a 1/2-20 coupling nut, giving the wire wheel a place to mount (on a bolt). there out of the way and still have the grinding wheel available. It does not have a guard or a rest to get in the way. Use some common sense and you'll be OK. Like Willy says "don't lean into it" and do turn it around ocassionally so it runs in the opposite direction.

12-31-2008, 10:03 AM
As several of the posts on here have said , DON'T BUY cheepies or just pressed / crimped on . Get the twisted and the best you can buy .

The eye protection is a MUST . I have had some wires fly out and stick in my face / ( 1 was in my neck !! ) luckily not in a main artery or vein )

Almost any wire wheel will take your flesh down to the bone in a heart beat . But they sure are useful and sometimes short of a glass bead / or sand blaster you can't do without one .

Hope you have SAFE and GOOD luck ..... Oh DO NOT LET ANYONE STAND ANYWHERE NEAR YOU / BEHIND YOU WATCHING !! Even if they are 3 -5 ft back .


12-31-2008, 11:14 AM
Last summer I was using my HF 8" wire wheel to clean up a license plate trim bracket.
No gloves -like an idiot.
Of course the wheel grabbed the bracket out of my hand and took a good part of my little finger with it.
35 mile drive to the closest medical attention and 28 stitches later sort of put the finger back together.
Can't bend the last joint but I am glad I have a finger at all.
Be damn careful with wire wheels.
Glasses and heavy gloves.
Wheels will bite!!!

12-31-2008, 07:13 PM
There is a lot of good advise here that can't be stressed enough.

No loose clothing
No jewelry or watches
No tool rests or wheel guards (if possible)
Safety glasses
Face shield
Stand to the side of the wheel, not in front
Keep onlookers off to side and back
Not too much pressure on part

People don't tend to think of a wire wheel as dangerous but they can do serious damage in the blink of an eye. Nothing makes an impression as much as a part being ingested by the wheel and guard, and then being shot out across the room (or into your gut.)

01-01-2009, 04:21 AM
I agree somewhat with Sci and others, but really think it's a bit over the top. Kinda like kids wearing safety glasses, helmets, elbow/knee/shin guards with leather gloves and boots with a padded kevlar body suit flashing lights and training wheels. Yeah, maybe it might do some good for 1 in a million who would have gotten hurt, but the rest are going to be miserable for it. How did I ever survive a childhood where we rode bikes barefoot in cut-offs with no helmet, and rode in a car seat with no seat belt. Wow...

No loose clothing or jewelry; sure. Safety glasses and general caution with respect to pinch points and "snag" events; sure. Mostly just the same common sense as applied to bench grinders, lathes, mills, and a host of other machines. I also say that this, like most other machines, you should NOT use gloves. If I feel my fingers are at risk, I'll use vise grips or something else. Not gloves, never gloves. Gloves are for protecting against blisters, or handling dirty/hot stuff, or stuff with thorns and sharp edges. NOT moving powered machinery...

But come on... Face shields AND safety glasses? Yeah, I've pulled a stray wire out of my forehead, so what? I've gotten hurt worse than that when my dog gets excited when I return after being gone all day. :rolleyes: No offense intended, but if that's a big deal, you need to take up knitting or something. Oh, but watch out for that needle! ;) Better wear kevlar gloves and use tongs to pick up that straight edge razor blade to trim a cardboard shim! Standing out of the way when a stone wheel spins up makes sense, that's the common failure point and a grenaded wheel can wreck everything in it's path, including your forehead or chest. But a wire wheel? The ONLY failure mode I've ever seen is a random wire here or there. As long as I have glasses to protect my eyes, other than that I'll take my chances thank you very much. I like living on the edge; I pulled a wire out of my t-shirt just yesterday, about an hour after running it! Didn't even know it till I brushed my hand across it and it stuck my hand, didn't even feel it hit my chest with a LIGHT t-shirt on.

On guards, can it catch a part, sure. So can a snag (aka "snatch") grinder. I've chased down my fair share of flung parts (some were never found :(). And like a snag grinder, you have to use common sense in work piece presentation as well as pressure. Don't just go shoving it in! I have the rests off of mine, but that's only to expose the wheel to larger work. But you couldn't beat me into removing the "guards". "Guards" nothing, they are on there (IMO) to control the mess (including grabbed parts!) that would otherwise be hurled 360*.

Have I been bitten, yeah. I've been using them since I was about 15, maybe earlier, don't recall the first time (didn't even have safety glasses for YEARS). I've owned/run/worked in body shops and auto salvage along with a host of other automotive shops. I've used knotted wire and crimped in all sizes powers and application. Worst I've ever had was getting a finger drug partly into the guard with a crimped wheel, and it did draw blood in a sort of road-rash type "burn" injury. <shrug> I was careless distracted and tired, I learned not to do that. Now a knotted is a whole different animal and that thing can really do some damage in the heavier variety. Give it about the same respect you do a mill cutter. I use vise grips or other holding tools on a knotted wheel. But for the crimped, I routinely hold smallish bolts and the like in my bare fingers to clean the threads and heads or whatever. My finger tips often touch the wire brush. Even with a decent "bump", it does nothing but remove the grime, and I still have my finger prints. I'm not "tough guy", it's really no big deal...

And another thing. Crimped vs Knotted is not a matter of "crimped are cheap junk, you want a knotted". The knotted are as different from crimped as a finishing end mill is from a corn-cob rougher. Different tools for different purposes. The knotted is a coarse rough work tool. Stripping paint or even mill scale and light rust, heavy work. Even rough deburing in some materials when finish is irrelevant. The crimped is more for softer work. Cleaning threads, polishing up a bolt head that's looking grungy, even a sorta burnishing effect on some cleaned parts, and maybe taking off the knife edge burs on something you don't want to wind up looking like a fine tooth file (as a knotted wheel can do). Different tools, one is no better than the other, just different...

Just my opinions after over 25 years of professional AND private use of wire wheels in many capacities. I've never been harmed in any significant way, just use some common sense. Anything can hurt you if you are so foolish or careless (the same thing?) as to shove a digit into a "pinch point", but it's not a meat grinder slinging steel spikes on every rotation. IMO, the crimped wire wheel is probably one of the safer machines in my shop, with the knotted wheel not that far behind...

01-01-2009, 04:35 AM
Oh, and for reference, I've got 5 different wire wheels I use in my shop (3 bench grinders). 3 are currently mounted.

A medium/soft general purpose "cleaning" 6" x 1/2" crimped wheel. I think it came from Enco? It is nice for working in and around contours and edges, cleaning threads, and semi-burnishing action. Also used for cleaning post weld oxidation and such.

A 6" x 1" heavy/stiff/dense decent quality crimped wheel for heavy work on flat surfaces. It's on a more powerful grinder motor so I can lay in on it a bit. Mostly large flat work. Like cleaning surface rust and light mill scale on tube or structural iron before welding.

A 6" medium knotted wheel. Used for general rough cleaning, paint removal, and heavy rust removal.

The two that are not mounted at the current moment are a super soft fine wire high quality stainless crimped 6" x 1/2" wheel. It's old and seen better days, but I wouldn't hesitate to caress it with bare fingers while running. It's so "soft" it won't even grab stuff. Useful for the obvious things where you can't stand much abrasion but cleaning with rag or the like just won't work. The other is the knotted wire wheel from hell. The wires look more like finishing nails twisted together, and it actually hammers on parts, vibrating vigorously in your hands. It'll strip paint or rust from structural steel (often from the scrapper) right NOW, but it's too stuff for most castings of any complexity. If I can't grasp the work piece well away from that puppy, I hold it with a vise grip! I'm not getting near that thing, though I don't hesitate to stand in front of it wearing nothing but safety glasses and a t-shirt.

John Stevenson
01-01-2009, 08:08 AM
Well 26 post but I have to agree with everything Bad Dog has said in the last two.

Can anyone remember that far back to when we had common sense ?

I mean for ferks sake it's just another tool. We have all this mamby pamby health and safety bullsh1t but it's not new.

Nowadays you have to do a risk assessment and write it out.

WE ALWAYS HAD TO DO RISK ASSESSMENT, you thought on you feet and before you had switched the machine on you had worked out the safest way, WITHOUT 23 SHEETS IN TRIPLICATE.

Don't believe me then how have we mange to get to the age we are ?

I'm nearly 61, still got all fingers and toes, NEVER had a stitch in my life and been in manual work all my life, 19 years on big truck repair.
Never filled in a risk assessment form, when the last H&S guy came round, whatever lives in the coolant tank on the big TOS ate him, do all my own building, plumbing, electrical etc, etc

Come on guys get real, lets hear it for Common Sence.......

And before Tiffie jumps in here's the Tiffiepedia link.



Your Old Dog
01-01-2009, 08:32 AM
Sir John, is there some reason you're holding back? Can't you simply tell us how you really feel? Come out of your shell John. :D

01-01-2009, 10:33 AM
I mean for ferks sake it's just another tool. We have all this mamby pamby health and safety bullsh1t but it's not new.

John, if you're going to rant, at least get your Tiffpedia links right :D

namby pamby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namby_Pamby)

01-01-2009, 08:46 PM
I have had a wood fiber removed from my eyeball after it got past my safety glasses. No fun. I also had safety glasses deflect a chunk of grinder wheel. It cut nearly 1/2 way through the lens and then removed a little skin from my forehead.

A faceshield would not have been considered in the first instance( I was outside, far from the source of the fiber), but in the second instance would have been appropriate and welcomed.

01-01-2009, 09:45 PM
I'm certainly not an expert, but:
One thing that I haven't seen anyone say, is to keep the part you're working on below the centerline of the wheel. Same rule for using cloth polishing wheels. Since you have to remove the rest to do that, and people have mentioned that, I think it's a matter of they've done it so much that it's automatic. If you go above the centerline, and it grabs, you have a tendency to push it deeper into the wheel as it pulls down. If you're below the centerline and it grabs, it tends to rotate out of the wheel.

01-02-2009, 08:01 PM
Good point Sir John. Many of the safety issues are just good old common sense, if you have done machine work before and been bitten by the numerous little things that can cause pain and injury. Unfortunately, in todays "nanny society" kids are not allowed to develop common sense by suffering the minor dings that we suffered as children and young adults. Some of the things I tried as a kid would probably kill me now. :D

Bad dog...I see your point about the over stressed safety issues but we are on a forum that is read by many folks that don't have the life experiences that some of us old guys have ;) and I think that pointing out some of this stuff may just make them think before they go off and get hurt. If they don't think it is important they can ignore any advise. Who knows, they may just be lucky and never get hurt. Some are.

Don't get me started on the safety office and their inspections and regs. Some are common sense and some are just "cover your a$$" lawyer bites. :(
I don't pretend to be an authority on any of this but I know what I have done and experienced and offer my opinion in the spirit of idea exchange. It is all interesting and often provides new ideas.