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Sharpen your wire wheels and brushes

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  • Sharpen your wire wheels and brushes

    Yep, sharpen them. I’m willing to bet you never thought of that. Wire wheels and brushes are tools that don’t come sharp from the factory. They don’t cut so we press harder and harder. They become frustrating rubbing tools. Excessive bending of the wires causes them to fatigue and fly off. Sound familiar?

    Well, it’s is a simple fix once you think about it. Each wire is a cutting tool and should look like one. Specifically a round rod with a sharp square cut end. The edge of the square cut Is what does the cutting. A sharp wire wheel will leave a shot peeled look to a metal surface that is softer than the wires themselves.

    To sharpen, simple take a flat dollar store sharpening stone and gently press And travers it against the running wire wheel. You can make its contour flat or rounded, whatever you prefer. The ends of the wires When sharp can be seen clearly when the wheel is stationary. I advise tossing the old wheel as it is fatigued and the wires will continue to fly off. You will find that there is no need to press hard when using a sharpened wheel. I get about one strand/ year launched from my wheels. My wheels have 0.005” and 0.010” wires. Give it the test. Try to derust a bar With your wheel, sharpen it and continue the derust.

    Once your wheel has been sharpened it takes only 3-5 seconds to refresh it while using it.

    A similar approach for sharpening wire brushes. They can be restored no mater how bad they are mangled. Restored but Probably much smaller. The best method I found is to travers the brush against the wheel of my tool grinder. The flat side wheel of the grinder makes it easy the get a flat surface on a brush again. It is more difficult on a tool post grinder but is doable. Can you imagine a wire brunch that actually does something and works? Try it.

    I’ve mentioned this to many friends and long time machinists and never came across one that knew about this in the past 25 years.

    This is a subject like precision’s stones, you won’t believe it until you try it.



  • #2
    Good point. I've actually done that, but only once or twice in bad cases. Should do it more.


    You really do NOT want to press hard when sharpening, because you want the wires to be flat on the end, pressure will tend to round them over as the wires drag and spring over.. Maybe if you run in reverse you can press a bit harder and get a bit of "clearance" on the back of each wire when run forward. No clue if that helps, just occurred to me.
    CNC machines only go through the motions

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    • #3
      Will have to give this a try, makes sense.

      I find most folks lean on wire wheels in hopes the pressure will do the work. Wrong! This only shortens it's life greatly and renders it nearly useless almost instantly. I find the wire wheels work best when used much like a broom, let the strands flick the foreign matter off of the workpiece.
      I tell those not familiar with the proper use of wire wheels that it works exactly like a broom and that if they need a graphic illustration just put lots of pressure on a broom the next time they use one and to let me know how that worked out.
      Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
      Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

      Location: British Columbia

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      • #4
        Great tip, rickyb. You say "Excessive bending of the wires causes them to fatigue and fly off" which of course is true but I've found that a cheap wire wheel will lose wires very easily. Many years ago I bought a very good quality wheel, quite expensive compared to the run of the mill cheapies but I'm still using it and it rarely loses a wire.
        Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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        • #5
          Loose wires? I shall try this. Perhaps the days of my shop apron looking like I skinned a porcupine for it are over?
          "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979

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          • #6
            I flip mine over periodically. Man do they cut when the other side of the wires are contacted.

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            • #7
              I've done that a couple of times but it's something that I never seem to think of doing. I do however occasionally reverse the wheel when it tends not to cut. Been doing that for years.

              JL.............

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              • #8
                Originally posted by I make chips View Post
                I flip mine over periodically. Man do they cut when the other side of the wires are contacted.
                Tom Gardner, former owner of Ohio Brush, was a frequent poster on RCM, years ago. He was the wire brush & wheel expert and he said that flipping a wire wheel was an invitation to loosing wires. That the wires take a set and reversing meant setting the opposite way, that flexing leading to fracture.

                I'm not doubting that it works for the previous posters, just passing along an expert's advice.
                Last edited by Bob Engelhardt; 06-06-2020, 09:46 AM.

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                • #9
                  Buying good wire wheels is one move that pays off in the shedding wire category. I've never had issue with Weiler, Dynabrade, Osborne or Norton. The cheapos range from a wire or two to full on plucked chicken.
                  I just need one more tool,just one!

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                  • #10
                    I tend to take the spinning wheel to the bench grinder for a touch up, helps,

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                    • #11
                      I think that the trick in flipping a wire wheel , is to do it frequently, not to wait for the wires to have taken a hard set in one direction.

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                      • #12
                        Nice, Thanks! I've never had any real probs running wire wheels but I did not know they could be sharpened.... gonna have to remember that one!
                        25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bob Engelhardt View Post

                          Tom Gardner, former owner of Ohio Brush, was a frequent poster on RCM, years ago. He was the wire brush & wheel expert and he said that flipping a wire wheel was an invitation to loosing wires. That the wires take a set and reversing meant setting the opposite way, that flexing leading to fracture.

                          I'm not doubting that it works for the previous posters, just passing along an expert's advice.
                          fatigue life is extended if the component sees only positive stresses. It reduces significantly when cycling from tension to compression. I agree with his statement if one were to flip the wheel often.

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                          • #14
                            Forgot to mention a word of caution. A sharpened wire wheel is highly efficient at removing skim from knuckles. Leaning toward surface grinder efficient.

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                            • #15
                              The last time I use my wire wheel, I came away looking like some monster with wire hair. The brush did what I needed, but I tossed in once I was done.

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