How to Clean Using a Grinder with Wire Brush?

If you’re not cleaning with your grinder with a wire brush, you’re missing out on an important step! You have to deburr (i.e., finish) a metal surface to clean its surface of impurities. Your work piece will then have a more polished feel.

Reason to Clean Using an Angle Grinder with Wire Brush

Power wire brushing is just as important as cutting and grinding. This step removes the burrs and cleans the impurities off the surface. These impurities include rust, paint, slag, and oxidation, which affects the work piece’s integrity.

A wire brush actually consists of thousands of small impact tools on the metal’s surface. But it isn’t a metal removal tool, unlike an abrasive grinding disc. You may use it in removing a bit of metal but it isn’t recommended.

It also isn’t like its bonded, coated, and non-woven abrasive counterparts. A wire brush will not accumulate ground particles, such as rust.

But like grinding and cutting, deburring and cleaning with a wire brush is still a manual process. You have to choose the right wire brush for the job. You must also use the right techniques to get the best possible results.

Gently run your fingers across a soft wire finishing brush. You will feel a scratching sensation. Push down below the wire tips into the bristles and the scratching sensation disappears. This is because the tips of the rush aren’t in direct contact with your skin.

The bottom line: The tips of the soft wire finishing brush perform the work. You must then ensure that the tips are at or near perpendicular with the work piece.

Otherwise, the tips aren’t making full and direct contact with the surface. If the brush and work piece aren’t making the right contact, then you’re wasting your time. The work piece will not be any better for your effort.

Factors in Choosing the Wire Brush

There’s no one-size-fits-all in wire brushes. You have to consider several factors in choosing the right wire brush.

1. Material

Cross-contamination between the metal and wire brush should be avoided. You have to use a carbon steel brush on carbon steel and a stainless steel brush on stainless steel.

Otherwise, oxidation and rust will set in. This is true when using a carbon steel brush on stainless steel. The carbon will contaminate the stainless steel.

But you can use a stainless steel brush on carbon steel. Just make sure not to use the brush on other metals including stainless steel.

Tip: Use labels or colors to show which brush is which. This can prevent confusion among users and cross-contamination among metals.

2. Shape

In general, these rules apply in choosing the best brush shape and diameter:

  • Cup brush for flat surfaces
  • Stringer bead wheel brush for cleaning pipes
  • Narrow-end brush for confined spaces (e.g., holes)

3. Wire Diameter

Your best bet is the finest wire diameter that will contribute to effective results. This is because the larger the wire diameter, the more likely it can break during the job.

4. Wire Style

Your best choice when cleaning a light layer of rust or oxidation is a crimp style wire brush. You should switch to a knotted or twisted style for heavy scales.

5. Wire Density

The denser the wire, the longer its life can be. But keep in mind that a high wire density will make the brush less flexible in tight spaces.

6. Material

If you’re working on a flat surface, you can use a shorter wire brush like an encapsulated brush. It has less give but its aggressive action is suitable for flat surfaces.

But if you’re working in tight areas, your best bet is a longer wire brush. It’s effective in cleaning threads, for example, without changing their geometry.

Choosing the right wire brush for cleaning is an art and a science. You may have to alternate between a few wire brushes to finish a work piece.

For example, a work piece with a flat surface and tight corners needs two types of wire brush to finish the job. You have to experiment with what works best instead of settling for what will get by.

Tips in Using a Wire Brush

But choosing the right brush is only the start. You should also apply the right technique and it start by keeping in mind SPOT.

S – Speed. Use a variable speed angle grinder to find the best combo of application and speed.

P – Pressure. Avoid applying excessive pressure. The tips of the wire brush should make full and direct contact with the surface for best results.

O- Orientation. Adjust your angle of approach according to the speed and cup length of the wire brush.

T – Time. Shorten the time spent on a job by getting the best combo of speed, pressure and orientation.

The more adept you are in the first three aspects, the shorter the time spent on the job. Your practice in combining speed, pressure and orientation will result in skills perfection.

Final Words

Cleaning metal surfaces with a wire brush attachment on an angle grinder is an art and a science. You must first know the logic behind brush selection and use through training. You can then use your own techniques in getting the right results.

In all instances, safety should still be your main concern. Just as in cutting and grinding with an angle grinder, be sure to wear personal protective gear. Be sure to be in the moment, too, since distractions increase the risks for accidents.

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