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Tips On Better Finishing With Steel Brushes

Tips on Better Finishing With Steel Brushes

Steel wire brushes are typical and necessary in any shop fabricating metal. Weld cleaning, deburring, rust and oxide removal, surface preparation, and surface finishing are just a few of the uses for these brushes.

Unlike solid abrasive wheels, steel filaments do not remove the base material or alter the proportions of parts. This is one reason wire brushes are so popular. Like sandblasting, wire brushes clean surfaces by contacting the workpiece and with the tips of the wires. This is rather than with sand particles. The brushes' ability to separate surface impurities from the base material is made possible by high surface speeds combined with good-quality, hardened steel wire tips.

Steel brushes are adaptable and come in various configurations to suit any application. Long filament brushes, for instance, conform to and follow curved surfaces, but short trim brushes are quick-acting and suitable for demanding applications. Fill density is another factor to consider: While high-density brushes create a quick brushing action and long brush life, low-density brushes provide good flexibility for surface cleaning operations on irregular surfaces.

Steel brushes are also non-loading. In other words, they do not become clogged with dirt and debris when used to remove paint and similar coatings. Perhaps because wire end brushes are so common, they are overlooked and rarely get attention. Five suggestions, however, can help you increase wire brushes' effectiveness and durability.



Like cutting instruments, power wire brushes work best when the pressure and speed of operation are precisely matched to the application requirements. The fastest brushing motion and the longest brush life are often achieved by employing the highest rate with the lightest pressure.

Stiffness and brushing action are increased when the brush speed is increased to the highest safe rate. While a coarse-wire brush rotating at a moderate speed typically lasts longer, a fine-wire brush rotating at a high speed achieves the same effect. Therefore, selecting the finest wire to accomplish the job will produce the lowest production costs.

Frustrated operators may exert increasing pressure if the brush speed is insufficient. However, too much pressure results in the filaments being overbent and overheated, which shortens the brushes' lifespan and causes filament breakage.

Try using a brush with a more forceful action, such as one with a larger filament diameter and a shorter filament trim length. You can also use one with a knot type rather than crimped wire instead of exerting additional pressure. Alternatively, you might try increasing the brush diameter or revolutions per minute (RPM) to speed up the brush surface.

For each application, you must identify the ideal operating speed. Never run over the maximum safe free speed (MSFS) or RPM rating that the manufacturer specifies for each type of brush for safety reasons.


Here is a quick tip for wire wheel brushes without nuts, such as those typically used on bench grinders, to increase their performance and lifespan: Rotate them sometimes in the opposite direction to take advantage of the consequent self-sharpening motion.

Simply unmount the brush from the spindle, flip the wire brush 180 degrees, and then firmly remount the brush to change the rotation direction.


Crimped-wire brushes are all-purpose tools that can be applied to various tasks. They are constructed from stiff, hard-drawn wire that supports individual filaments. Crimped-wire brushes offer flexibility for light- to medium-duty brushing action and should be used on components that a knot brush's effect can harm.

Knot-wire brushes are constructed from straight, heat-treated wire filaments twisted to resemble cable or wire rope. In heavy-duty applications on parts that call for high-impact action, they offer less flexibility and aggressive brushing action than crimped brushes. Knot-wire brushes are widely used in welding applications to eliminate severe contaminants such as numerous coats of paint, rust, scale, oxides, and large burrs.


To reduce the chance of "after-rust" developing on the work surface, stainless steel brushes are frequently used on nonferrous metals like stainless steel, aluminum, etc. You can maximize these tools' efficiency by following certain procedures.

A stainless steel brush should not be used on stainless steel after using carbon steel because after-rust may develop. To avoid contamination, keep all stainless brushes out of reach of steel workbenches and other surfaces where carbon steel particles might come into contact with them.

Contrary to what many people believe, stainless steel brush wires are magnetic. Because of this, brushes cannot be tested using the tried-and-true method of employing a magnet to determine if steel is stainless or carbon. Brush wire is created by pulling the material, which magnetically attracts it. The drawing results can be reversed by igniting the wire with a match until it is red-hot. The wire won't be drawn to a magnet after heating if it is Type 302 stainless steel.

Before starting any significant procedures, degrease stainless steel wire brushes. After using the brushes, degrease them and wrap them in plastic if you plan to store them. The brushes' magnetic qualities may gather foreign objects if stored without protection for a time, leaving rust behind when repurposed.


Despite stainless steel's after-rust removal advantage, carbon steel is superior in cutting action and fatigue resistance. Choosing carbon steel brushes with filaments composed of high-quality materials is crucial when buying them for industrial purposes. Look for high-tensile steel that has been heat-treated, oil-tempered, or both, particularly in wire sizes of 0.008 inches and larger.

Although you can get cheaper brushes at your local hardware store or DIY retailer, you might find that you spend more in the long run. This is due to decreased productivity, longer changeover times, and brush replacement expenses. A $5 brush, for instance, lasts an hour, whereas a $10 brush lasts more than a day.

Previous article How Long Do Wire Brushes Typically Last, And When Should They Be Replaced?
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