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Angle grinders allow welders to use many different attachments for multiple jobs. Depending on the type of attachment and how coarse it is, it can have different effects on metal.
Wire wheels are one of the more underutilized attachments, but they can be extremely useful. They are great for removing contaminants, but they can also be quite dangerous (we’ll cover this as well).
When light removal of surface contaminants is needed, wire wheels are the best bet. They clean metal with ease and are really simple to use. For anyone with an angle grinder, a wire wheel is a great accessory.
If you plan on becoming a welder, being proficient with a grinder is just as important as your welding skills. Putting nice finishes on projects is one of the keys to pleasing clients and having repeat business.
Below we’ll cover the pros and cons of wire wheels, and how they are used in everyday welding applications.
What Are Wire Wheels?
Wire wheels are a circular attachment which are constructed of tightly woven wires. Once the angle grinder gets up to speed, these woven wires can remove all types of metal contaminants.
They are great for removing rust off of old steel. With a wire wheel, you can remove rust without actually digging into the base material.
You can also remove paint from steel if you need to do some welding. These wire wheels make quick work of removing paint without harming the steel itself.
Due to their nature, it is very important to wear work gloves when removing or attaching wire wheels. The ends of the wire strands can easily cut or poke your skin.
Wire wheels are great for lighter duty work. They won’t remove mill scale very well, but any unwanted metal coating besides that can be easily removed with a wire wheel.
Dangers Of Wire Wheels
One of the main issues is that these wheels can get caught on edges and jam up easily. This is especially true when working around corners or points.
If the wire wheel gets caught, it will jump back like a recoil effect. This can easily pose a danger to your skin, especially around your arms and hands.
It is important to be mindful and keep this information in your head. Flatter surfaces aren’t much of an issue for wire wheels, but edges are a surefire way to have your grinder kick back at you.
The coiled wires simply have a way of “bouncing” off of edges and points. This can cause welders to lose their grip on their grinder, which is extremely unsafe.
One of my only scars from welding is from a wire wheel. It happened at welding school when I was inexperienced. Before you get a feel for how these wheels operate, an accident is more likely to happen.
At high speed, these tightly woven wires are very dangerous. If the wheel hits your skin, it isn’t a pretty scenario. Most wire wheel accidents will result in a scar or even a trip to the ER. This is why wearing gloves is a must, and a welding jacket as well.
Wire wheels can also catch onto loose garments. If they hit your welding shirt/jacket, they can spin into your garment which tightens it – bad news. This is why buttoning your jacket is always a good idea.
Styles Of Wire Wheels
They come in several styles, but the two main styles are quite different from one another.
The first is a flat style which is great for getting into tight corners, especially when removing slag from a welding bead. These are referred to as “stringer” wheels or “buffing” wheels.
These flat wheels are popular for pipe welders and any welder who does groove joints. They will remove slag and spatter very quickly, no matter how tight the joint is. This is much faster than using a manual wire brush.
Dewalt is one of the leading manufacturers of these wheels. Our favorite flat “stringer wheel” can be found below. This is best for standard 4.5″ angle grinders. However, 7″ wire wheels are also available.
The second is a cup style which is best for covering more surface area on flatter pieces of metal. They don’t do well with tight corners, but if you’re removing rust or paint – the cup wheel is awesome.
Again, Dewalt takes the cake (in our opinion). However, there are dozens of brands that make similar good quality cup styles.
Cheaper cups found at stores like Harbor Freight tend to fall apart fast. The better quality brushes can last for weeks or months if used properly. Dewalts versions are generally pricier, but their durability seems to make up for that.
It is important not to put too much pressure on wire wheels. Lighter pressure will allow the wires to do their job – if too much pressure is applied, then the wheel will wear out really fast.
This is because the wires are simply made of mild steel. They aren’t very resistant to wear, so applying light pressure while grinding is a good choice.
To conclude, below is a list of contaminants that can be removed with a wire wheel
- Rust – heavy or light
- Paints and primers
- Light oil
- Slag from stick welds (6010,7018s etc)
- Slag from flux core welds (MIG)
- Heat marks from torches
- Clear coats
- Finishes that are unwanted
While hard wheels and cut off wheels are much more popular, wire wheels are a great addition to your tool bag.
We often keep a dedicated angle grinder that is just for wire wheels – we use them often enough that dedicating a grinder to this wheel is necessary for us.
For your upcoming projects – consider if a wire wheel could be of use. It is more capable than you may think.
Since these are made for removing particles, wearing safety glasses is a must. Getting foreign objects in an eye can happen easily with these wheels, so having a good pair of safety glasses is essential.
Featured image credit : Pxhere