This article covers all the topics you need to know about Wire Brushes.
You will learn about topics you need to know about Wire Brushes:
- What is a wire brush?
- Types of wire brushes
- How wire brushes are made
- Uses for wire brushes
- And much more…
Chapter One – What is a Wire Brush?
A wire brush is an abrasive tool that has stiff bristles made from a variety of rigid materials designed to clean and prepare metal surfaces. The filaments of wire brushes are small diameter pieces of inflexible material that are closely spaced together as a means for cleaning surfaces that require aggressive and abrasive tools. The means of applying the brush can be either manual or mechanical depending on the type of brush and the surface to be treated.
The short video below explains the manufacturing of a unique type of wire brush called a wire drawn brush, which is a very sturdy and durable brush that is made by a process that ensures filament retention.
Brush Solutions from concept to creation
Though part of a wire brush’s function is to clean surfaces, they have other purposes such as preparing materials for painting or removing slag and spatter after welding. Wire brushes have become an essential part of several production operations as a method for preparing products for processing, finishing, and treatment.
Chapter Two – Types of Wire Brushes
The types and kinds of wire brushes are endless since new types are continually being developed as well as different brushes and unusual designs that are required for specialized applications. What is important is to gain a general understanding of the necessity and use of wire brushes since they are a valuable tool found in homes, factories, manufacturing, and process production.
On the surface, wire brushes seem to have a simple design where some form of bristles are attached to a handle. Though that initial concept is true, the methods and techniques used to put the handles and bristles together requires planning and engineering expertise.
Types of Wire Brushes
In the engineering of brushes, there are many different types of handles as well as a wide range of bristles, though metal bristles are the most common type. The design of a brush is dependent on how it will be used with different ones for stripping wallpaper to others that are used to descale and deburr parts.
Scratch brushes are a general purpose brush used for paint, rust, and dirt removal. Handles can be made of plastic or wood with fill options of steel, stainless steel, brass, or bronze filaments.
Channel Scratch Brushes
The purpose of a channel scratch brush is for thread cleaning and light removal of rust or paint. They come in a variety of lengths with bristles that range in size from seven to twelve inches being the most common. The handle can be bent or straight depending on the application and the needs of the operation. Much like other scratch brushes, the choice of filaments includes steel, stainless steel, brass, or bronze. Channel brushes are available in a variety of wire diameter sizes.
Brushes for welding have to be highly durable due to the nature of the application. This type of brush is used to prepare a surface for welding by removing oils, dirt, dust, and other materials that may contaminate the process. Once welding is completed, welding brushes are used to remove excess slag or minor burrs.The metal bristles have to be resilient enough to be able to withstand the heat from the joined metal pieces.
Toothbrush Style Wire Brushes
The toothbrush style wire brush comes in various configurations and a selection of different handles. Regardless of its size, it supplies the same abrasive action as larger brushes and is good for getting into hard to reach or small spaces. Its most common use is in the electronics industry. Filaments can be steel, stainless steel, or brass.
The common utility brush comes with a standard face of two by three inches and an overall length of eight inches. This type of brush can be found in many places from homes for cleaning the BBQ grill to cleaning and preparing parts for production. The most common type of utility brush has a wooden handle with a slightly angled head.
Flat Wire Broom Brushes
There are floor cleaning conditions that require a wire head push broom for cleaning the accumulation of sticky, thick, and viscous substances that cannot be removed by using a traditional push broom. A flat wire broom has flat steel wire filaments that are capable of supplying the abrasive force to remove sticky dense materials from a work area. They are used exactly like a normal push broom but with greater abrasive force.
Much like all forms of brushes, cup wire brushes come in a wide range of styles and types. In some cases, they are specially designed to fit a specific production or finishing application. Cup brushes are used for surface preparation, polishing, and descaling. They have high density crimped wire filaments.
The name for wire cup brushes comes from their design, which includes a cup shaped base that has wire filaments of brass, steel, or stainless steel inserted. The bristles or filaments can be crimped, knotted, or twisted.
Wheel wire brushes are used with grinders, robotic finishing devices, or for being mounted to an arbor. The wires for a wheel brush can be crimped or knotted and made from steel, stainless steel, or brass. The traditional wheel wire brush has an arbor hole of two inches and comes with a variety of wire diameters. Common wire filament lengths for wheel wire brushes are six to eight inches.
Wheel brushes provide straight line cleaning for surface finishing, cleaning, polishing, deburring, and the removal of paint. Manufacturers provide a wide selection of wheel brushes that can be used individually, or gang mounted.
Twisted Wire Brushes
Twisted brushes are known by several different names depending on the manufacturer or customer. The names include tube, bottle, pipe, spiral, or internal cleaning brushes. They are adaptable enough to be used for manual or power tools such as drills and CNC machining equipment. Twisted brushes are made by putting filaments between stem wires and twisting the stem wires to securely hold the filaments.
Twisted wire brushes are made in a variety of sizes including ones that are referred to as miniature or micro brushes. These extremely small brushes are designed to deburr and clean close tolerance holes drilled in metallic and non-metallic parts.
The brief video below from Precision Brush gives an explanation of how twisted brushes are made, their use, and the ways they can be customized or adjusted.
Precision Brush - Twisted in Wire Brush
The main feature of cylinder wire brushes is their wide face that can clean a large area of a product substrate. They are known as rotary, coil, and spiral brushes and consist of a strip brush mounted on a cylindrical core or filament tufts set in a core. The length of the filaments determines how aggressively the brush will clean a surface with shorter filaments being the most aggressive. Though longer filaments serve the same function, they tend to be gentler and not as abrasive.
End Wire Brushes
End wire brushes are used in conditions of restricted or limited space and are sometimes referred to as stem brushes. They are ideal for polishing molds, cleaning castings, deburring holes, flash removal, spot facing, and preparing a metal surface for welding. End brushes tend to have a similar appearance as cup brushes with a smaller container for their filaments that can be in a wide range of cup diameters from less than an inch up to four inches. A critical aspect of end brushes is their style of filaments, which can be crimped, twisted, flared, or have a hollow center. The filaments are the standard types of steel, stainless steel, brass, and bronze.
The main feature of a strip brush is its metal channel, which is used to hold the filaments. The channel is made by taking a long sheet of flat metal that is about four to six inches wide and four to twelve inches long. The sheet is bent in the middle to form the channel. Steel, copper, or bronze filaments are prepared to be placed in the challen by being bent in half. The bent portion of the filaments is placed in the channel, which is used to crimp them firmly in place. The variations in strip wire brushes can be determined by the trimmed length of the filaments as well as their density and diameter. Those three factors define how aggressive the brush will be.
Chapter Three - How Wire Brushes are Made
The problem with describing how a wire brush is made is due to the many different types of wire brushes that are available. The varieties of bristles, filaments, handles, cups, channels, and other aspects of wire brush manufacturing are widely varied and are dependent on the type of brush.
All brushes, regardless of type, have two shared characteristics, which are some form of a container or handle and filaments or bristles. The automated and complex production processes for brushes have been designed to create high quality wire brushes with filaments that are firmly held in place ensuring the brush’s excellent performance.
The main part of a wire brush is its filaments or bristles. The types of wire filaments, their diameters, density, and length determine what applications a brush can be used for. The filament diameter is the measurement across the diameter of an individual filament, which is measured with a micrometer or caliper and can range from 0.003 to 0.050 of an inch.
Finer diameter filaments offer more cutting tips per square inch than larger diameter ones. Though larger diameters may seem to be ideal, they tend to fatigue more rapidly and shorten a brush’s usage.
There are several types of wire filaments available for the manufacture of wire brushes. Filaments are chosen according to the types of results they are designed to achieve on the surface being treated.
Carbon Steel: – Crimped carbon steel is ideal for light surface treatments, deburring, and flexible brushing. Twisted or knotted carbon steel is used for heavier applications and hard to work surfaces.
Steel: The main benefit of steel wire is that it offers a quicker, faster, aggressive cut, and has a longer usage life. These factors are the result of its durability and ability to endure extreme brushing applications.
Coated Tin: There are limitations to the applications where coated tin brushes can be used. Coated tin filaments can be straight or crimped and be used for deburring or decarbonizing.
Brass: Brass filaments are used on surfaces when there is material to be removed but a need to not harm the substrate. Since brass does not produce sparks, it can be used in potentially flammable environments as a safe alternative to steel.
Stainless Steel Grades: The grades of stainless steel filaments include grades 302, 304, and 316. Like most stainless steel, grade 302 is corrosion and rust resistant. It is ideal for food processing, high temperature applications, and humid conditions. Grade 304 stainless steel does not have the same corrosion and rust resistance of other grades and is used in low moisture or low humidity conditions. Grade 316 has exceptional resistance to corrosion and is normally used in high humidity and saltwater applications.
Nylon: Abrasive nylon is used on brushes designed to remove chips and dirt from cylinders, tubing, or bores. The abrasive nylon fibers have the same characteristics as metal wire and can be coiled, twisted, stripped, and stapled. Though abrasive nylon filaments do not have the ability to be used in aggressive applications, they are ideal for scrubbing of wet or dried materials.
Nickel Silver: Nickel silver is produced by alloying 10% nickel, 65% copper and 25% zinc. The addition of nickel to copper and zinc creates nickel silver. The presence of nickel increases the tensile strength and corrosion resistance of brass, which produces a more versatile filament material.
Styles of Filaments
There are four basic styles of filaments, which are twisted, crimped, level or straight, and rectangular.
- Twisted – Twisted filaments are created by taking crimped or straight filaments and twisting several of them in a batch type style. The multiple diameters twisted together increase the diameter of the individual filaments, which gives them the ability to clean larger areas.
- Round Crimp – Round crimped filaments have a wave appearance that is denser and offers greater brush action. The nature of the crimp is determined by the amplitude, depth of crimp, frequency, and crimps per inch.
- Level or Straight – Straight or level filaments are less dense and used for lighter less abrasive applications.
- Rectangular – Rectangular style filaments are capable of applying far more abrasion because of their solid line contact with a surface that offers excellent performance for heavy duty applications.
Wire Brush Filament Holders
Unlike standard brushes that have handles, wire brush filaments are encapsulated in a variety of holders that are designed to keep the filaments compact and secure. The types of holders include the traditional handle, cups, wires, and metal strips. A variety of methods are used to ensure that the filaments are securely placed.
Cup – Wire cup brushes are an abrasive brush made by attaching filaments to a cup shaped base using any of the many types of filaments. Cups can have either crimped or twisted filaments. With twisted versions, the filaments are twisted in groups before being placed in the cup, which makes them usable for aggressive applications. In the crimped version, each filament is crimped to keep them separated.
Handles – The handles for wire brushes are much like the handles for standard household brushes and are made of plastic, wood, metal, or wire. The manufacture of wire brushes with handles includes drilling holes in the handle. There are a variety of ways the filaments are attached, which can include twisting, compression, forcibly inserting, or pressurization. In the case of plastic handles, filaments may be inserted in the handle during the handles formation to form a more secure tight fit.
Handles for twisted wire brushes are unlike the methods used to insert filaments in solid handles. For twisted wire brushes, the filaments are placed between two wires that are twisted to hold the filaments in place. The handle of the brush is an extension of the twisted wires.
Cylinder – The various names of cylinder brushes include rotary and coil brushes. Cylinder brushes can be produced by back strip or stapled set construction. There are several types of cylinder brushes that are differentiated by the types of filaments, filament density, the length of the filaments, and the types of filaments.
Wheel Wheel brushes, or spiral brushes, are a circular shape with either a solid center or an open center. The filaments for the brush are attached to the circumference of the circle and are normally secured by pressure applied to the sides of the metal holding core to ensure a secure tight fit. Wheel brushes with a solid center may have a shaft attached to allow them to be connected to a power tool. Ones with an open center are designed to be slipped on to a grinder. The filaments can be long or short with shorter filaments able to apply more aggressive abrasive force.
Strip A strip brush is a long piece of metal with bristles attached. A sheet of metal that is four to six inches wide of varying lengths is bent to form a channel.
The filaments are placed in the channel, which is crimped to hold the filaments in place. The size, depth, and width of the channel depends on the filament diameter and the trim of the brush.
The brief video below from Precision Brush explains how strip brushes are made and the different sizes.
Precision Brush - Sizes of Metal Channel Wire Brush
Chapter Four – Uses for Wire Brushes
Wire brushes have found a place in a wide variety of industries as a means of aggressively cleaning stubborn thick metallic surfaces and floors. The variations in wire brushes are defined by their use where some are used as a method of preparing and finishing a product while others are used to tear into hard surfaces. Depending on how fine the wires are on a wire brush can determine whether it is being used to smooth and finely prepare a surface or going to remove unwanted surface materials on the substrate.
Though wire brushes are normally defined as an aggressive tool that can tear into thick materials, they have found use in industries that need a sensitive but aggressive touch such as welding of electronics. There are any number of uses for wire brushes and new ones are continually being discovered.
Uses for Wire Brushes
Acid brushes are small brushes used to apply glue, liquids, or chemicals and are ideal for quick cleaning of small areas. Most acid brushes have crimped filaments of stainless steel but can come with any number of different filament materials.
Pipe brushes are a tool used by plumbers to clean pipes and hard to reach surfaces. The diameters of the brushes are equal to or greater than the diameter of the pipe such that they firmly fit against the pipe’s inner surface. Though they are ideal for cleaning pipes, they can also be used to push or destroy obstructions in pipes. The flexible wire version bends with the curves in pipes and can conform to the shape of a pipe.
A common use for cup and wheel wire brushes is for rust removal. Powered wheel wire brushes are ideal for removing rust from hard to reach places. They have enough abrasive force to dig into cracks and tight spaces. The many varieties of cup brushes can be used to clean flaky rust and paint from large surfaces. The different sizes and diameters of cup brushes as well as the hollow versions offer a sufficient alternative to meet any type of rust removal needs.
When cleaning a stainless steel surface, it is best to use a brass filament cup or wheel wire brush to protect the surface from contamination. Brass filaments have the same cutting abilities but are not as abrasive as carbon steel.
Hand wire brushes can also be used for cleaning rust but are not ideal for large or encrusted surfaces since they do not have the same cutting power and take far too much effort to complete the job. Powered cup and wheel wire brushes can be used for a wide variety of surfaces from rust on machines and cars to rust covered fences and barriers.
Though much of the emphasis on wire brushes is about cleaning and removal, they are also ideal for preparing surfaces for finishing. The purpose of wire brush cleaning is to prepare a surface for the application of surface protection. In large operations, a form of blasting may be used to clean and prepare a surface.
Regardless of the efficiency of blasting, there are certain areas that may need attention to ensure that the surface is completely ready to be finished. In those cases, a handheld cup or wheel wire brush is used to do the necessary detailing.
In surface preparation processes, some amount of roughness is necessary to ensure that the protective material to be applied will adhere. The type of wire brush that is used for the preparation of a surface depends on the type of substrate. The selection of the correct kind of wire brush depends on the types of filaments.
The process of distressing wood is used to wear off the softer, lighter portions of the wood grain while leaving the denser parts. This process produces an appearance of aging. The resulting effect is a time worn effect as if the wood has been weathered out of doors. The process can be completed using a handheld wire brush or a wire brush with stiff nylon filaments, which creates a softer sanded appearance.
Roughing caused by wire brushes will vary according to the types of filaments used to achieve the desired effect. To sand the surface, a wire brush with aluminum filaments of different grits can be used. These types of wire brushes produce the same results as using sandpaper.
There are many reasons to use the deburring process, which include holes cut in metal, cutoff operations, or molded parts. Wire brushes are a very practical and economical way to deburr and clean up metal pieces. The use of wire brushes is less expensive than using chamfering equipment, and the brushes last longer.
There are few limitations on the use of wire brushes for deburring operations. Thin walled tubing can be deburred using a wire brush without changing the dimensions of the tube. Unlike other deburring methods, wire brush deburring does not leave any types of micro burrs on treated surfaces.
One of the ongoing problems of production processes is the creation of static during assembly operations. Though the static may not be harmful to workers, it does attract dust, dirt, and other substances to final products that are difficult and time consuming to remove.
Wire brushes can be incorporated into assembly operations to pick up static and prevent it from being created. Wire brushes pickup static and move it to a ground to extinguish its effects. There is a wide variety of wire brushes in various lengths and filament diameters that can be adapted for the process.
There are several uses for wire brushes for welding applications. Prior to welding, metal surfaces may require pre-welding preparation, which is the removal of impurities on the surface such as oil, dirt, and grime. Included in the factors to be removed are rust, corrosion, and coatings that could interfere with the bond of the metals or be volatile.
Once the welding process is completed, the welded surface has to be smoothed, oxidized, and be freed of irregularities and foreign particles, much like is necessary during pre-welding. Though grinding is used to remove roughness and weld spatter, wire brushes help to smooth and even surfaces.
There are four possible wire brushes that can be used to prepare and smooth welding surfaces. Wire wheel brushes are versatile and durable enough to do all three of the required operations, while cup wire brushes are ideal for larger surfaces and less detailed work. End wire brushes are used for hard to reach spots such as T-joints using fine, crimped wires for lighter surface cleaning. When less aggressive measures are necessary for small jobs, handheld wire brushes can be used to knock off slag between welding operations.
A major factor in crematoriums is keeping the surface of the oven clean to ensure its continued usefulness. Brass wire brushes are used to clean out the oven chamber without causing damage to the surface. The less abrasive nature of brass makes them the perfect solution to preserving the chamber's integrity. Straight brushes for this purpose can easily connect to threaded handles and come in various widths with twelve inches being the most common.
Wire rotary brushes are used to remove grime, oil, set in dirt, and thick dried substances that have built up on concrete surfaces. Though hand wire brushes attached to mop handles are capable of doing the work, in most instances, it is necessary to attach a large rotary brush to a floor scrubber to get the best results.
Made of heavy gauge carbon steel, rotary wire brushes strip concrete surfaces removing any type of built up material that are the result of shipping or industrial operations. The action of a rotary wire brush is very similar to using a stringent cleaning solvent without the concern for toxicity.
Highly aggressive floor brushes can be used for scraping, scrubbing, scouring, and stripping floors. They are designed to attack impacted soil, grease, and oil. Floor scrubbing brushes come in several diameters beginning with 13” and going up to over 20.
Chapter Five – How to Select the Right Wire Brush
With the wide and varied types of wire brushes, it can be difficult to determine the correct wire brush for an application. There are certain factors that have to be considered when making the choice since an incorrect choice can lead to problems or damage to a surface.
Though wire brushes are an aggressive tool, there are varying degrees to their abrasive force, which is a principal factor when making the decision of which one to purchase. Whether a wire brush is cup, straight, wheel, or handle, it can be soft and smooth or harsh and destructive as may be required.
How to Select the Right Wire Brush
Wire Filament Type
One of the factors that differentiates wire brushes is the wire type, which starts with stiff nylon and aluminum and runs up to high tensile strength carbon steel. The wire type should compliment the work. The chart below is a brief method for matching the proper wire type with the material to be treated.
Aside from the wire type, it is important to determine the wire configuration, which can be twisted, knotted, crimped, or straight. Twisted and knotted wire produce high impact and cover a wide surface area. These types of configurations are normally used in cup and end wire brushes. Twisted and knotted wires are used for heavy duty applications such as welding clean up and heavy corrosion removal.
Straight wire is not as aggressive as twisted or knotted wire since the individual filaments are unable to cover a large area. Crimped wire is like straight wire but is highly flexible and provides excellent cleaning action. It is used for light applications.
The size of the surface to be cleaned, prepped, or finished determines the size of wire brush to be used. Handheld brushes are sufficient for small jobs and surfaces but require too much effort for large areas. Wheel and end wire brushes are good for getting into small tight areas all though toothbrush size wire brushes can be used for small jobs that don’t require motorized brushes.
The wide variety of rotary and cup brushes are the best choice for working large flat areas especially when the area to be prepped is covered with rust, corrosion, slag, or other heavy materials. The choice of filament type can also be a factor since bronze or aluminum may not be heavy enough to completely remove all of the contamination.
Wire Filament Diameters
The diameters of wire filaments vary from 0.004 inches to 0.032 inches. The diameter of the wire affects the gauge of wire that can be used in the brush. Larger diameter filaments require a larger filament holder to keep the filaments in place. The chart below matches the wire diameter to its grade.
Length of Filaments
When choosing filaments, the length plays an important part in how abrasive a wire brush will be. When an application requires a less aggressive and gentler brushing, longer more flexible filaments should be used. Shorter compact filaments are more aggressive, more rigid, and work faster.
- A wire brush is an abrasive tool that has stiff bristles made from a variety of rigid materials designed to clean and prepare metal surfaces.
- Though part of a wire brushes function is to clean surfaces, they have other purposes such as preparing a surface for painting or removing slag and spatter after welding.
- The types and kinds of wire brushes are endless since new types are continually being developed as well as different brushes and unusual designs that are required for specialized applications.
- In the engineering of brushes, there are many different types of handles as well as a wide range of bristles, though metal bristles are the most common type.
- The automated and complex production processes for brushes have been designed to create high quality wire brushes with filaments that are firmly held in place ensuring the outstanding and excellent performance of the brush.