Wire brushes are brushes manufactured with a collection of metal bristles that help them tackle aggressive surface cleaning tasks, as well as surface treating tasks, such as abrasion and deburring. Composed of a mounting area and the collection of bristles, wire brushes are available in many different configurations appropriate for uses from household applications to industrial jobs. These configurations include machine-operated or power, handheld, broom, cup, spiral, strip, twisted knot, wheel wire brushes and more.
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Types of Wire Brushes
Of all the wire brush styles available, the two most popular are handheld and power brushes. Note that both categories are quite broad, and contain many other types of wire brushes within them.
- Handheld Wire Brushes
- Wire brushes are those wire brushes that contain a handle or some feature that allows them to be gripped. Usually, these features are either plastic or wooden. Handheld brushes are mostly used for at-home or small scale tasks, such as light duty cleaning, as well as abrading and some deburring processes.
- Power Brushes
- Machine-operated. They are either designed to attach to a motor, so that they can brush surfaces at controlled, variable speeds, or they are designed to attach to power tools, like a drill. Usually, wire brushes used with drills are round and disc-shaped. Wire brush types that can be integrated into a motor system include end brushes, cup brushes and wheel brushes, among others. Power brushes allow certain surface treatment processes, like buffing, deburring, paint removal and rust removal, to be performable on a larger scale.
Applications of Wire Brushes
Examples of the tasks to which wire brushes attend include: scrubbing rust, dirt and oil off of car tires, removing grease and burnt food from grills, stripping paint and getting grime out of grout. Furthermore, by removing dirt and grime, wire brushes can be used to increase conductivity between electrical connections, such as those found in car batteries, so that they attach better. What’s more, some wire brushes can even be used to clean the teeth of crocodiles and pigs. Wire brushes used for industrial applications are almost exclusively machine-powered for the sake of convenience and speed, as their applications tend to require more vigorous and efficient brush action. The most common application of wire brushes in an industrial setting is finishing. Industrial parts manufacturers use power wire brushes to surface condition and deburr wood parts, plastic, glass and metal, while other industrial manufacturers use them to scrub dies, molds and tubes.
Wire Brush Bristles
The bristles of wire brushes are available to be from quite a few different metals. However, the most common metals used to fabricate wire brushes are: aluminum, brass, bronze, copper nickel silver, stainless steel, steel and titanium. Which metal is the best choice for a brush depends on the intended application of the brush, as each metal presents different properties. Metal qualities to consider include levels of durability, softness, hardness, abrasiveness, corrosion resistance and thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity. Steel, for example, is fairly hard, but it is certainly not the hardest metal available, and there are others with better conductivity. However, it gives a solid performance. For scrubbing and sweeping rough surfaces, like street pavement, sidewalks, cement, brick, concrete, stone and even hard-to-reach industrial ovens, steel-bristled brooms are an excellent choice. For applications like plating and polishing, however, steel is too hard and abrasive. To avoid scratching sensitive surfaces, the more appropriate metal selections for these applications are fine-bristled brass or nickel-silver. Because brass is a soft, corrosion and rust resistance material, it is also appropriate for use with brush applications such as burnishing and satin or luster finishing. Nickel-silver, also known as "new silver," "German silver," and "nickel brass," is a copper alloy containing nickel and often zinc, named after its silvery color. It does not actually contain any silver. Strong and hard, but also ductile and easy to work with, nickel silver shares many of the characteristics of brass and bronze. Wire brush bristles are usually held in place by staples, epoxy or, occasionally, one continuous wire.
In addition to shape, size and metal type, wire brushes may either have crimped or knotted wire brushes. Crimped wire brushes allow wire to break cleanly and evenly as it wears, thus creating fresh and new cutting edges as time goes on. They are preferred for cleaning, polishing, edge blending and generally creating finished appearances. Most cup brushes, end brushes and wheel brushes have crimped bristles. Knotted wire brushes, on the other hand, are better at attacking aggressive brush action jobs, such as rough surface preparation, weld cleaning and heavy flash removal.