Wire brushes are a staple for weld cleaning. They’re versatile and effective tools for removing surface contamination, such as rust or heat discoloration, without removing base material.
There are many types and styles of wire brushes — each with their own benefits and best practices for use.
Learn how to choose the right wire brush for your application and some tips for improving productivity in weld cleaning.
Many welding applications require pre-weld, interpass, and post-weld cleaning. Wire brushes provide efficient cleaning action for surface prep and finishing without removing base material.
Some of the main types of wire brushes used for weld cleaning:
Each type of wire brush is available in various configurations, including knotted or crimped wire. When a straight wire is twisted into a knot, the wire becomes stiffer and therefore more aggressive. The general rule of thumb is the tighter the twist of the wire, the more aggressively it cleans. If the tuft at the top of the knot is spread out, the wider face width is good for cleaning a larger surface area. If the knot is twisted tightly to the top — without a tuft — the cleaning action is more aggressive, which can be good for cleaning V-groove welds. Compared to a knotted wire, a crimped wire offers more flexibility but is less aggressive.
It’s recommended to use the finest wire gauge possible that still gets the job done. Fine stainless steel wires are well-suited for cleaning aluminum, stainless steel, and TIG welds. Using a heavy-gauge wire on aluminum can alter the base material and change the appearance of the material, but a fine wire removes discoloration without removing base material.
Several factors play a role in choosing the right wire brush for the job, including the type and size of the weld being cleaned, the base material and the desired surface finish.
It’s critical for productivity and quality to match the wire brush to the base material type. A stainless steel brush should be used on any type of stainless steel or aluminum. Using a carbon steel brush on those materials can cause contamination or after-rust and will require rework.
It’s also important to consider the size of the surface to be cleaned. A handheld wire brush may suffice for knocking the slag off a very small area, while a right-angle grinder is better suited for cleaning a larger area or for cleaning a root or fill pass on a pipe weld. A cup brush can be a good choice for efficiently cleaning a very large area, such as plate steel.
If the area to be cleaned is small or hard to access, a right-angle grinder may not work. A die grinder with a small diameter end brush might be a better choice.
Another question is how aggressive you need the product to be. To remove thick slag or rust, a more aggressive wire brush is likely needed. If you’re simply removing discoloration, a die grinder with a fine wire brush may do the trick.
Avoiding some common mistakes when using wire brushes can help improve productivity and efficiency. Follow these tips for faster weld cleaning.
Saving even a few minutes with each weld cleaning can add up over time in the welding operation. Choose the right wheel for the job, and follow these best practices to optimize performance and efficiency when using wire brushes.