How to Install a Wire Wheel On an Angle Grinder

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When fitted with an appropriate attachment, an angle grinder can be used to clean, deburr, and finish metal. To achieve a perfect finish with a wire wheel or cup brush, first you need to connect it to the angle grinder. This article covers the installation of wire wheels on angle grinders. 

Angle Grinders Wire Wheels

Before you install a new attachment on your angle grinder, it’s important to verify you have chosen the best tool for the job. Two types of wire-based attachments are available for angle grinders; wire cup brushes, and wire wheels. 

  • A wire cup brush is a concave disc with wire bristles. The bristles are inserted perpendicular to the base of the wire cup. They are primarily used for quickly stripping a large flat surface. 
  • A wire wheel is more popular. When it comes to edges, cracks, and crevices, a wire wheel is a better choice.  The base of the wire wheel is connected to the angle grinder, and the wire bristles radiate from the base. 
Angle grinder with wire wheel attachment

The bristles are usually made from springy and hard steel, but other materials are sometimes used, such as brass, and stainless steel. When these wires disengage from the base of the wheel, they become sharp and penetrating projectiles.

It is important to use proper safety techniques to minimize the risk of angle grinder accidents.

How to Install Wire Wheels on an Angle Grinder

A great angle grinder is suited to many different applications. It is primarily a removal tool, and can cut also through wood, tile, brick, stone, pavers, cast iron, and concrete. The tool can be dangerous, though, so it is important you learn how to use an angle grinder properly.

Slag, paint, rust, and welding splatter are no match for the power of an angle grinder and wire wheel. This perpendicular removal attachment is best for nooks, crannies, and small areas, and can be attached just like any other disc-shaped angle grinder attachment. 

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Choosing a Wire Wheel

Select the correct wire wheel for your application. Carbonized steel wire wheels contaminate stainless steel, so use a stainless steel wire brush instead. If it is important to minimize sparks, such as in a potentially flammable environment, a brass wire brush should be used.

While it may be tempting to install a larger wheel on your angle grinder to get the job done more quickly, this is a bad, unsafe idea.

When inappropriately sized tools are attached to an angle grinder, they can vibrate, wobble, or become unbalanced. This leads to unpredictable outcomes and could cause you to lose control of the machine. 

Crimped vs Knotted Wire Wheels

Wire wheels can be crimped or knotted.

  • Crimped wire wheels have many individual bristles, are more flexible, and are used to remove softer materials.
  • On a knotted wire wheel, the bristles have been separated into groups, which are then twisted together for faster and more powerful debris removal. The bristles of the brush should be evenly spaced and stand up straight.

A worn out or patchy wire wheel is at risk of getting caught on the material and causing kickback. 

The diameter of the wire indicates its suitability for various jobs. A fine or very fine wire is better when a smooth finish is important, while a coarse wire will work more quickly and remove more material. 

Before you make a purchase, determine the RPM of your angle grinder.  All angle grinder attachments have the maximum RPM for which they are rated listed on their packaging.

The wheel you attach to your angle grinder must be capable of spinning at the RPM of your angle grinder without risk of disk failure. 

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Angle grinder on a table

Attaching the Wire Wheel to the Angle Grinder

  1. Disconnect the angle grinder from power by unplugging it or removing the battery. Place the angle grinder in a clean and well lit area, with the underside of the grinder facing up. 
  2. Lock the angle grinder wheel. Some models include a wheel lock button or spindle lock button. It’s usually located on the gear box. When you press this button, the spindle is immobilized. If your angle grinder does not have a spindle lock, you’ll need a special flat wrench to hold the spindle in place while you remove the locking nut. 
  3. Remove the locking nut. Wire cup brushes, unlike wire wheels, are threaded directly onto the angle grinder spindle. If you are installing a wire cup brush, put the locking nut somewhere very safe and snap a photo of it.  When you’re ready to switch back to discs, it’s helpful to have photo evidence of where you put the locking nut. 
  4. Lift the existing disk off of the spindle. Grease the spindle threads. Place the new disk on the drive bolt of the spindle and check that it lays flat. Reattach and tighten the locking nut. Put on goggles or glasses with side protection and a full face shield. Adjust the guard so it is between the wheel and your face. Clear the area of other people. 
  5. Connect the grinder to power, and turn it on. Observe the wire wheel for one minute, checking for strange vibration or wobbling. If the disk wobbles, check the sizing, RPM, and integrity of the disc. 

Wire Wheel and Angle Grinder Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO store stainless steel brushes separately from carbon steel brushes.
  • DO NOT use a carbon steel brush on a stainless steel surface.  
  • DO adjust the guard on the angle grinder before each use. 
  • DO NOT use an angle grinder with a missing or broken guard. 
  • DO allow the grinder and wheel a one minute warm-up period before use.
  • DO NOT apply pressure to the angle grinder while using a wire wheel or wire cup brush. 
  • DO keep the wire wheel moving over the surface of the material. 
  • DO NOT hold the angle grinder in place. 

Conclusion

Angle grinders with wire wheels quickly remove rust and oxidation, paint, and welding splatter. It is important to choose a wire brush that is compatible with your material. A wire wheel can be easily and safely installed by a non-professional. The bristles of wire brushes can become dislodged during operation and cause injury, so proper protective equipment is required when testing the wheel before use. 

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.