Abrasive Wheels

Abrasive wheels come in a large range of sizes and configurations, with each being suited to different tasks and functions - be it grinding, finishing, cleaning, cutting, buffing, or much more. At Cromwell, we stock numerous types of tried and tested abrasive wheels, from our trusted own brand York and national suppliers used by professionals around the globe such as Garryson, Norton Saint Gobain® and 3M™.

What are abrasive wheels?

Abrasive wheels are used for countless applications across a large number of industries, but their primary function is grinding.

They come in a number of configurations, with varying types, sizes, and materials to suit the needs of demanding professionals. All abrasive wheels are made from strong compounds, bonded together using powerful substances.

Most abrasive wheels are made for grinding or cutting tough metals, such as steel. This is done by spinning the abrasive wheel at a high RPM in a bench grinder (or any other suitable power tool) where the metal is then pushed into the wheel. The strong grains of the abrasive wheel act as thousands of cutting points, grinding the metal as the wheel spins.

Why abrasive wheels?

Industry professionals and hobbyists alike are aware of the value provided by the right kind of abrasive wheels.

Whilst they are incredibly versatile and useful in their own right, some abrasive wheels (such as grinding wheels) can be used to sharpen and enhance the blades of your existing power tools. This allows for a greater degree of efficiency across your entire workshop when you pick the right abrasive wheels.

Other types of abrasive wheels (such as flap wheels) are made from several rigid 'flaps', allowing users to clean, grind, or finish hard-to-reach or awkwardly shaped workpieces - such as the inside of pipes.

It is greatly beneficial for professionals and hobbyists alike to have a wide selection of quality abrasive wheels at their disposal - for if they do, they are far less likely to encounter roadblocks during any project.

When are abrasive wheels used?

Abrasive wheels are used in angle grinders, bench grinders, table saws, chop saws, and cut off saws - and are invaluable for use across a large range of industrial applications (depending on the type you buy - more on that below). General applications include:

• Rust Removal - Rapidly remove rust and prepare any metal surface for shaping or sharpening.
• Sharpening - Set your abrasive wheels to a lower speed to rapidly sharpen chisels, blades, and many other tools, making them work like new.
• Polishing - Easily achieve a quality clean finish on most metals and woods with the right abrasive wheel.
• Grinding - One of the main uses of abrasive wheels - they are excellent at quickly removing high amounts of hard metals, such as steel.
• Cutting - Abrasive wheels excel at swiftly cutting through most metals. Some wheels can also cut wood when set to a lower RPM.
• Buffing - Allows metal items to retain the ideal finish and texture, preventing them from blunting.

Types of abrasive wheel

There are a number of abrasive wheels available to choose from, so pick carefully to achieve the best results for your jobs or applications.

• Cut off wheels - Cut off wheels are a solid abrasive disc. They are primarily used for cutting metal and are thin and rigid in design. As the name suggests, they are generally used for cutting things off - such as stubborn nails or bolts. They are also used to cut portions of metal out of any workpiece.

• Cutting wheels - Cutting wheels are similar to cut off wheels, but excel at making precise, narrow cuts at 90-degree angles.

• Flap wheels - Used primarily for metal finishing, flap wheels are made from numerous overlapping 'flaps' of abrasive that's bonded to a central wheel. Their flexibility allows users to finish hard-to-reach areas such as the inside of pipes.

• Grinding wheels - Grinding wheels are used to grind or finish hard metal objects or workpieces. They excel at removing a large amount of material in a relatively short timeframe.

• Non woven brushes - Similar in usage to flap wheels, non woven brushes are capable of conforming to irregular work surfaces that rigid wheels would be unable to reach. They are more suited to blending and removing rust or corrosion from workpieces, as well as cleaning welds.

Feel free to get in touch with our experts, who offer free, professional advice to help you find the right kind of abrasive wheels for your usage.

Considerations when choosing an abrasive wheel

• Wheel Material - Alongside the wheel type, the material of your wheel is one of the most important considerations when making a purchase. The general rule is that Aluminium Oxide is preferred for grinding ferrous metals, whereas Silicon Carbide is more effective for use on softer metals, such as copper and aluminium.

• Wheel Size - Obviously, this largely depends on your usage. General use wheels are between 6 to 8 inches in diameter; however wheel sizes can be much bigger or smaller for specialised tasks. Always ensure the wheels you buy fit in your desired power tool.

Abrasive wheel jargon buster

What standards are used to test abrasive wheels?

Abrasive wheels must be tested and marked in accordance with the standard BS EN12413 and BS ISO5255.

We've broken down what each element of these standards means below.

BS - This stands for British Standards which is the leading governing body for Britain.

ISO - This stands for the International Organisation for Standardisation. There are 167 countries which adhere to the standards set out by the ISO.

EN - This refers to European Standards (translated from the German term Europäische Norm, hence EN).

Okay, what about the numbers 12413 and 5255?

These strings of numbers refer to the exact legislation under which they are subject. In this case, it is a standard for bonded abrasives and a thermoplastic standard that abrasive wheels must adhere to.


Do I need to dress an abrasive wheel?

Wheel dressing is a must if you plan on using your abrasive wheels frequently. A good wheel dresser exposes new grit for safer, more efficient grinding or cutting. If a wheel isn't dressed, it may become clogged and dull - causing serious overheating and slow, inefficient material removal. To effectively dress an abrasive wheel, press a wheel dresser perpendicular to the wheel face to expose fresh abrasive grain.

How do you test an abrasive wheel?
Abrasive wheels must be ring tested before they are mounted. This ensures abrasive wheels are not cracked or dangerous before use.

What is an abrasive wheel ring test?
Ring tests refer to the sound abrasive wheels make when they are tapped with a non-metallic instrument. Safe, undamaged wheels will give a clear 'ring' that reverberates. If the wheel is cracked or damaged, it will not give a clear ring when tapped.

Be warned that this does not detect all potential wheel issues, so a careful visual inspection is also required before usage.

How do I know when to replace the wheel?
A sturdy abrasive wheel is paramount to user safety and working effectiveness. To check if an abrasive wheel is cracked or broken, use a screwdriver handle or other non-metallic tool, as mentioned above, to tap four times on different parts of the wheel's side. If all four taps don't sound the same, it's highly likely your wheel is cracked - and will need replacing.