How to Dress a Grinding Wheel (Fast and Easy Way)

“img_0919” by Joanna Poe is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you noticed that your grinding wheel is not working properly as it did before, then it’s probably time to dress it. That’s the name of the process of cleaning and truing the wheel. Maybe you never heard about it, and a friend mentioned it. Or you are looking for some tips to do it the proper way (for example, I heard about people using worn-out wheels as a dressing tool. That’s not exactly the better and safer way to go). Therefore in this article, we will address the following question: how to dress a grinding wheel?

Here’s the quick answer: get yourself a dressing tool (it can either be a star dresser, a dressing stick,  or a diamond dresser) and use it to grind some of the material of your grinding wheel, until you get a cleaner and flat surface.

Now, we will get into details: first, why you need to dress your grinding wheel; then, a list of steps to get the job done, and finally, a list of tools you can choose for dressing.

Let’s start with the first question.

Why do I need to Dress my Grinding Wheel?

If you found this article, I think that you already have a clear idea of why dressing is needed. But maybe, a friend commented on the conditions of your grinding wheel, and you want a clear view of the matter. Therefore, here you have them, 3 reasons to dress your wheel:

  • For your information, a grinding wheel is made of abrasive grains clogged together with a bonded material. After some use, those grains can crack down and become smoother; also, bits of metal can be stuck between them. Therefore, dressing the wheel is a way of cleaning the wheel from worn-out abrasive grains and bits of metal.
  • As I said before, with time and use your grinding wheel will become smoother. For example, if you have a 60 grit grinding wheel, after some time it will have the effect of a finer wheel. So it’s a good idea to expose new abrasive grains to keep the grit at a good level. You can do this by with a dressing tool.
  • If you don’t use the grinding wheel properly and keep grinding on the same spot, you will get an indent on the surface. It is pretty common to get a bumpy surface. You can address this with a dressing tool. It will flatten the surface and remove the indents.

How to Dress a Grinding Wheel in 6 Steps

bench grinder
“Black & Decker Bench Grinder” by dvanzuijlekom is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Now, let’s get to it. I’m gonna show 6 easy steps to get the job done.

  1. Always put safety first. Wear a pair of glasses or a visor to protect your eyes/face from sparkles and dust. Don’t wear gloves: it might seem counterintuitive at first, but you don’t want them to get caught by the wheel, right? Same thing with long sleeves: roll them up for your own safety.
  2. Align the grinder’s tool rest properly. If you’ve been using your bench grinder for quite some time, the wheel probably has worn down a lot. If you never aligned the tool rest to the wheel, it’s time to do it. Adjust the guard to be 1/16 of an inch from the wheel. By doing this, you are eliminating the chances of your tool getting caught between the guard and the wheel. If your bench grinder has a spark guard, adjust that too. It needs to be very close to the wheel, as the tool rest.
  3. Now, you need to get a dressing tool. There are several different tools on the market, and we are going to talk about them in a minute.
  4. Turn on the bench grinder, and wait until it gets to full speed.
  5. Now to the core of the dressing process: rest the tool on the guard and move in back and forth across the spinning wheel, until you get a flat surface on the wheel. This step is the same for whatever tool you decide to use.
  6. After dressing the wheel, re-adjust the guard so it is positioned 1/16 of an inch (or a couple mm) from the wheel.

That’s really all there is to know about this process. Now, let’s talk a little bit about what dressing tools are out there and how to choose the appropriate one for the job.

What dressing tool should I get to dress my bench grinder?

The main criterion when it comes to dressing tools is the following: you need the material of the dressing tool to be harder than the material of your grinding wheel. A softer material won’t be able to uncover new abrasive particles, and it will probably worsen the grinding wheel’s conditions. A lot of metal from the dressing tool will stick on the grinding wheel.

So, this is the biggest thing to remember when purchasing a dressing tool. When it comes to shape, there are three types of dressing tools available on the market:

  • Star dressers:  This dresser is made by a handle with a certain number of discs with “fingers” or star-shaped cutters placed on top of the handle. To use this, you need to rest the tool on the guard in the direction that makes the discs rotate. This kind of dresser makes a lot of sparkles, so make sure to wear safety glasses. Stens makes a great dressing tool: heavy-duty (the handle is cast iron) and well built (you can even change the wheels when they wear out). Another convenient thing about this dress is the long handle that keeps your hands away from the grinding wheel.
  • Dressing sticks: This is another common way to dress your wheel. It is a rectangular block of abrasive grains. Make sure that it’s harder than the material of your grinding wheel. To use it, push it against the wheel and then move in back and forth (as you would do when sharpening a chisel). A star dresser is faster than a stick but with the latter, you can get a cleaner job. If you work with a light touch, you can get a very smooth surface on your grinding wheel with a dressing stick.
  • Diamond dresser: This is probably the better choice you can make if you have a shop with a variety of bench grinders and grinding wheels. These tools can dress everything since they are so so hard. Also, they will last you a lifetime. I will get into details in the following paragraph, so let’s get to it.

How to Dress a Grinding Wheel with a Diamond Dresser

Another thing you can use to dress your grinding wheel is a diamond dresser. The one showed above is a POWERTEC 71003. You can find it on Amazon. These tools got a handle, and at the top of it, a carbide matrix with industrial diamonds on it.

As you know, diamond is the hardest material you can find in nature, so it will dress through whatever material your grinding wheel is made of (for example, aluminum oxide).

To use it, you need to press it against the running wheel and move it back and forth across the wheel.

A thing you need to consider if you use a diamond dresser is that it will make your wheel’s grit a little bit smoother. Since the diamonds are so hard and sharp, they are able to cut the grains. Keep that in mind.

As I said, you should get one of these if you either have a shop with a variety of grinding wheels and you want a tool that can address all of them, or if you want to spend your money on a tool that will last you a lifetime if used properly.


As you read, dressing a grinding wheel is an easy operation, that will require you no more than 5 minutes. Instead of grinding a tool on the wheel, you are grinding the wheel with a harder tool. By doing this, you will get a clean and flat wheel, that will do wonders for your tools.

Taking care of your tools is very important. Dressing a grinding wheel (and adjust the tool rest and the spark guard) is a basic action, but it will guarantee you better results and more safety.

I already gave you some safety tips: in this case, it’s important to NOT use gloves! Another good tip I forgot to mention is to turn on the bench grinder while standing aside and wait there for it to reach working speed. In this way, you will be sure that you can operate safely while standing in front of the wheel.

I gave you some ideas on tools to use for dressing wheels. You can choose whatever tool you like, they will all do the job. Just remember to work with a light touch and a steady feed rate. You can always increase your work speed when you get some experience.

That’s it for this article, I hope you found the information you were looking for.

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