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I'm cutting steel wire and inserting one end into a wooden base and the other end will be exposed and used to hang items from. I believe it's around 16 gauge, possibly larger (I can't measure it right now).

It's important to me that the exposed end is smoothed, and rounded if possible. I don't want to accidentally scratch the items when I'm attaching them.

I'm trying to avoid buying end-caps (such as these), and would prefer to spend that money on a reusable tool (or spend no money, and use some type of tool I may already have lying around).

I do have a Dremel and possibly a suitable grinding stone on hand, but I'm not sure about setting up a workspace to do it safely, controlling the tool on such a small working area, and whether or not I'd need follow-up tools to properly smooth it (similar to progressively finer sandpaper for wood).

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Your objective is much easier than you might expect. I frequently use a small belt sander or my Dremel rotary tool to round sharp edges of cylindrical items such as nails or stiff wire.

Rather than using a grinding stone on your Dremel, consider to use a sanding drum. The grit will be more coarse on the drum and remove metal faster. Unless you require extremely smooth finish, the drum will make for shorter work.

Regardless of the tool selected, you'll want to secure the Dremel to a solid workspace/workbench to provide for best control. I've done the process with a Dremel rotary tool in one hand and the workpiece in the other, with mixed results.

Once secured and powered up, you can use both hands to position the wire to the drum/stone and brace one hand for graduated movement. You won't want to push the wire into the tool from an inadvertent muscle twitch or a slight balance waver. If you can perform the task while sitting, all the better.

You mention "properly smoothing" which means you will likely aim to the grinding stone side of things. The amount of material to be removed is small enough to make this practical.

Once you've attained the desired shape, your Dremel tool may also have a buffing wheel of sorts. It's likely to be a white fabric looking disk with a mandrel or a center hole for a thread-in mandrel. Using this tool in the same manner as described above, after applying jeweler's rouge, will provide for a polished finish. When performing the final polishing, use caution to avoid creating so much heat as to burn your fingers.

Spin the wire if possible as you press it against the wheel. The wire will accumulate abrasive powder as well as some of the fabric from the wheel, requiring periodic wiping to better examine the surface.

  • Hmm. I think we have an attachment that lets us screw the Dremel into a board to mount it. I didn't even think about that. I'll have to look into it. I'm sure I also have sanding drums that came with an assorted accessory pack. – user24 Nov 7 '17 at 20:44
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There is actually a tool specifically designed for this job called a cup burr

It has a concave cutting face which will create a consistent rounded end on wire. The one in the link is toothed tool steel but you can also get bonded abrasive ones if you prefer.

Another alternative is to get some round nose pliers, which with a bit of practice you can use to consistently and accurately bend a loop on the end of the wire.

  • Are there any examples of what the finished wire looks like? I'm just seeing the tool itself. Trying to judge exactly how smooth the finished wire would be. – user24 Nov 9 '17 at 18:10
  • Nevermind, I just searched Videos instead. Not sure why I was just looking at images! – user24 Nov 9 '17 at 18:11

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