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Hand Wheel Materials: How To Choose The Best Handwheel

Handwheels are simple machines that can be found just about anywhere. From sewing machines to cars, handwheels play a significant role in daily life. They are also important tools that aid efficiency and productivity in construction sites, factories, and manufacturing plants.

Regardless of your industry, choosing the right handwheel is crucial. This guide will show you how to select the right ones for specific applications in your line of business:

In this article we will take a closer look at:

1. What is a Handwheel?
   > Aluminum Handwheels
   > Plastic Handwheels
   > Duroplastic Handwheels
   > Stainless Steel Handwheels
   > Cast Iron Handwheels

2. Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Handwheel
3. Summary

What Is a Handwheel?

A handwheel is a tool that consists of a circular frame supported by spokes. Three-spoke handwheels are common in most vehicles, while certain industrial equipment use either solid or two-spoke handwheels. It can also take the form of a solid disc. Either way, a handwheel is mounted onto a shaft that can be turned left or right.

Machine handwheels are designed for adjusting and clamping applications through a rotating action. In heavy industries, handwheels are often used to adjust valves, lock vaults, and operate equipment. Think about your standard steering wheel and control wheels for a number of vehicles and machines. When attached to position indicators, handwheels allow operators to manipulate the position of a machine.

While most handwheels are made from cast iron and stainless steel, there are also options for plastic handwheels made from polymers and other kinds of plastic materials.

If you are looking for the perfect handwheel to purchase, consider two factors: the material and the application you are using it for.

Handwheels also take the form of cranks which consist of a rotating shaft that’s operated by arms or crank handles. These are ideal for applications involving easy and quick one-hand adjustments.

To learn more about handwheels, check out our Quick Guide

At Reid Supply, we offer a wide range of industrial handwheels. As one of a few North American distributors of quality machine tools and components, our catalog includes different types of handles and handwheels. We have options for spoked handwheels, but we also carry fold away handles, adjustable handles, and revolving handle designs.

If you have a preferred material in mind, check out this list:

Aluminum Handwheels

Aluminum is a versatile material. Lightweight and resistant to corrosion, it is ideal for manufacturing machining components. With aluminum handwheels, you have the advantage of durability and longevity at an affordable cost.

If you are looking for these qualities in a handwheel, opt for products made from aluminum alloy. For greater corrosion resistance, look for chrome plated handwheels. These are stronger, and easier to clean. Plus, they allow for a sophisticated and polished appearance.

Plastic Handwheels

Like aluminum, plastic handwheels are lightweight and inexpensive. Being non-metallic, they are immune to corrosion. They can also work well against solvents, grease, and most chemicals. However, they are not as durable as metallic materials. As a matter of fact, they are prone to breaking, which makes them the least preferable for heavy-duty applications.

Nonetheless, they can work well with basic commercial and industrial applications. Our range of crank handles comes in thermoplastic varieties that can withstand high heat. We also provided folding handles that can be mounted on lathes for quick adjustments.

Duroplastic Handwheels

We’ve heard of plastic, but what about duroplastic? Duroplastic materials are bonded with nylon and glass fibers to create a reinforced version of traditional plastic. You can see this type of material in most plastic handwheels.

Stainless Steel Handwheels

For applications that require heavy-duty adjustments, stainless steel handwheels are a top choice. The material is known for its strength and it can come in various finishes. The main advantage of stainless steel is greater protection from corrosion and regular wear-and-tear.

Handwheels made from stainless steel are definitely a worthwhile investment. They are not as flimsy as aluminum and plastic handwheels. Plus, they allow for a firmer grip during adjustments. This makes them ideal for heavy equipment that requires frequent and precise adjustments.

Cast Iron Handwheels

While lacking the corrosion-resistance of other materials on this list, cast iron makes up for it with its durability. As a matter of fact, it tops stainless steel in terms of strength. Handwheels with a cast iron construction are great for adjusting and calibrating. The material is often used for manufacturing control handwheels. Just make sure that operators wear gloves when manipulating cast iron handwheels.

Handwheel Materials

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Handwheel

Knowing the different styles of handwheels and the different materials they are made of is a basic part of the process. When it comes to choosing a product that suits your production scenario, you will need to ask a few more questions before you place an order.

Does your handwheel require  attachment mounting methods? A handwheel is usually mounted onto a shaft through a keyway which locks the wheel in place. Some designs make use of a bored hole while others feature a keyway and one or two set screws.  Depending on the equipment you are using, you need to choose a product that has the appropriate mounting mechanism.

Another question to ask is whether or not you need a heavy-duty wheel. For this, consider the type of application that requires a handwheel that’s made from a specific material. If you are working with industrial valves, cast iron and stainless steel handwheels and crank handles would be ideal.

If you are in the food, machinery, or medical industries, opt for solid handwheels made from technopolymer materials. Elesa specializes in such handwheels that can withstand high temperatures and regular wear and tear.

The final question you will need to ask is, “What function will the handwheel serve?”

For that, consider the task at hand. For smaller operations, plastic handwheels would be ideal. They require minimal force to operate. When it comes to larger equipment, heavier and stronger materials are imperative. Valves, vaults,  and industrial lathes require either stainless steel or cast iron wheels. Often, a crank handle is added to provide more force.


Which handwheel best suits your application? Regardless of the type of handwheel you are looking for, you can bet we have it in our collection. Check out our catalog for quality handwheels for CNC, grinders, lathes, and milling machines.

If you can’t find what you are looking for, call us at 1(800) 253-0421 or send an email to