Since 1932, when A.J. Dremel introduced the original Moto-tool, Dremel tools have become pertinent in many forms of metal work, including metal sculpture and jewellery making. Before the Moto-tool, thousands of hours were spent with jeweller's files, hand-engraving tools and sanding blocks doing what Dremel's tool could do in a fraction of the time. While many other brands make similar tools, Dremel has become the household term for them all.
There are a wide array of bits and attachments for the Dremel tool, making metal sculpting possibilities virtually limitless. Some are interchangeable with other high-speed sculpting tools. You will find that most serious metal sculptors and jewellery crafters have at least one Dremel tool available, along with a selection of bits and attachments. It is best to buy a starter set with a few grinding and polishing wheels as well as 6 to 10 different bits. Additional kits and bit sets can be purchased at most neighbourhood hardware stores.
Test Before Buying
Invest in one of the less expensive kits first if you have never used a Dremel tool before. Experiment with the various bits until you learn what effects each helps create. A great practice activity is to lay down a bar of copper or brass and use each bit until you are able to create the effect you want with the least effort. This will allow you to learn the direction the tool is spinning and the best way to move the tool back and forth. Every tool spins clockwise or counterclockwise. You will need to adjust the direction of your strokes with the tool to be sure you are making smooth, even cuts rather than digging chunks or leaving burrs behind you.
According to 20-year artisan blacksmith Gypsy Wilburn, detail work in metal sculpture and jewellery making would be almost impossible without Dremel tools.
"Sure, I know how to use all the old hand tools, but using them would be like riding the bus after owning a sports car."
He advises that the speed chuck, flex shaft and drill press attachments are good investments.
"Watch out, though. The bits for a Dremel tool are small but they are running at a very high speed and can cause painful injury. Abrasive saw bits and larger burring bits can fling tiny metal fragments into your eyes and skin at high speeds, so wear eye protection when operating any tool."
Use your Dremel to engrave initials or sayings inside wedding and engagement rings and on the backs and bands of watches and bracelets. The grinding wheels can be used to remove stock from billets to form the basic shape of the item you intend to make. It can also be used to rid an item of burring before you reach the polishing stage. With the correct bits, your Dremel can also be used as a mini drill, making holes for rivets and screws, as well as inserting and removing the tiny screws used in jewellery making.
The biggest advantage of the Dremel tool is its size. Small enough to fit in the hand, it is also light enough that several hours of use will not result in cramping or strains. The various bits allow engraving of very complicated designs with great precision, once the user has practised on billets. The tool can make very fine lines, and is ideal for embellishing sword and knife blades and hilts.