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Any advice on Dremels (or similar tools)?

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So, I'm finally thinking it may be time to break down and purchase a Dremel (or similar tool). However, I have no idea what to look for in such a tool and was hoping that some of you could help me out. I'm not likely to be using the heck out of the thing by any means. My main intended uses for it are going to likely be to help with mold lines (I've found that with the metal figs I still have trouble getting rid of some mold lines with my files and I'm hesitant to use the X-Acto knife for a couple of reasons. I may also occasionally use it for drilling pin holes on particularly stubborn pieces (my pin vice sometimes gets cranky with me making pinning a chore a lot of the time). Finally, I can see me occasionally using it to make mods/conversions to minis. Nothing really spectacular at this point, but possibly things like turning a creature into a zombie variant by drilling out some of the skin and then molding in some flesh with green stuff, etc. 

 

Obviously as time goes on I might expand a bit, but for now, not looking for anything too fancy (or at least I don't think I am). I don't mind spending money to get a good product, but also don't feel the need to spend (for example) $150 when a $50 version would do just as nicely. 

 

As always, thanks in advance for any help!

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I have an original dremel with some extras, and bought a knock off supplement set.

Works great

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The shaft attachment is a great thing to have.  That way you aren't holding onto the large unit while trying to work on a tiny figure.  Also, highest speeds on metal causes the metal to melt, not grind or cut away.  So while you might think highest speeds are the way to go, slower and steady is far better.

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My main piece of advice with dremels is don't buy the regular cutting wheels, buy the reinforced ones.  They cost a bit more, but last 2.5-5x longer depending on what you're cutting.  They also don't have a bad habit of snapping as easily.

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18 minutes ago, Harrek said:

The shaft attachment is a great thing to have.  That way you aren't holding onto the large unit while trying to work on a tiny figure.  Also, highest speeds on metal causes the metal to melt, not grind or cut away.  So while you might think highest speeds are the way to go, slower and steady is far better.

 

Thanks for this, great to know! I had heard that the Dremels could get a bit hot when using them and that you had to take steps to ensure everything came out ok, but had not heard it referenced directly to the drill speed. Always had been more about keeping the bit cool.

 

Just now, WhiteWulfe said:

My main piece of advice with dremels is don't buy the regular cutting wheels, buy the reinforced ones.  They cost a bit more, but last 2.5-5x longer depending on what you're cutting.  They also don't have a bad habit of snapping as easily.

 

Good to know! Would rather pay a bit more now and save the expense/frustration of having to buy more later!

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       Since you don't intend to be doing much heavy work with it for now, I'd definitely look into either getting the flexible shaft attachment for a regular Dremel or get a smaller hobby-sized Dremel. The hobby-sized Dremel units are sometimes not powerful enough for the heavier hobby jobs like the serious grinding and cutting you'd get into during heavy conversions or making terrain, but for most basic uses it should be enough. And if I remember correctly, the flexible shaft attachment also fits the hobby-sized Dremel as well. Note that using the regular-sized Dremel and flexible shaft attachment will require a bit of room, so if you don't have a dedicated hobby area or it's really tight on space, it may be advisable to go with the smaller Dremel.

 

I have strong hands, and a lot of practice with the hobby-sized Dremel, so I personally just hold it like a pencil in one hand and the mini in the other, but you'll likely end up developing you own style - a lot of folks get those helping-hands things or something else to hold the mini securely while they work.

 

As far as bits go:

- You'll want several different sizes of collets in order to hold a wide variety of bits - most Dremels come with a basic starter kit.

- There are hundreds of different cutting and grinding bits out there, both from Dremel and other brands, and you'll eventually want to end up with two or three cutters and four or five grinders in varying shapes and sizes. Make sure you get the ones meant for use with the material you're working on. Using a bit meant for softer material on harder things will kill it in short order. Using a bit meant for harder things on softer materials can have vastly different results than normal, so always check first to see how they interact.

- Cutting wheels should always be the reinforced kind. When the reinforced ones break, they usually just end up in two or three pieces, but the regular ones tend to shatter and throw shrapnel.

- Dremel makes a small 6 or 7 piece drill bit set in a little gray plastic holder - the three smallest bits are going to be just about perfect size for a wide variety of hobby uses.

- You can get ridiculously tiny engraving bits in several shapes. These are awesome for fine detail work. Large engraving bits are good for removing large amounts of material in tight areas that you might not be able to reach or apply enough pressure to with other tools.

- Sanding drums can be found in a variety of different grits, and you can also make your own if you want. Sanding and polishing bits are excellent for removing mold lines and other prep/finishing work. On soft metal like we work with, sometimes even a rubber polishing bit is enough to remove mold lines and smooth things out.

- Pick up some plastic brush attachments... They're excellent for taking paint off of minis after they've been soaked in Simple Green.

 

 

 General Advice:

 

 As mentioned, a slower speed with a lighter touch is nearly always going to accomplish what you want easier and with less chance of mishap. With enough practice you can even do fine detail work with a cutting wheel. High speeds are for gross material removal and grinding down the bulk of an object before switching to a more siutable bit and slower speed.

 

 When first starting out, dig out a bunch of old minis and practice on them first - using a Dremel is a skill, and control and finesse need to be learned through practice. Aside from being physically painful, even a minor slip-up can have catastrophic results on your figure if you're going too fast or applying too much pressure.

 

 And finally, SAFETY GLASSES!!!!! SAFETY GLASSES!!!! SAFETY GLASSES!!!    You will get hit in the face by flying detritus and or dust on a regular basis.

Although a full-on respirator mask usually won't be necessary, it can be helpful to have some sort of dust mask.

 

 

Edited by Mad Jack
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@Mad Jack Thanks for the awesome advice! This is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for info on! Just a quick search on the rainforest website shows a whole ton of options out there, so getting an idea as to what is what really helps. 

 

And now a moment to prove that I am not a "tool guy": When you say slower speeds, how slow is slow? For instance, I saw one that said it had two speeds 10,000 rpm and 20,000 rpm. Is 10k considered slow, or is that still pretty fast? 

 

Again, I really appreciate all the advice, and yes, Glasses and a Mask are definitely in order -- especially for when I get into trying to modify certain resin and similar minis as I don't want to be breathing that crud in. 

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10K is fast. Trust me, it's fast. 

 

If I was to buy a Dremel for this use, I'd pick up the batterypowered 8050 Micro.   

 

I've had a classic 395 model for decades, and when it failed(I was cutting through rusted steel on my car at the time), I replaced it with the 8200, which is also batterypowered. It's weaker than the 395 was, but it's so much easier to get access in weird areas. 

(I still hope to repair my old 395)

 

But you may also want to take a look at micro-sized tools on eBay. 

mini_micro_drill.jpg.dc7973ad6ec661a6e1c3a09ac71a3de5.jpg

'mini micro drill' 

 

Probably not all that useful with a cutting wheel, but yeah, replace the stock chuck with one that can take a 1/8" bits, and use a 1mm ball-nose endmill... 

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Thanks @Gadgetman! that really helps. As I said, I really am clueless about these things and while I don't mind spending money to get what will work best for the intended use, I don't want to waste money either. 

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Also, they have something called EZ Lock on some discs. 

(You use a special shaft with a spring-loaded lock insteadof a screw to hold the discs)

You want this. 

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You might also want to consider the Dremel 2050 which is going to be released next month in the US I think. I recently picked one up on a trip to Japan. I find that I prefer it to my 8050 unless I really need a cordless one.

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    Most Dremels have a switch to change between a higher and lower speed. What you want in a low speed is something under 8000 RPM. On the high end, you're never going to need anything above 12,000 or 15,000 - and most of the time using the high setting for anything mini-related, even cutting materials for terrain, is like using a fighter jet for crop-dusting or doing an appendectomy with a chainsaw.

The first few times you use a powered rotary tool for thing you usually do with hand tools, it's going to seem like you've traded in your grandma's old Ford for a Ferrari, and it will be just as hard to handle.

 

   Too much power is generally the greatest cause of mishaps when using a Dremel on minis - rather than removing material it has a tendency to grab too tightly to the material and then, like a tire suddenly gaining traction on asphalt, it jumps the cut and goes skittering across the surface or launches your piece out of your hand like a rail gun.

Which is one of the reasons Gadgetman suggested looking into the micro-tools, particularly for fine work like pinning - if a tool has too little power, it can get bound up, but that's easily countered by backing off and starting again, taking your time and not using too much speed or pressure. Too much power, and instead of just getting bound up in the material you end up with snapped bits or ruined material.

 

I'd probably second the recommendation for the Dremel 2050 or 8050 - and you might consider starting off with the 8050 since you can get one online at Micro Mark at a discount, and with a 30 return policy if you don't like it.

 

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Thanks for the continued info! Its so much more relaxing to go into it with an idea of what to look for than just going about it blindly!

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Honestly, I have Dremel brand and off brand and I'd pick up the off brand again unless I was planning on cutting heavy gauge metal on it.  If you look at like the Tacklife RTD35ACL on amazon - its cheap and comes with the shaft,router,gun handle, and everything.

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14 minutes ago, rfusca said:

Honestly, I have Dremel brand and off brand and I'd pick up the off brand again unless I was planning on cutting heavy gauge metal on it.  If you look at like the Tacklife RTD35ACL on amazon - its cheap and comes with the shaft,router,gun handle, and everything.

 

 Yeah, in a lot of ways a rotary tool is almost too much tool for what we as miniature hobbyists use it for - I tend to spend decent money on my stuff because I'm equally likely to be using it for home repair or plumbing as anything hobby-related.

 

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