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How-to Tuesday: Get Started with Dremels

How-to Tuesday: Get Started with Dremels

A local friend recently borrowed my dremel for some serious conversion work.  When he returned it, nearly drained of the battery (I didn’t have the charger when I loaned it to him), he was very impressed with how much it helped him.  He asked for more information on what model I had, and where he could get one.

This made me think that perhaps there are more folks out there that are interested in Dremel tools, so I hope this article will be a good introductory guide to rotary tools.

This is the model I have: a Dremel 8000.  (Actually, mine’s an 800. Apparently they added a zero sometime since mine was purchased, because it’s cooler that way…)

Dremel 8000, Click to go to page

 Here’s why I feel this is the best model:

  • Battery Operated: I’ve tried pinning and converting with a plug-in dremel, and they don’t seem to have speeds.  They just have “Off” and “turbine”.  The battery operated dremel spins very, very slowly when first turned on.  This is perfect for pinning.  It also has plenty of RPM when cranked up, which is great for grinding off large chunks of metal.
  • 10.8V: Of the battery operated models, it’s the strongest for it’s price point.  This means when you need the torque, it’s there.
  • Flat Bottomed: It stands on end.  This means it doesn’t take up much room on the desk, and because that’s the battery pack, it has more juice.  It’s also more stable, but I’ll get into that later.

Now that I’ve sold you on this particular model, I want to cover how I go about using the thing.  For this, I have a short video I made quite a while ago.  This was in response to a forum thread discussing the merits of using a Dremel to pin models.  The majority of the nay-sayers were worried about hurting themselves, or the Dremel getting out of control.  This was filmed back when I was still putting together my Skorne battlebox!


Obviously I need better video equipment, but you get the point.  Also, don’t drill through your finger.  I know I showed that it doesn’t break skin if you touch the drill bit, but if you drill through your finger, it’s your own fault.  Please don’t sue me.  Thanks.

The video shows you the basic idea.  The only other thing I do that’s unique is how I hold the dremel when doing lots of pinning.  I lean back in my chair a bit and put the base of the Dremel on my chest, so that the majority of the Dremel’s weight is supported.  I then can use one or two fingers to support the remainder of the Dremel, and I get to use about a hand and a half to position the part.  With the Dremel pointing essentially out of my chest, I can also sight down the drill bit, and be sure that it’s aimed into the part correctly.

I want to focus on tools today rather then methods, so here’s a list of some other bits and add-ons I find very useful.

  • Keyless Chuck: This replaces the collet and nut that the dremel comes with, and essentially turns the end into something similar to a standard power drill.  Very, very useful for swapping bits with different sizes quickly.  Amazon Link.
  • Milling Bit: This is great for grinding off lots of material.  Cleaning the bottom of feet after clipping of the tab is a great example.  Use speed 2 or 3, and very little pressure. Amazon Link.
  • Engraving Bit: For grinding away smaller, more detail oriented stuff.  Amazon Link.
  • Drill Bits: Various sizes for pinning and converting.  I usually get these from the model train shop near my LGS, or when I’ve broken a few bits in a short amount of time, I’ll stock up via eBay.

 I use the Milling and Engraving bits on occasion, but the Keyless Chuck and Drill bits are a daily tool for me.  With the use of the Dremel, I was able to brass-rod a full unit of IFP + UA in about 3 hours + re-assembly time.

Hopefully this little primer has shown that Dremels are helpful and inexpensive tools for assembly and conversions.  I know several people are hesitant, but it really is a great investment.  On top of all the hobby uses, the sanding discs, polishing discs and cutting discs are incredibly helpful around the house, too.

Lastly, if you think I’m getting paid to endorse Dremels, rest assured I’m not. I just really, really enjoy mine.  All the Amazon links, however, do earn me a small percentage if you purchase an item via one of my links.  Thanks in advance for your support! 🙂

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