More Dremel Than Dremel





Introduction: More Dremel Than Dremel

Ah the ubiquitous Dremel rotary mini moto-tool, what can be better? Lots actually! In this Instructable I will give plenty of examples. The case often can be made that you can do small jobs easily with large tools but rarely is the reverse true. And if Dremels are one thing they're small. But not so small that they always help one out completing a task where clearance is an issue. Two other things that Dremels seem to run in short supply of are power and durability.

I've had more than one Dremel get up and go on me when the going got tough. But in all fairness they're hardly the only tool that has ever quit on me. Later I will introduce a tool that most reasonably expect to only last about a year in regular usage. But oh what a year it can be!

So without further ado let us meet our cast of Dremel replacement tools. Somewhere in this cast of characters is likely the tool you wish you were using. Then we will delve into each in turn.

Step 1: Pneumatics

This is truly where high speed rotary action is at! Lets face facts things that go fast tend to heat up in the process. These are all naturally air cooled devices. They have high speed, often times plenty of power, but stall out gracefully if overloaded.

From the top left we have a right angle die grinder with a sanding belt attachment, another right angle die grinder with a collet and knotted wire brush chucked, an inline die grinder, and a tool Dremels can only pretend to be. That'd be an ultra high speed pneumatic rotary tool. In this case an IR-e HFS 100 made in Sweden and conservatively rated at 80,000 RPM. This puppy sounds like a jet getting ready to take off when it is fired up!

I know what you're thinking, but I need compressed air to use these. Well of course you need compressed air. We *ALL* need compressed air! So get it! I remember when I got my first air compressor I was like why aren't there air chucks in houses like there are electrical outlets? I feel the same way today.

The CP inline die grinder in the middle will stall out gracefully but at 1 horsepower rating it'll take your hand halfway around the work right before it does, in the blink of an eye no less. lets just say that when it stops I'm pretty happy that it did, but it doesn't stop for much.

Step 2: Flex Shaft Tool

I know Dremel makes one of these. It's probably OK too. But Foredom is the name in flex shaft tools. Now I know they cost multiples of what Dremels go for but well I lucked out and got mine at a garage sale along with a nice box of bits for $20. Still if you have the money and are really into it go for it. A Foredom will run all day and has other advantages over a typical Dremel Moto-Tool as well. I had to do some prep for some welds in inside corners and the only thing I had that could get in there was the head of this sweet honey.

Step 3: Rotozips

I'm sure the guy who invented these was using Dremels and getting tired of burning them out on a regular basis. I've two, one cordless, and the other a corded variety. The cordless one is super handy for a quick grind in the course of doing things. I keep it right on my side workbench in easy reach at all times. At about twice the size they're also around twice the power of a Dremel. A happy medium that'll serve as a hobbyist electric rotary die grinder well.

Step 4: Routers

You can get a router base for a Dremel, yeah sure you can get a router base for a Dremel. Me, I'd rather the real thing. I have a few more but these were handy so they're the ones we're looking at here today. Enough said. But if you really need a router don't get the router base for Dremels, get a router. You won't be sorry you did.

Step 5: Drills

Probably the initial reason I got a Dremel was because I wanted to drill tiny holes into printed circuit boards. And definitely the first time I was massively disappointed  with Dremels as well. Man I think I broke an average of one bit a hole or something. It was ridiculous! I don't even think about running small diameter twist drills in a hand held tool today. I have a miniature high speed drill press specifically for the task.

The cordless drill is there to represent all other kinds of hand drills. Dremels suck at drilling.

Step 6: Grinders

No one can say that Dremels do not purport to be grinders. I think you'd be hard pressed to buy a Dremel and not get a mounted stone with it. As Crocodile Dundee might have said, that's not a grinder, now that's a grinder! If I could only have two power tools my second choice after a drill would be a right angle grinder. They're definite must have tools for hacking around. You can get a cheap one for as little as $10USD if you shop around. And the 4"-41/2 inch ones don't usually last much more than a year anyways so don't break the bank. Small angle grinders are disposable. I've had $100 industrial ones and they don't last much longer.

Since I got that big boy in the back I've been going through a lot less angle grinders lately. But they can be pretty pricey. The big ones aren't for everyone either. It's got two handles for good reason. You'd have to be the Hulk not to use them both too!

There is almost a range of attachments for right angle grinders as there is for Dremels now. Grinding wheels go without saying, but you can get sanding discs, cut off discs, flap discs, chip metal discs, chainsaw discs, the list goes on and on. I've a slow speed buffer that almost looks like the big grinder's twin brother but I didn't feel like breaking it out and photographing it.

Dremels claim they buff too. They ain't half as buff as my angle monster twins!

Step 7: Summary

I know this Instructable is going to bend a lot of people on this website out of shape. But you know what? It is informational! I'm looking to reach the other people who are struggling with their beloved Dremels and wondering if there isn't an easier way. Don't get me wrong, I still have a few Dremel knock offs lying around and I use them from time to time for little things myself, small detail carvings and the like. But if I have to get down and dirty on a job, and I often do, I reach for some heavier firepower out of my arsenal of destruction!

Don't hate, relate. Piece out. Parts is parts, pieces is pieces. Tastes just like chicken!



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    When I take the base off the router in the middle it is an electric die grinder. The orange cut out tool to the right of it is essentially a cordless die grinder too. At least that is how I use it. Still not nearly as nice as a pneumatic die grinder though. But building up a tank of air is a hassle. Which is why I have the other tools now. It all boils down to increased speed, and efficiency.

    Dremel for the win

    I appreciate the information you have shared here. Yet, I don't remember Dremel's or Dremel type tools ever being marketed as professional heavy duty tools. I have used them for DIY's and especially in building musical instruments. For my purposes I haven't encountered a more versatile tool. I guess the adage is true "use the right tool for the job." Again I did appreciate the information you shared.

    Very useful info and comments! Thanks. Can't find this kind of honest info most other places.

    Dremels have their uses. But if I was stuck on a desert island and could only have one rotary tool it'd be a right angle grinder. Just as long as the desert island had a plug that worked, of course. You could slice up coconuts easily with a right angle grinder, with the right wheel. But seriously I use right angle grinders all of the time. I use them to sand, grind, wire wheel, with cut off discs, flap discs. They're handy for so many things.

    What would be the best tool to use for cut out carving in bones? I would like to do some relief patterns but mostly want to carve out intricate shapes. Thanks!

    Blää. I bought a dremel once, thought I needed one. How wrong I was... When I FINALLY needed it (or thought I would, I would have been much faster done with some very careful grinding with a 1mm disc) it burned halfway trough. I try to buy only quality tools and the dremel was the first expensive tool to die on me with almost no hours under its hood. Expensive tools should die last, not first...

    There was a time when Dremel quality was at an all time low. I think they may be better today now that Bosch owns the brand. But I cannot be certain, because I really don't own a new one. I have a pair of RTX rotary tools that I use whenever I need something like a Dremel. If I don't use some other tool.

    There is definitely a place for Dremels, or tools like them. But I don't think it is as widely useful as a lot of other folks think it is. If someone could have just one rotary tool I'd say get an angle grinder. I use those so much. Even the cheapest, and poorest quality models of those can still accomplish a lot of work before they croak.

    Yes, yes, and yes! I have no idea how dremel became what it is today. Thanks for doing this. I am off to find a dentist drill...

    For home use what you want is called an ultra high speed pneumatic die grinder. They would be the closest thing you are going to find to a dentist's drill. Personally I like regular pneumatic die grinders better. They have more power. Plain die grinders run 20,000-25,000 RPM too. My CP860 is a monster. But it unfortunately has a monster price tag today too.