Picture of 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

Picture of 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.
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Kaljakaaleppi4 months ago

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...

pfred2 (author)  Kaljakaaleppi4 months ago

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.

ayasbek7 months ago

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...

pfred2 (author)  ayasbek7 months ago

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.

seamster10 months ago

I concur on the awesomeness of the Foredom tool.

I picked one up a bit ago, along with some American-made double-cut carbide burs, and I've been in heaven with it. It's an excellent tool.

My Dad always said to me : 'Use the RIGHT tool for the job', that's why my friends call me 'The TOOL Man' !!! ;-)

pfred2 (author)  mark.andersen.129310 months ago

Post some projects and show us what you're doing with those tools you have! Sometimes we all have to work with what we have. Although having the exact tool for something is always a plus.

aeszok2 years ago
My father owns all of this stuff, and to be honest with you, it's just wrong to compare them with a dremel. A dremel is a handymans sort of tool, for a DIYer and pretty much all most people here will need. This stuff, this is some serious fire power. Things like a grinder, that shits for cutting sheet metal and stuff like that. These aren't replacements for dremels, these are the next step up. I only see dremels as small cutting tools and grinding things - small benchtop projects. They're high speed tools - nothing like the torque of a proper screwdriver. Great instructable though, it probably is necessary to explain to some of the imbeciles out there that they aren't going to build their chicken coop with just a crappy dremel and some spare bits.

To be honest sometimes i hate screwdrivers because of their torqe becasue i have a nice scar from a drill that spun and the handle wacked my forehead

mcsk8rg1 year ago
A question please answer it

Can I put any other rotary grinder tool to a dremel accessory or table ?
pfred2 (author)  mcsk8rg1 year ago

Accessories should have a max RPM rating. So any bit that can handle the speed should work. The most common Dremel tool shank size is one eighth of an inch. Tools need to fit too.

Dylon1241 year ago
Don't buy cheap tools!
pfred2 (author)  Dylon1241 year ago
Why not? Money is useful for a variety of things. So the less you spend on tools the more you have to spend on supplies. I've pictured several tools in this article that cost a fraction of what a Dremel does, but they can do a lot more work.
MartijnD2 years ago
Rotozip is a part of Bosch since 2003 and marketed as the professional rotary tool in the same business unit as Dremel. The cordless rotozips even use Bosch batteries and chargers.
pfred2 (author)  MartijnD1 year ago
Perhaps Dremels have improved slightly since Bosch bought them. They're still under powered for most jobs though.
Lotus142 years ago
I agree on what you have said. Your advice also applies to people who buy "little" machine tools; particularly the real expensive brands. You can usually find a reasonably priced small to medium size tool, used, for a better price than the fancy stuff, and it will be pretty much bullet proof.
I'm not so hot on the Rotozip though.. Mine burned out after very little use. Unfortunately i didn't use it that much and although it had very little time on it, it was out of warranty before it failed. The brand had also been sold, and the new version did not share much, if anything, with my early version, so all I could do was toss it..
goodlemur2 years ago
Great instructable btw. umm... what direction does a tool like the Foredom rotate in, cause I really can't stand the direction the dremmel rotates. Thanks.
pfred2 (author)  goodlemur2 years ago
Some tools Foredom make are reversible. Mine is not though, so it rotates the same way most rotary tools do. Looking at it chuck on it goes counter clockwise. So it will drive a regular twist drill the right way. Not that I do much drilling with mine, but most attachments are right hand twist.

If you know about electric motors most can be made to reverse if you put another DPDT switch in them. There are usually 4 wires inside them, and if you transpose one pair versus the other the motor will run the other way around.

Although for what a Foredom tool usually costs (mine is an older model) I'm not about to open mine up to try it out. I got lucky and bought mine along with quite a few bits at a yard sale for $20. But I don't think I will find another at that price! Plus the way it rotates does not bother me.
PurpleHel2 years ago
I think it's really a question of space and intended use.

I live in an apartment, and don't have much free space. Certainly not enough to have a devoted work bench and tool rack to store all the tools you suggest in this article. Also, my husband and I end up moving every year or two. Moving a bunch of power tools instead of just my dremel would be a hassle.

Plus, I'm not trying to, well, build a chicken coop. :) And I don't do any one power tool task consistently enough to need a tool specifically devoted to that task. For me, a much better option is one tool that can do a lot of different tasks.
pfred2 (author)  PurpleHel2 years ago
When I moved I learned something about myself that I never realized, I really like heavy stuff! I filled up one 22 foot U-Haul truck and it just about popped a wheelie with what I had in it. When I got to the top of my street I actually stopped the truck, got out, and examined the front end for any obvious problems the truck felt so bad.

It took me two more U-Haul truck loads, plus a van trip just about every other week over the course of 4 years to move all of my junk. Who says you can't take it all with you?

So the sheer mass of an extensive tool collection can be a negative. I just had to have a hernia operation done which I believe was related to moving too. There is indeed a price to pay for DIY.
wrsexton2 years ago
I have most of these "others" and have used them forever. I finally bought a Dremel and a flex shaft to do a job in plastic in a tight spot. That's about all it'll do. Wish I'd known about about the Foredom products a year or so ago! Don't know if I'll use the Dremel again any time soon, but some of the bits have been worn out by other tools!
triumphman3 years ago
I thought I was a fixer upper scrounger! You are the man! You have given me some great ideas that I did not know about! I too am a dremmel fan. Mine broke, so I disected it and found the link from the motor shaft to the chuck to be a plastic hose type thing. So being a fix it experimenter type guy, I replaced it with a same size piece of aquarium air hose It has been working great ever since! I also recently got a 4.5 inch angle grinder from my brother. A nice De Walt. I make knives from all kinds of steel junk. That baby cuts steel fast. I love it! Check out my Baby Bear and Grizzly Bear knives. The only tough time I have is drilling out the center finger hole. Some steel is really hard to drill out. My drill press just doesn't do it for me! It takes a long time to get the hole big enough for my trigger finger. Thanks again! Triumphman
pfred2 (author)  triumphman3 years ago
To effectively machine steel you need the right tools, and techniques. I can't give you tools, but I can tell you how to calculate your surface speed.


SFPM = Surface Feet Per Minute
PI = 3.1415927...
DIA. = DIAmeter of your bit in inches
RPM = Revolutions Per Minute your spindle is going
12 = inches in a foot

This formula is derived from the previous one and is a more direct way to calculate RPM for a specific diameter bit:

RPM = SFPM X (( 12 / PI ) / DIA. )

You always know your DIA. and target SFPM, and need to calculate for RPM so with the second formula you don't have to keep guessing your RPM then calculating it to see if you have it right.

50 SFPM works in the range of 1/4" - 1/2" for mild steel. Larger and smaller decrease, or increase speed some for optimal results. Harder steels the target SFPM is 15-30 but you feed heavier so you do not work harden the material you are drilling. This is where very powerful machinery comes into play that can push harder without stalling.

On your drill press if you're not just about stalling it out you're probably not pushing hard enough. It is likely you don't have the speed range to work with steel correctly too. Get pulley formulas and add another step pulley to your press to gear it down some more. Heck, calculate what you're running now, machine speed charts can be wrong. But I'll let you look up how to properly calculate pulley ratio speeds because that is more involved than I want to get here.

My mill goes down to 220 RPM which if you do the math nets me ~57 SFPM with a 1" drill. A little fast, but it'd work for mild steel.

Using the right cooling lubricant, and drill bits can go a long way towards extending your machining capabilities too, when everything else is correct. Speed you run is likely the most critical factor though. Some of the right speed is machine dependent, so try different speeds and record your results until you've narrowed down your best speed to run at. Power, resonance and some other nonsense all adds up to specific machine behavior.

This stuff is an exact science, but there are so many variables on some level it is somewhat of an art too. Most folks don't know even as much as I've described here though, so if you didn't then this will be a huge help to you. If you did, then maybe it'll help someone else out.

Who said drilling was boring?
One thing I know about Dremel: their website SUCKS! I went there trying to find information only to discover that pages don't load, there is no "contact us" feature, and when I finally found a link called "Email us," THAT page refuses to load, as well. I don't know if their website is malfunctioning or if it is always that way. If they want people to learn about their products, they have to fix their website.

Anyway, I can attest to the Dremel tool not being adequate for some jobs. I used to know a lady who used them for sanding, cutting, and drilling unfired pottery (bisqueware), and she regularly burned them out! (Maybe pneumatic tools would have been better for that.) I like my Dremel for small, arts-and-crafts type jobs, but for major drilling I have to go with an old Black & Decker 7190 that I got for nothing through Freecycle. I don't know why the guy was getting rid of it, as it is awesome! I even got it to drill into the rock-hard, 100-year-old plaster on the walls of my old apartment. I was afraid I'd have to buy a hammer drill for that, or maybe dynamite.
pfred2 (author)  Silver Buttons3 years ago
I have never been to their website. I put this article up because it seems a lot of people on this website are where I was once. There was a time when the only power tool I had was a Dremel, so of course I tried to use it for everything I did.

Now the name Dremel is sort of like the name Kleenex anymore, I use it interchangeably for any small high speed electric motorized rotary tool, as do many others. That being said the whole class of tools has their uses, and limitations.

So I figured I would highlight some other power tools that can excel working on more than just balsa wood models. I don't want to say Dremels are bad for what they are, but maybe they're bad for say trying to grind down weld beads etc.

For what a Dremel can cost I could have bought a drill and an angle grinder and gotten more done back in the day. But maybe I failed to make that point with my article.

Nice score on the drill on FreeCycle. Dremels are especially bad at drilling all but the smallest diameter holes. They spin larger bits far too quickly and that burns the drill bits up. Where I am at anything worth anything on FreeCycle is gone before it gets posted here it seems. I tried to get an old PC on it once and it was gone!
I am glad you put up this article. It inspires me to look for pneumatic tools sometime when I have some money to spare. The local Habitat for Humanity Restore often has old power tools available, but you have to be there at just the right time to grab a good deal, because power tools sell out fast.
pfred2 (author)  Silver Buttons3 years ago
Pneumatic tools have some advantages over their electric counterparts when it comes to high speed operation. The harder you push pneumatic tools the cooler they run. Because you're blowing more air through them I guess. I've had them actually freeze up on me in cold weather. I'm not even sure if there are any ultra high speed offerings in electric tooling. I think there are mass problems with rotors that make their designs impractical to do.

Then when there is a problem pneumatic motors stall a lot more gracefully than electric ones do. When a pneumatic motor stalls all it'll do is hiss. Electric motors keep on trying to pull out of a stall and might even catch on fire if left held for too long.

All of that having been said I am pretty much done buying pneumatic tools now. I guess there's a few more I wouldn't mind having but there are more electric tools I want more today.
jimmytvf4 years ago
That's the eternal fight of power vs versatility. I agree in every thing you say, because every tool is meant to make his specific work efficiently. OK, first of all, the Dremel is not a heavy duty tool, but is handy, very handy. It combines all the benefits of all of that tools, just in one. Why do you want a pneumatic rotary tool?You have it. With the air ones you have the big and noisy compressor, to make the same work that will do the Dremel. It only has more power, but it's just the same. And the more power you have on your hands, the more careful you have to be with one of this things. Both the Dremel and the air tools can cut your finger in a matter of a second. You want a router? you got it and smaller, without that huge base. The flex shaft tool? Is the Dremel extension available for aprox. 20€. I have never saw a rotozip before in spain, but i think is a sort of sander. Dremel is not the perfect tool. Here's where the Dremel doesn't work. Too small sanding surface, then is when I use the sander. The only thing you can't do with a Dremel, is a hole in your wall. And compared with the grinders, is too small, but with a little patience you can make it too. I'm very happy with my Dremel, is the tool that i use the most, and i have the other tools when the Dremel leaks, the drill, the hacksaw, the sander and the propane torch. What else do you need?
pfred2 (author)  jimmytvf4 years ago
I find this pretty handy tad larger than a Dremel though ...
jexter pfred23 years ago
That's a sweet mill - please tell me it wasn't $10 at a yard sale...
pfred2 (author)  jexter3 years ago
No I bought it direct from Harbor Freight. It was a scratch and dent special though. I paid $800 for it. I'd go as far as to say it is a sweet drill press, as a mill it is OK if you work within its limits.
basss4 years ago
any idea
basss4 years ago
can a foredom use a rotozip sabrecut bit for cutting plywood and how effective is it at cutting at angles
pfred2 (author)  basss4 years ago
I don't think it could drive a Roto-Zip bit too well, that is about twice as big as it is designed to work. It does angles well being as the handle is so narrow. It was the only tool I had that'd fit to prep a weld once in an inside corner. I tried a bunch of other things I have and nothing could quite get the angle on that job.
basss pfred24 years ago
is there any bit that will fit in a foredom and cut sideways like a rotozip bit

or would the flexshaft for the rotozip do
pfred2 (author)  basss4 years ago
The bit will fit but it is not what flexible shafts are designed to do.
basss pfred24 years ago
what i am trying to do with it is make a ball chair the same way as gduffords instructable except for with wood . to have two flexible shafts with cutter bits and to inter change the foredom between the two . a foredom would be able to get up to the top of the dome easily due to its small head.

have you any other suggestions to do this

any advice would be appreciated
pfred2 (author)  basss4 years ago
There is only one tool that you could hope to accomplish this task with and that is a jig saw with a tilting shoe. What do you think your chair is going to weigh when you're all done with it?

Let me just say that unless you eat your spinach you might not be able to adjust it so easily. Forget about up and down stairs too!

As for other advise make it in cardboard first but do not glue the thicknesses of the plywood together then cut your cardboard model all apart to use for templates on your plywood. It is the only way you stand even a remote chance of this working out for you.

Talk about a nightmare sheet plan! The absolute no brainer way would take you 32 sheets of 3/4" ply to make just the chair ball. I'm sure you can get that down a little. If you didn't hollow out the chair it'd weigh around 990 pounds!

You'd better really want this chair if you're going to actually make it.

basss pfred24 years ago
how would you put the jigsaw on the end of the inner arm . wouldnt it be too big to make the hollow at the top. dont the blades bend easily . how would you stop it cutting more than one layer since the blaade is so long ..

my inital idea was to put a dremel on the end of the arm with the disc cutter but i dont think that the disc could cut the circle without breaking (or would it )

what is your opinion on just having two rotozips as the cutting blades (eventhough they would have the same problem) with the inside as the jigasw

i had planned to cut the plywood into strips and taking a straight line from the centre point and marking it and cutting it from that angle. there wouldnt be as much big pieces of waste and that many sheets needed.

the size isnt really an issue as it could be taken apart because i would be just screwing the layers together.
pfred2 (author)  basss4 years ago
I do not think the same methods used to tool cardboard work very well when applied to plywood. At least they don't for me. Then again my jigsaw blades don't really bend very much either.

I made this all out of plywood and cut it all out using a jigsaw:


It sort of remotely resembles your sphere sections kind of, just spread out a lot more. That project pretty much burnt up an entire sheet of plywood except for some worthless odd shaped scraps left over. It is a French Flower Stand by the way.

So I do have some limited experience cutting out arcs in plywood using a jigsaw. You're just going to have to cut out a lot more.

If you do go with that jig setup like you saw in that other article I imagine you're going to have to make one a lot more rigid to work with plywood. Being as plywood is a lot more rigid than cardboard is.

As clever as that rig may be I think it is just exploiting cardboard's inherent weakness as the secret of its success. Plywood doesn't have that problem. You may end up learning all about tool chatter in your adventure. It is something harder materials make weaker setups do. And no it is not a good thing.
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