Introduction: Engraving Steel With Dremel Rotary Tools

About: I am an artist in many forms. I dabble in woodwork, blacksmithing, fabrications, and a variety of finish techniques, full time from my two workshops. I believe in quality of life over quantity of money, and en…

Welcome to my first project as a Dremel Maker in Residence. I wanted to try my hand at engraving steel, and thought that a sugar skull would be a great project for this. I utilized a variety of tools for this project, though I will not be going into much detail on some of them here. If anyone is interested I may do another tutorial about these processes later. So, let's get started!

Step 1: Select Something to Engrave

For my canvas, I started with a sheet of 1/8" plate steel, and drew my image onto it with a sharpie. I cut this out with a plasma cutter, then I chemically removed the mill scale, and cleaned up the piece with a flap disk on an angle grinder. I fabed up some cleats, and welded them to the back, for hanging, then I sprayed this with four coats of enamel spray paint and let it cure for a week.

Step 2: The Eyes Have It

I wanted to give this 2-d skull a little depth, so I used two 6" circular saw blades for the eyes. I heated them in the forge, this allowed the carbide teeth to fall off as the braze was heated. I domed the blades, using a swedge block and a rounding hammer. You could do this over a pipe that is a little smaller than the work piece as well. Using the grinder I rounder the tooth areas, then using pliers, I bent them in, for more depth. I welded 2" lengths of 5/16" all thread to the back of each eye, then cut sleeves from 3/4" pipe to cover them. I painted the eyes and the sleeves in gloss black enamel.

Step 3: Layout, and Engraving

Once I was sure that my paintjob was fully cured, I got to work! I started this project before I received my prize tools from Dremel, but no bother, I had my trusty 7700 cordless rotary tool! I began with laying out my lines for engraving with fabric pencils. The design for the eyes turned out great, the designs for the skull leave me less than pleased. If I were to do this project over, I would have designed the pattern on the computer and transferred them to the skull. I thought that free hand would give it a fun, funky feel, but really the proportions just irritate me!

Before I started I tried a variety of bits and stones on a practice piece and the I used ball-end bits in my 7700, the small one was great for outlines, the larger ball did well for larger areas. After I started my engraving, I received my tools from Dremel! It was a blizzard of awesome stuff to play with, and I was side-tracked for several days. When I came back to reality I had to decide which tool to use to finish engraving my project. I wanted to use the forti-flex, as I know that is what the pros use, but I wasn't sure how quickly I would get comfortable with it. I ended up going with the 8220, because it is cordless like my old standby 7700. I was worried about the larger size and extra weight, but it was really well balanced, and the extra power helped with deeper engraving and control over my lines. I spend about 7 hours engraving, broken up into many sessions. I am happy with how the engraving turned out, I was worried that I would wander all over the place, but just like plasma cutting, you brace the tool and get comfortable. (I also use my mantra "like a laser", it helps)

Step 4: Finish Work

Now for my favorite part of any project, the finish work. I chose to use solvent dyes for this, because of their transparency. I wanted to see the engraving through the color. I think that paint would work nearly as well. I applied the dyes with a tiny brush, careful to stay in the engraved lines. This part took around three hours, because of all of the color blending I did. When I was finished, I sprayed it all with a high gloss clearcoat, let that dry, and assembled the eyes.

Step 5: Done With the Dremel Sugar Skull

Here it is all finished, this is the hardest project I have ever tried to photograph, the gloss finish reflects glare and the colors don't show up unless it is well lit. It looks nice in person though. Thanks for checking out my first instructable project, let my know if you have any comments or questions.

Step 6:

Halloween Decor Contest 2015

Participated in the
Halloween Decor Contest 2015