Wood Carving With a Dremel




Introduction: Wood Carving With a Dremel

About: Mad scientist, graphic designer, mechanical drafter, sci-fi geek.

This Instructable was written as part of the Dremel Build at ADX Portland. I want to thank Dremel and Instrucatbles for sponsoring the event. I've used a Dremel before but this was a great chance to check out the latest models. I've never used the Multi-Max before and I was very impressed with its cutting abilities.

Here are the tools you will need for this Instructables:

  • Dremel Multi-Max and cutting tools and sanding tools.
  • Rotary Dremel and carving and sanding tools
  • Clamps to secure the wood while cutting
  • A block of wood
  • Pencil

Step 1: Rough Cuts

Start by figuring out the largest cuts you can make on your block of wood to create the rough shape of what you are going to carve. I decided to carve a skull (I love Halloween). So I started by rounding the edges of my block and removing the wood behind the jaw and bellow the back of the skull.

After I had sketched the areas I wanted to remove on the wood, I clamped it to a table and got the Dremel Multi-Max and a cutting blade.

Cut along your pencil lines to remove the wood. Don't worry if you don't follow the lines perfectly, this is a rough cut. The cutting blade can cut pretty deep, but you can also just remove small chunks until you have cleared the area.

Continue to sketch and remove areas until you have the rough shape of your object.

Step 2: Edging

A little trick I discovered with the Dremel Multi-Max was that once I had my rough cuts done, I could take the Dremel and cutting blade and go along the edges of my rough cuts to remove sharp edges and round out corners.

Step 3: Rough Detailing

Once you've got the basic shape of your carving done its time to switch to the rotary Dremel. Using the carving tools you can go in and start adding details.

For my skull, I started to carve out the eye sockets and noise along with details on the sides of the skull.

Step 4: Sanding

The Dremel Multi-Max has a sanding attachment that is great for sanding larger areas of your carving.

Start with a course grit sand paper (60 or 80) and remove any rough areas and smooth out any jagged cuts. Once all the rough areas are removed, switch to a medium grit (120) and finally to a fine grit (220).

Step 5: Keep Going Till Its Done

Switch back and forth between the Dremel Multi-Max and the rotary Dremel depending on what you need to do. Start big and work your way down to the finer detail.

Hope this was helpful and shows you to to use a Dremel to carve wood.

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17 Discussions

I would like to say from experience, that you should take more safety precautions. First rule I learned in woodcarving is to never use your body as a work bench. Having said that, I have broken that rule from time to time, but with extra care. First practice mindfulness. That is, you think, okay I'm going to hold it so I'd better know where the blade will go when (not if) I slip. And second wear carver's gloves. They make them with kevlar or a similar material. But don't trust them completely, they are better than nothing, but not if you are not paying attention.

So back to the first rule. If you are starting with a bigger piece, then leave a part that you can keep in the clamp and cut that stem off after you have done as much as you can to the rest of the piece. If the piece is already close to the finish size then attach a dowel or bolt or something that will help your bench hold the bench steady.

I'm looking forward to your next instructable, but I want you to finish it with all ten fingers intact.

3 replies

Good points, but don't forget goggles or safety glasses. Flying debris or broken Dremel blades can blind you.

The shop I'm in requires safety googles so I forgot to mention them. But you are correct. Always where safety googles.

Good points. I've made a few more of these and now I use a wood working vise to hold the block while I make the large cuts. I do still hold it in my hands for smoothing out the edges and using the dremel carving attachments for fine details. I will look into the carving gloves.

Thanks for the advice. Safety is very important.


8 months ago

Has anyone used these tools and techniques for carving on fresh wood (meaning cutting a small log from tree then making a figure)?

1 reply

Haven't tried it. I would probably work. Be careful about things slipping and your blades will probably need to be cleaned well afterwards to prevent rusting or corroding.
Do a few test cuts first.

It is a very good tool and they have created a lot of versions and add ons. Pick the one or ones that will do what you need.

Id first like to say thanks to all of you gentlmen that have posted under this thread. Yall answered a few of my questions before I even had the chance to ask them. I am a residential carpentet and have been for almost 20 years now. I really really enjoy making things out of wood, but have never sat down and artistically created a design or finished product from the many ideas ive had. Well...the time is now for me to put my thoughts into action and any helpful advice that you fellas can offer would be greatly appreciated. Heres my plan and the tools and materials that i have to start. The christmas tree that i had was a douglas fir. It was the first christmas with my soon to be wife and i want to make a keepsake that will be kept forever. I decided to strip all the limbs and greenery and bark from the trunk of of the 6ft tree and I have been planning since christmas to create/carve/grind a stick of skulls. I want finished piece to be a stack of skulls looking different directions and each skull different from the next. I have a dremel and a few bits.....but no multi-tool at the moment. I dont have carving knives nor have I ever carved anything. But I know my skillset and this is a project that i will complete....and eventually master.
I know Ive been rambling a bit....but Im almost 40 and seeing this discussion gave me a shot of energy that i havent felt in a while. Again....any words of advice would be appreciated more than ya know.
Thanks fellas. Hope to hear from ya soon.

1 reply

Sounds like a great project. I would suggest practice carving a few test skulls before working on the finished piece.
You can do a lot with just the Dremel. Get some good carving bits and some sanding discs and those are great for creating the detail parts.

Have fun.

A couple of hints:

1) Don't carve pine. It's the worst, except for maybe fir. Start with basswood or tupelo. Mahogany and butternut are good. So is poplar. Red oak is too stringy and maple is very hard.

2) If you use power tools for carving instead of traditional hand tools, you really must address dust collection. A carpenter fried of mine died from lung cancer recently - he was not a smoker. It was from the sawdust. If you make dust from some exotic woods like cocobolo, it can put you in the hospital.

2 replies

Thanks for the advice. Especially about dust.

I'm not a fine wood worker so I'm not well versed in selecting wood. I chose pine because it was cheap and easy to get hold of. If I make more of these and want them to last longer I will look into better woods.

If you do an instructable about picking woods to caver let me know.

I gotta disagree, for this, pine is fine enough, it is crappy to carve , but this is gross carving, that is little detail, looks nice I will need to carve one, but I will just use a saw to do the rough out then knives. I do have done many a "ball in a cage" carvings, and I used pine or whatever was available.



Power carving is nice but I just like knives, that said, I have used dremels for certain apps.

Nice Instructable I am going to carve a skull on a walking stick.

Thanks for doing it!

Not at the moment. I'm working on an idea for a Halloween one and some laser cutting ones.


3 years ago

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What attachment were you using for part three? 115? 117?