Rotary Tools

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Introduction

A Dremel, Black and Decker Wizard, engraving stylus or finger nail buffer, are all considered rotary tools. They can be found anywhere hardware tools are sold, and sometimes at well stocked hobby stores. They range in price from $10-$50. Bits are sold individually or in sets, but not all bits are interchangeable between different brands. Flea markets usually sell them for as low as 25 cents each. Others like the diamond cutting wheel cost between $16-20.

Safety first, always wear protective glasses to keep burning hot plastic debris from hitting your eye. If you are doing heavy sanding wear a filter mask or respirator too. Being reckless, forgetting, or simply being in a hurry will lead to near misses or the eventual blinding or ingestion of the wrong material. Serious precaution should be taken when working with resin casted material and melting plastic. That stuff causes serious havoc in the eyes and lungs and causes nose bleeds and worse. For that reason a well ventilated area should be used as well.

Second, take your time with a dremel and always have a cutting tool like an X-Acto and pair of pliers near by. Not for safety reasons but becasue plastic tends to melt when cutting it at high speed. Stopping about every 30 seconds to let things cool down and reassess your work is a good idea. This time can be used to cut off excess plastic that has wrapped around the bit or shaft of the bit too. The pliers come in handy when the bits get stuck in the part you are working on. It happens.

Third, invest in back up batteries unless you have a plug in one. It sucks to get into a project only to have a battery die on you with no replacement ready.

Attachments

There are several parts you'll need to know when looking for a rotary tool. The bit is the attachment that gets inserted into tool. There are sever different kinds for different purposes from sanding to cutting to drilling. The bits get inserted into the collet, or pronged receiver that holds the bit into place once screwed in. The dremel brand makes different sized collets for their different sized bits. A B&D Wizard can be fitted with these different sized collets. Some bits are actually mandrels; a bit with a screw top to hold on different items like cut-wheels or sanding bands. Now let's take a closer look at different bits and what they do.

Different attachments and some of their uses.

The first bits we'll look at are sanding bits. These come in two forms. Diamond coated pointed or ball bits and sanding bands attached to a mandrel. The smaller sanding bits are used for attaining smooth surfaces or sometimes getting into tight areas other bits can't or sanding tools can't. While not its intended purpose the pointed one can make a small hole or notch. The mandrel band sanders usually come in two different types of grit medium and fine. I've found even the fine grit to be too course for customizing. They are good for doing rough sanding before switch out for a finer diamond sander. They are great for large sanding jobs like removing a molded on weapon. With both types of sanders you will need to watch out for not letting them dig into the plastic creating a sanding rut or you will have a "U" shaped area you'll need to fill in later.

The regular cut-wheel is good for anything from cutting metal to wood to large plastic work. Anything as thicker than an 1/8 of an inch will be time consuming task for this bit. You will need to use light pressure as when suing them as they are meant to break off. They also tend to be fragile so be careful where you set it down. They are very good for cutting off neck balls or hats mainly because they kind of sand as they cut leaving a smoother surface. Just be careful of flying parts of the wheel when they break. Even at low speeds this one melts plastic. Another type of cutting wheel is the diamond cutting wheel. It is coated with small bits of diamond so it never loses its shape or breaks. It is perfect for larger cutting intensive projects like vehicles or thicker plastic. The diamond wheel cost a lot of money comparatively yet cuts through stuff that would have taken me hours and many breakable cut-wheels to get through.


The last 4 in the picture are drilling bits. The tiny one is used to gut out holsters or in other really confined tight areas. It also can be used to make small holes. You'll have to stop often to remove access plastic that gets built up. The pointed drill engraver is one you'll probably use the most since it is good for drilling out helmets, removing molded on details, and cutting into small areas. It drills and digs right into things like helmets very well. The last one is the rounded engraver bit. All the versatility of the pointed one but because it is rounded, it doesn't drill into things as fast and takes a smidge more effort. Because of this however it guts the insides of helmets a lot better because it isn't as aggressive. When turning a head into a helmet drill into it with the pointed one and gut as much as possible. Then finish with the rounded one going in clockwork motion to really get everything right to the edge of breaking through. When you feel your finger tips getting hot where you are holding the piece, you are getting closer to going through to the outside.

More Rotary Tool Techniques

For further rotary tool techniques and tips please check out Pugsley and Mswi's article on the subject.

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