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In response to the Make: Newsletter Special Edition (on Tips) that we sent out yesterday, MAKE pal, and automata artist, Dug North sent us a link to a piece he did on Dremel tips. The article is part of Dug’s Automata Tips, Techniques and Tricks, a series he’s doing on Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

10: Carving with Stones Wood carving bits often leave a rough surface on woods such as Basswood (a.k.a. Lime). Try using grinding stones for the final stages of carving. The pink/orange/brown Aluminum-oxide stones remove material a little faster, while the darker gray/blue/green Silicon-carbide stones remove material more slowly, but leave a smoother finish.

Dug’s Automata Tips, Techniques and Tricks No. 6


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Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.



  1. Steve says:

    What speed do you use with the 1/4″ and 1/2″ sanding drums? If I use anything faster than the lowest speed they wear out really fast. Maybe they are supposed to be able to handle a little more speed, or maybe mine are from a bad batch?

  2. Dug North says:

    Steve – I often use a single speed rotary tool, which runs runs at 35,000 RPMs (fast) for both the 1/4″ and 1/2″ sanding drums. I find that I can get a lot more life out of them by running them against an abrasive belt cleaning block occasionally. I suppose you could have a bad batch, but that hasn’t happened to me, even with no-name brand drums.

  3. Tim says:

    There are a couple of safety messages in Dug North’s great article. I would like to emphasize them.

    When I was first introduced to Dremel tools over 35 years ago I did quite a bit of wood carving. I greatly enjoyed it (and still do) but I quickly discovered some of the destructive potential of these little tools. Sanding drums in particular can grab a surface, get away from you and remove a chunk of skin. My hands have had a lot of abuse in workshops over the years, but the most prominent scars are two I got way back in the 70′s from a Dremel tool with a sanding drum.

    1. Holding those little workpieces in your fingers is a recipe for pain and blood. At least you might want to use a glove like for carving or fish flleting that will protect your fingers.

      –R (been there, have the scars…)

      1. Tim says:

        I agree that gloves are a very good idea. The Kevlar ones for knife protection are a bad idea though. The fibers can get caught in the tool and pull very tight around your finger. It’s better to use a leather glove.

    2. Dug North says:

      Tim — Thank you for pointing this out. Leather gloves are a very good idea when using a rotary tool, regardless of the bit. I will add something about this to the article page.

  4. [...] Follow Dug’s work on his site and on The Automata / Automaton Blog. Dug recently shared his tips for using a Dremel on MAKE. [...]

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