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A rotary tool is an essential maker tool. It has so many different bits and attachments, it can be used in a variety of ways. And it can replace many other tools in small-scale situations.

In this article, I’m focusing on the Dremel specifically because it’s the dominant rotary tool in the market, and also because it’s what I’ve owned and used for several years. However, other similar rotary tools have their merits and you should do your research before purchasing one.

Using a rotary tool means much more than turning it on and letting it go. Here are some tips to get the most out of yours when working on projects.

Michael Colombo

Michael Colombo

In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens’ educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.


  • Alan S. Blue

    The best Dremel tool accessory is the large vice – because bringing the work to the vice-mounted tool can be easier than bringing the tool to the work for small work.

  • http://twitter.com/coondognd coondognd (@coondognd)

    Where can I learn what each of the bits are for? I don’t think the manual that came with my Dremel had pictures, so I didn’t know which they were referring to.

  • Matto

    Please, a little grammar in the slides: Don’t put the plural “s” in parentheses like it’s hypothetical. “It cuts a bit thicker, but USING (singular subject) two cutoff wheels ADDS (singular verb) stability to the blades and REDUCES (sing.) the number of times you have to change them.

    • http://pushtheotherbutton.wordpress.com Michael Colombo

      Thanks, but I think this is a difference of style more than grammar. Saying blade(s) is done with the implication that while two blades are being used, they actually come together to form one blade. You know, like Voltron. To delineate this ambiguity I added the parenthetical “s”. I might have to consult my style book, but I’m pretty sure this is ok usage.

  • http://www.lungStruck.com Scott W. Vincent

    Interesting tip on doubling up the cutting wheels – never thought to try that. I’ve run into a few situations where the added stability may help. Thanks!

  • http://dugnorth.com Dug North

    Great article! Thanks for highlighting the need for safety glasses. They are so important when using rotary tools, as are leather gloves. Here are a few more tips for your consideration: http://www.cabaret.co.uk/dugs-automata-tips-techniques-and-tricks-no-6/

    • Nikos Tribos

      Please don’t ever use leather gloves with rotary cutting disks that have teeth, or when using a band saw. They will only turn a minor cut to a disaster.

      • http://blog.dugnorth.com Dug North

        Fair enough, Nikos! Getting pulled into a blade is a very bad thing. I would say for most small cutters, burrs, stones, brushes, and abrasive wheels that gloves are a good idea.

        • Nikos Tribos

          I would certainly agree on that. Thank you.

  • Anney Fresh

    My favorite Dremel accessory is the adjustable chuck which eliminates changing the different sized collets for each tool bit. It saves time and is great for drill bits too!

    • http://pushtheotherbutton.wordpress.com Michael Colombo

      Ooh I didn’t know about that one. Not only is it time-consuming to switch collets, but it can also be a PITA to figure out which collet your bit is supposed to fit!

  • Bill

    I have found the drum sander to be really nice for trimming dogs toenails, They don’t seem to mind it nearly as much as the cutting nail clippers..

  • Ben Had

    almost forgot about the safety glasses… Good call homie

  • Mike Norton

    I really like this site, I’m a maker and need all the help I can get lol