Rotary Power Tools (overview)

rotary toolsPower tool use should not be undertaken until the artist has a complete and full knowledge of the art of wood sculpture. Many of our fine NWDA artists will never use a power tool at all as they prefer to communicate with the wood by hand. Our early members thought the use of power tools took away the “art” from the craft. Everything you use the power too for must first be experienced by hand so the artist understands the character of their particular wood.

Actually, the use of the Dremel-type power tools is really self explanatory. Any good machine like the Dremel, Black and Decker RTX, Grizzly, Proxon or Foredom usually come with a good book of instructions. What we will explore today are the various bits or points and how we can use them with success.

Flap Wheels and Sanders: Flap wheels are wonderful for gentle sanding and smoothing. They can be used successfully on very thin, fragile wood. The grit these wheels come in are 180, 220 and 320. You can buy other grits through these grits are more than satisfactory. Be sure to keep these wheels moving or they tend to gouge easily and do damage.

Grinding Bits: Grinding bits are the “bad boys” of the Dremel tools. We use these to grind away those large sections we are trying to remove. The smaller bits that grind we use for accent gouging or to clean out small, otherwise inaccessible areas like small holes or deep and narrow fissures we need to feature in our sculpture.

Finishing Bits: These are fine steel or tungsten bits that are shaped and cut to be used for smoothing rough edges and to remove those “hairy” areas left by our scrapers. These are easy to control and play a large part in making our sculptures flow into the design we wish.

Stones: Stones are usually used to polish metal and stone, but I use them for sharpening those router scrapers that we need very sharp, very often. They can be used to burnish and round some edges.

Sanding caps: These are good for very rough sanding, especially on sharp edges, then followed by careful hand sanding.
Snap-0n Sanding Discs: These are my favorite power sanding bits There is a mandrel that these disks just snap on and away you go! As always, a google search provides lots of vendors.

3M Bristle Discs: These are great for sanding areas with detail, irregular, curved or flat surfaces.  Use them remove the ‘fuzzies’ without harming any of the underlying detail.  The coarser grits can be used to carve or texture.

Felt and Rubber Tips: These are our wonderful burnishing tips for power burnishing. The rubber tips are mainly for gem polishing but we can try them. Usually, they are used with polishing rouge on metal, stone or rock. The felt tips are great for fine burnishing and glazing of pitchy areas of wood, and for thin and delicate woods.

There are other specialty bits that you might want or need, but the above are the basis of our power tool use.

Arline De Palma