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Dremel Multitool - How To Use

Some of the things I use my Dremel for

How did I ever manage without one of these? I can now cut perforated circuit board in a reasonably straight line instead of the jagged mess I would end up with when using a hacksaw. I can even make a reasonable job of cutting rectangular or irregular shaped holes in plastic enclosures. Sanding surfaces flat and cutting metal bars is now no trouble at all. I've even used it to carefully cut the top off of a plastic bottle so that my wife could get at the last drops of very expensive face cream trapped inside.

So let me give you an idea of some of the uses my Dremel has been put.

My Dremel 3000

This is the Dremel kit I got a few months back. It's a Dremel 3000 with a flexible extender. The extender can be very useful when you are working in a tight spot but I think that I've only used it twice so it's a very nice accessory to have when you need it but I don't think that it's essential.

The kit arrived with the Dremel rotary multitool, the flexible extender and a small assortment of tools to use with it.

The cutters, grinders, sanders and buffing tools that come with it are all useful but you might want to invest in an add-on kit of accessories which will give you a more comprehensive range.

Safety considerations

Before you start using your Dremel I must first point out a few safety guidlines. There are two major hazards that you will encounter when using any rotary powertool. The first one is dust. Not so much from cutting things like plastic which tend to melt but there will be lots of dust generated when cutting hard materials such as perforated circuit boards. The second problem is that the Dremel cutting tools are quite brittle and do shatter after a little use. This can result in small sharp objects flying in random directions. Nasty if you catch one in your eye.

The image left shows me kitted out with a face mask and safety googles designed to protect my lungs from dust and my eyes from fast moving flying objects.

It takes a bit of practice to work in this gear because condensation tends to build up inside the goggles. This is a particular nuisance if you wear spectacles like I do and the goggles are on top. I can't see without my specs so I have to control my breathing when working with the Dremel.

Wearing a mask and goggles while trying to carry out some precision cutting work is not convenient to say the least but I urge you not to skip this part if you value your eyesight and lungs.

Cutting perforated stripboard

First draw a line on the stripboard where you want to cut. I use a Sharpie because it doesn't rub off easily. Then clamp the board down so that it can't fly off when the cutter bites.

Mount one of the small brown cutting wheels into the Dremel. Put on your safety gear and switch the Dremel to a medium speed. Lightly touch the spinning wheel to the board and move slowly along the line. Don't apply pressure to the cut because the wheel may break or the cut will be uneven.

Don't try to cut through the whole board in one pass. It works best when you make multiple passes along the line taking the cut down a fraction of a millimeter each pass. I find that this gives me the straightest cut with the minimum of problems.

Cutting a notch

I often find myself trying to fit stripboard around pillars and guides in the enclosure which requires notches to be nibbled out of the board. This is easy with the Dremel.

Using the small cutting wheel first make some diagonal cuts to take out the majority of the notch. You will be left with some jagged bits of board on the inside of the notch. Carefully take out the remaining unwanted material using the cutting wheel to wear down the jagged parts.

Rectangular holes

As you can see from the image I'm still learning the art of cutting rectangular holes in plastic. I can say that the Dremel has made it much easier than it used to be for me so you can imagine what my earlier efforts were like.

The picture shows a typical example of a rectangular hole in the side of an ABS case to provide access to the HDMI and AV sockets of a raspberry Pi. Start by marking the hole with a pencil then take out as much of the material inside the outline as you can with a small drill. You can use the Dremel for this step but I prefer to use a battery operated power drill instead.

Carefully take out the remaining material up to your pencil line with a cylindrical cutter. These cutters work very well on ABS plastic so it is all too easy to go too far so take it easy.

Get yourself a Dremel for your projects

Other useful tools

Get yourself kitted out with tools from the list below today and you will be ready to start building electronic circuits.

This set contains all the essential tools that you are going to need when you start building electronic circuits. It is a kit intended for computer repair technicians but it should serve your purpose well.

I like this tool kit because it has a very useful little extra in the form of an anti-static wrist band. It's purpose is to ensure that your body does not carry an electrostatic charge that may cause damage to your components when you handle them. The wrist band needs to be clipped to an earth point like a radiator or a large metal object to let the charge leak away. You should wear one of these whenever you do any electronics work just as a precaution.

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