It’s hard to find a word that rhymes with Dremel… (Alternative Title: DIY Heresy)

The humble Dremel tool and similar hand held high speed rotary tools have become ubiquitous in the DIY community as well as notorious in the gunsmithing and knife making communities. Rotary tools, like the Dremel, are great at what they’re truly designed to do which is make light, non-precision cuts using abrasives or hard metal bits, however, where we run into snags is when we try to use those tools outside of that narrow scope.

These tools have been around a long time and can be used to do a lot of stuff but as with most gadgets, a lot of marketing by the manufacturers has convinced people they’re capable of far more than they really are. Dremel, like all companies, exists to make money and I don’t fault them for that.

Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life.  -Zorg

But as buyers and DIYers (is that word in Oxford yet?), we have to have strong bullshit filters or we’ll end up throwing money away on tools we really can’t use like we’d hoped.

I often wonder if Dremel’s marketing people are even in the same building as their engineers. For instance this ad, stolen from Lowe’s Website, show a person using the sanding drum, which is less than 1 inch (1/18 cubits) in diameter to sand a flat surface several inches wide and several inches long.

lowes dremel ad

© 2014 Lowe’s

Not only would that take forever and you’d burn through dozens of those tiny sanding drums, it’d likely turn a once flat surface into an uneven and wavy mess. (Yes, I’m aware that Lowe’s is not Dremel but I’m certain any ads run by Lowe’s are approved by Dremel first. Corporations are pretty funny about that kind of thing.) A simple sanding sponge would do a far better job in less time for a fraction the cost which by most measures means it’s better for this application.

I own a couple rotary tools made by Dremel and I’ve used them a lot to open the diameter of a preexisting hole by a fraction of an inch and they did a fantastic job. I’ve also cursed and swore to all the gods when trying to use one of the cut off wheels to try to cut a rounded rust frozen bolt in a hard to reach place and the damn wheels kept wearing out uber quickly or just exploding before the job was done.

So my point is this: if you need to do things like opening holes up or making small, non-precision cuts or removing small amounts of material from things too hard to use a file on, then a rotary tool like the Dremel may be the ticket. But if you want a do-all machine, I don’t think they’re great choice. If you get a Dremel or similar rotary tool as a gift, don’t fret, as long as you use it for what it’s truly designed for it should serve you well. But if you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket, there are better power tools a person can buy when they’re just starting out.

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