Dremel

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Dremel

Postby Nick Jackson » 16 Jul 2007, 16:12

Does anyone else use a Dremel and, if so, would you recommend one?
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Postby Chris » 16 Jul 2007, 17:19

A lovely toy - probably useful for making jewellery.
But if you really fancy an electric swiss-army-penknife have a look in Maplins first. I've a feeling that I've seen a similar system to Dremel which is much cheaper.



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Postby James » 16 Jul 2007, 17:38

I've seen a marionette clown made only using a dremel, and veyr nice it was too. Perhaps Carl could upload a photo.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 16 Jul 2007, 19:23

You're right, Chris, there are cheaper choices around – quite a few in B&Q – but choice makes it difficult to know where to start.
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Postby lesclarke » 16 Jul 2007, 20:08

Dremels and similar are so useful, for carving you can use tiny tools, (possibly called burrs ?) or bigger, but still small sized sanding drums, also carbon abrasive discs for cutting are far easier to use that a hacksaw on metal.
The way they work, the principle as I understand it, is based on low power but very high speed of revolution. So, check the spec on Dremels and see what other makes offer in terms of rev speed. I know they did a cordless one, not sure if they still do, but the cord is not a problem and not sure if the battery one has same speed range.
The speeds on the Dremel are totally variable via a slide switch, for different applications. From my own experience and friends Dremels seem well made and long lasting.
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Postby Chris » 16 Jul 2007, 20:37

As I was passing, Nick, I popped into Maplins. They do two types, Rotocraft nd a ProMax Rotary Tool. There are several different models in the Rotocraft range. Also they seem to be on special offer at the moment.

Les is right when he tells you to compare revs, and, I would add, the power of the motor.

Less also mentions cordless. Cordless is fine where portability is very important. But as a general rule (and I'm talking of general appliances, not particularly rotary drills) mains power is best. You usually have a stronger motor plus the a longer life to the drill - remember that all rechargeable cells do, eventually, become inefficient.

But I remain suspicious of the utility of these gadgets. If you want a carbon disk to cut metal then you can buy one to fit any electric drill. And while delicate relief carving may be attempted with burrs and drills and rotary gouges, but there is much in puppet carving which is best done with a mallet and set of chisels, or bandsaw and rasps if you cheat. Generally I favour the single purpose tool to the multi-use gadget.

If I was to choose the most useful tool ever for the puppeteer's workshop I would go for what was originally the Stanley Shaper, and then was overtaken by Surform.

Anyway, let us know what you decide - what you get - and how you get on with it.





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Postby martin@no10 » 16 Jul 2007, 20:48

I sometimes use a Dremel when carving, although it is not as enjoyable experience in my opinion as a mallet & gouge, it is a very useful tool. Prior to buying my Dremel I had a cheaper imitation which packed in quickly so had to be returned for a refund - maybe I shouldn't have used it as a mallet...... :oops:
However I have used the Dremel for several years, finding it especially useful with the addition of a flexible drive and a handful of more useful burrs - I have found the Dura-Glit Burrs to be very useful.
Having said all that, my own Dremel packed in recently and I will probably replace it with one of the Axminister branded ones, check their website:
www.axminster and then .co.uk
I have used this company for many years & they offer a really good service. They stock quite a number of Dremel & similar tools & accessories - they refer to them as "Multi & Modelling Power Tools".
As has been pointed out there are quite a number of cheaper (and more expensive) alternatives to the Dremel - I would say it needs to at least do 15,000-20,000 revs to be of much use (the Dremel goes up to 30,000), anything slower I think would result in the tool being forced - and that's an accident waiting to happen. On that subject I would recommend anyone using this type of tool to ensure they have eye protection, ear protection, and a quality dust-mask of some sort which won't allow dust particles to enter the nose. These tools turn the wood to very fine dust very quickly, and that has potential to be unhealthy.
These tools are useful for cleaning out awkward areas where perhaps a gouge might struggle, but can be really good for working the surface, I suppose a bit like modelling in a way.
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Postby johnstoate » 16 Jul 2007, 20:55

Personally, I don't like the things, but Whilst on the subject, Martin makes one very important point, they produce very fine dust, So shouldn't be used on mdf, The dust from which is carcinogenus, So ,if you are using mdf for proceniums or whatever, be aware, and use a good dust mask!!
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Postby Tony James » 16 Jul 2007, 21:55

I really don't know much about mdf other than it's heavy furniture use. How thin is it made?

John mentioned using it for showfronts. It's always struck me as a very heavy material.

Is it produced to say 1/8 inch thickness and how would the weight compare with a similar thickness of birch ply?

How water resistant is it, specially on the edges. That's always the vulnerable point on a showfront.

I'm always looking for alternatives but have to say that I've used birch ply for more years than I can remember. For strength and lightness and practical usage for a travelling show I've found nothing to compare and I've looked at all manner of plastics and metals.

Some have many advantages to recommend them but in the end I come back to birch ply. It's very forgiving (which metals are not) and so lightweight (which most sheet plastics are not) and of course it's easy to drill and screw fixings into timber and carry out running repairs whilst on the road.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 16 Jul 2007, 22:02

Thanks one and all for so much advice. Chris, in particular, thanks for popping into Maplins. Now, if you could just check out the wine offers for me in Tesco...

Have since spoken to a friend who's going to lend me a Dremel for a couple of weeks so I can have a play. That should help me decide.

Again, thanks one and all.
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Postby CvdC » 16 Jul 2007, 22:06

The dust is awful and the noise terrible. The dust is blown up into your face by the motor's fan. They are best used with an extension so the motor can be kept at a distance. You can also buy jeweller's grinders that are slower but have a more powerful motor. These are operated by a foot pedal.
Also you can buy better carbon burrs that are more effective than those supplied by Dremel.
Can some smart person tell me how you can use a dust mask when you need to wear spectacles?
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Postby johnstoate » 16 Jul 2007, 22:21

To CVDC, - If you get a reply to the specs one-please let me know, the eyes aint been the same since a brat in the audience thought it fun to hit me with a laser pointer a few years back, I was blind for three days, and have needed glasses ever since. And I'm still gettin' used to the damn things!
To Tony, - I would stick to birch ply, the only good thing to be said for mdf. in my book is that if you soak it in water it is mouldable, and keeps the shape when dried out, but as I said before, the dust from it is lethal ! but it is easier to shape than ply. It does need more damp-proofing though.
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Postby martin@no10 » 17 Jul 2007, 12:35

Cvdc - I wear specs & the dustmask I have been using is one which looks like a mini version of a wartime gas mask - it ties round the back of the head - it doesn't have eye shields (I use a seperate visor) but has replaceable filters. The edges of the mask should seal round the face and so prevent any dust getting in, it also means that specs shouldn't steam up as all the exhaled air goes out through the front of the mask rather than up the way & under the specs. However clad in dust mask, visor to protect the eyes, and quality ear defenders, it must be an awful-looking sight!

The Dremel & similar tools I believe have their uses, but it is important to keep the burr moving over the carving to get your desired shape, or the wood will quickly flatten - also I have found sometimes with the grain direction that the wood can scorch & burn. There is a point of view that a carver will never get a crisp finish to the wood surface by having any kind of finish other than a razor-sharp tooled finish. Perhaps looking at photos of some of the carved puppet figures from the European tradition, Germany, Prague, etc, where I think the norm is to have a tooled rather than sanded finish. Neither is the "right way" of course, its all a matter of personal choice, but worth considering & bearing in mind. I believe the play of light on a sanded head will be noticeably different than on a tooled-finish head, although how much of that would remain after painting I can't say. The lighting of puppets & puppet theatre is a whole other question that I'm sure a number on this forum would be considerably experienced in - certainly Chris you will have much experience in this - would the lighting be different on the marionette stage between figures finished in those two ways, all other things being the same? Sorry for going off thread...
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Postby Chris » 17 Jul 2007, 13:12

I suppose from a woodcarving purist point of view a tool faceted unpainted finish is to be desired for a piece of carved art. The wood grain and colour of the wood should show.
But we are not creating wood sculpture, we are creating puppets, so the resulting appearance is the guide. If our puppet is to represent a human being then a sanded finish is to be desired, then when painted and lit it will appear as intended. If the puppet were intended to represent something where facets would be appropriate ( a diamond sprite for example, or a carved wooden toy) then the tool marks could well be left.

Of course there are those who carve beautifully, and their puppets look stunning in photographs, and the sculptural element is the main thing. And there is no reason why someone shouldn't make a puppet sculpture.

But from my point of view a puppet is a performers' tool and the aim should be for it to convey its message, visually and in movement, to an audience. Fortunately for the majority of us this is not always best achieved by the most elegant and meticulous sculpting, a certain crudity and brash attack often works to advantage in puppetry.

Always remember puppetry is not about making puppets.




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Postby CharlesTaylor » 17 Jul 2007, 19:16

The subject of the finished look of a puppet has great interest to me. Harry Burnett Yale Puppeteer and co owner of Turnabout Theater, my teacher and mentor, created beautiful life like puppets that had a very textured face. The heads and hands were nearly always made of plastic wood. They were roughly sanded but not as smooth as many other puppeteers’ puppets especially after the advent of television. Harry felt the too smooth, glossy look had an unreal quality like dolls or mannequins. To him that style of puppet was lifeless.

He made masks as a hobby and would even make a thin paste or “sauce” of plastic wood and acetone to paint over some heads to create a texture. Any of his puppets that can be seen in the Alan Cook collection is distinct in their obvious bumpy skin. It was Harry’s preference. Although sometimes I suspected he didn‘t want to go that extra mile in sanding and finishing. It was definitely a conscious decision on his part.

Alan Cook, based in Pasadena, California, has one of the largest collections of puppets in the United States. It includes puppets from major puppeteers, from all periods, from many countries and includes a large collection of Punch and Judy sets and ventriloquist figures.

Alan and I have had discussions regarding that one must see many puppets of an artist to truly understand his style. One or two just doesn’t give a clear enough over-all picture. I’m sure this would apply to Punch and Judy.

It seems apparent to me that traditionally Punch and Judy puppets are carved of wood and thereby have a general appearance that is similar to one another in construction although may have varying degrees of subtle differences. Yet those made of other materials have a very different appearance and may be more divergent.

None the less the construction of the puppet and it’s finished appearance is solely up to the designer/puppeteer. I agree with Chris that what the puppet is to convey to the audience during performance should be the determining factor in it’s construction. The conundrum is that, generally speaking, the designer, builder, actor, director, manager, gaffer is usually one in the same person. So the construction, performance, presentation etc. is always going to represent that person’s taste, style, bias unless another person is involved in collaborating regarding the various aspects of the production. That can be a very valuable tool, to have another’s input if the ego can stand it.

In regards to the dremel tool, I have one and use it frequently for fine finishing. I also have a jewelers motor with an extension. I find the dremel tool is less likely to break where as the extension of the jewelers motor frequently breaks and then I have to replace the entire unit. They are great for carving fine details. I use it for making the space for moving eyes and mouths. It does very delicate work that I would otherwise not be able to accomplish since I’m not experienced at wood carving.

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