Can I Use a Dremel to Carve Wood?


In the woodworking world, men and women are always looking for inventive ways to perfect their craft. With continually developing tools, it can be fascinating to try something new. Perhaps you recently stumbled upon Dremel tools and wonder if these can meet your wood carving needs.

A Dremel (including the MultiMax or Rotary Dremel model) can be used to carve wood. You can select various bits to attach to the Dremel head depending on your carving design and needs. For best results, use a Flexible Shaft, select high-quality wood, carve large areas first, and add detailing.

Of course, you will also need to ensure that you are wearing the proper safety equipment to ensure the best use for the tool and your longevity in the woodworking arena. Using a Dremel to carve wood has many unique advantages- especially since it can be held in the palm of your hand, and its various bit attachments can provide such a wide range of carving tricks. Continue reading to learn the ins and outs of using a Dremel to carve wood.

How to Use a Dremel to Carve Wood

Truly, using a Dremel might be the most game-changing decision you make in carving wood for your latest woodworking projects. Whether working on a large or small project, a Dremel can help you to etch in the finer details of the perfect woodworking piece. But, before you can begin your next adventure with the latest and greatest tool in the wood carving world, you will want to take a look at how to use it for this purpose in the first place.

Below are the suggested steps for using a Dremel to carve wood:

1. Select the Right Type of Wood

Before you can begin using a Dremel to carve wood, you need to select the right type of wood in the first place. Doing so will provide you with an easier time carving and an end-result that will be significantly more impressive.

Selecting the right type of wood will depend on the project you aim to achieve, and the natural skill set you already possess. However, whether you are an amateur or a skilled woodworking professional, there are just some types of wood that are easier and better to carve.

When carving finer details into your wood, you want to consider using softwood, although skilled woodworkers can carefully etch into hardwoods like maple. With softwoods, though, you want to avoid wood like pine and fir as these are known to be a little too soft, prone to warping, and not ideal for carving.

On the other hand, the perfect type of wood to carve (for beginners and professionals alike) is a softwood like basswood, tupelo, or even butternut. You may find that poplar or mahogany can work just fine, but wood like red oak is known to be stringy and difficult to work with when carving.

After selecting the right type of wood, you can always go back and stain it. What you are really looking for here is a type of wood that will be soft enough to carve small details without being so flexible that its durability comes into question.

2. Wear Safety Equipment

Once you have selected the perfect type of wood for your craft, you are going to want to put on your safety equipment before you begin working with your Dremel. There are several key pieces of safety equipment that you will need to wear, and all of these serve to protect you from common types of injuries that can occur while woodworking.

The most important pieces of safety equipment for woodworkers to wear include wood goggles (for flying debris), a sawdust mask (to prevent sawdust inhalation that can lead to serious conditions including lung cancer), wood carving gloves (to protect your hands from injury), and appropriate clothing (to protect your body from injury from tools or flying debris).

3. Get to Know Your Dremel

Before you begin working on your precious project, you want to know the tool(s) you will be working with. There is nothing like making a mistake when woodworking, and it costing you hours of your time and energy as it ruins (or causes an imperfection) on your piece.

To avoid mishaps when carving wood with your Dremel, it is best to practice on another similar wood piece. You can use inexpensive wood to practice different design work or see how the various Dremel bits will work on a standard surface. When possible, try to use the same type of wood that your result project will be considering this will give you a more accurate picture of your true woodworking piece.

Along with this, you can practice using the various types of Dremel tools and see which one works for you. The best Dremel tools to carve wood include a MultiMax or a Rotary, but be sure to use the right bits with each of these. You will also need a few additional tools like a wood riffler or sandpaper to help in other steps of the project.

4. Use a Flexible Shaft

Of course, you do not have to use a flexible shaft when using a Dremel to carve wood, but it will make the process much easier for you. A flexible shaft attached to the Dremel will allow for (you guessed it) greater flexibility and maneuverability while working to carve your perfect design.

All people who have begun woodworking projects can tell you the importance of maneuverability as you work to carve your wood. Without this, the carving process can become rather difficult and can even result in more dangerous setups. Instead of being restricted in the way you can use your Dremel tool to carve wood, attach a flexible shaft to give you more wiggle room.

5. Select the Right Bit

Now, as you begin working with your Dremel and are ready to carve into your beautiful piece of wood, you want to be sure to use the right bit for your unique design. There are so many different bits to choose from, which can be both beautiful and yet overwhelming.

If you are having a tough time knowing which bit to use, you can go back to practicing and seeing what type of cut the bit will make into your practice piece of wood. Or, you can review similar designs and see what types of bits were used to carve those.

Typically, you can use a sabretooth bit to carve out larger areas with an inverted cone bit to smooth them out. You can then use a fluted bit to carve out edgework and follow up with a riffler tool to make clean cuts on the edges that sandpaper cannot reach.

Other bits to choose from include ball-shaped bits for round edges, tapered bits for finer details, and cylindrical bits for deep V-cuts or sharper (flatter) edges. Again, you can always test these out before using them to carve into your masterpiece.

6. Position the Dremel like a Writing Utensil

As you begin carving wood with your Dremel tool (whether it is the MultiMax or Rotary), you will want to position it like a writing utensil (aka a pen or pencil). Instead of positioning the tool straight up and down as if you were pounding the bit into the wood, you will use it at a roughly 40-degree angle to allow the device to carve the wood at an ideal angle and pressure point.

In addition to the way, this alleviates adding too much pressure to the wood when you first begin carving it, holding the Dremel like a pen or pencil will allow you to move it more comfortably in a way that seems natural to most newbies.

7. Carve with Care

Not only will you need to hold the Dremel properly, but you need to make sure that you take care when you begin carving. Unlike other crafts, once you chip away (carve) into the wood piece you are working with, it is tough to make any real return. Thus, you will want to be extraordinarily careful as you begin your work until you complete your woodworking masterpiece.

Carving with care includes carving away from yourself so that you are sure to avoid slipping and bringing the device too close to yourself. This can help to prevent any injuries in using the Dremel to carve wood.

Along with this, you will also want to carve in the direction of the wood grain. This would help the tool move seamlessly through the wood and ease any tension on the device that could otherwise come up if you were carving in the opposite direction of the wood’s natural grain.

Finally, be sure that you are carving slowly not to add unnecessary pressure and avoid making any mistakes. You can always go back and carve more intensely into the wood, but it isn’t easy to make a return in this capacity.

8. Frequently Remove the Sawdust

As you carve your woodworking piece using a Dremel, you want to remove any sawdust lying there frequently. Not only will this help alleviate any pressure from the Dremel as it moves to carve the piece of wood, but it will allow for a more sustainable, safe, and accurate cut. Keeping an eye on the sawdust and ensuring its removal helps ensure the safety of yourself, your tools, and the wood.

9. Carve Large Areas First and Then Add Detailing

As you begin your project, you will want to carve out any of the large areas first. This helps you better grasp the spatial awareness you will need to have throughout the rest of the project, but it will help ensure that the major pieces of sawdust are removed along the way.

After you have carved out the large areas, you can begin to add the finer (smaller, more refined) details. Not only will you be able to use your design skills to enhance this better, but you will be at ease knowing that the carvings you are making are not going to be out of place or too dull or sharp.

Finally, as mentioned above, you can go back and finish the wood carving using an inverted cone head for smoothing out any rough edges and then a riffler file for carving into the edges. Concerning your Dremel, these tools will help you achieve a more clean, precise, and beautiful wood carving as you then seek to stain, paint, or finish your woodworking piece.

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