Best Rotary Tools for Wood Carving

Different types and models of wood carving Dremel tools.

A question I get asked more often about wood carving concerns the rotary tools. Of course, my new students in woodcarving know more about the traditional carving tools like wood carving knives, chisels, gouges, rifflers, mallets, and leather thumb guards. But more often, they do not know much about the rotary tools for wood carving. 

The rotary tools, of course, have quickly become an indispensable tool for professionals and DIYers woodworkers. Besides, a workbench is incomplete if you don’t have a rotary tool at hand. This tool can do amazing things like drilling, cutting, sanding, grinding, cleaning, and carving. With the rotary tool at hand, your creativity as a woodworker dramatically expands.

Understanding Rotary Wood Carving Tools

A rotary tool is a compact tool that comes with varied attachments to perform different jobs. In most workshops, the rotary tool is primarily utilized for grinding away thin metal layers. Yet, you can also use it for buffing, engraving, and roughing. Additionally, a rotary tool can shred different types of materials. 

But when it comes to wood carving, it uses burr bits that are meant for wood carving. To produce fine details, you can use tapered or pointed-shaped burr bits. On the other hand, you can use tapered and cylinder shapes for heavy types of wood shaping.  

Although the work type you can perform with your rotary tool depends on the attachments you would use with it, its motor’s high-speed rotation offers its users excellent versatility to deal with different types of applications. 

The speed of rotary tools varies from one tool to another. But you will often find rotary tools that can spin beyond 30,000 RPM. Besides, its small diameter allows it to reach greater RPM.

Specific Applications of Rotary Tool for Wood Carving

You can complete a wood carving project using your carving knife within 10 hours, for example. But using a rotary tool, you can complete five projects with minimal effort within the same amount of time you would spend using a carving knife. Hence, the rotary tool is undoubtedly a very efficient tool for wood carving usage. As a beginner, it will be useful to know the following different applications of the rotary tool for wood carving:

Cutting

Cutting is the process of narrowing down the wooden block size to prepare it for roughing out. You usually do it at the onset of the carving process to prepare for the succeeding steps. During the cutting process, you would usually cut the wood at 90°. You can do this by attaching a cutting wheel accessory to the rotary tool.

Roughing

Roughing refers to the removal of greater portions of wood to get it into a general shape. You will use an aggressive burr bit that can eat out a large portion of the wood. This burr bit features rough edges and ridges. It also comes in various shapes like a sphere, cone, or cylinder. Its exaggerated edges and ridges make it easy for woodcarvers to chip off a larger chunk of wood. 

Shaping 

Shaping uses specific bits to add and render the intricacies and details of the wood carving project. The bit’s size matters most at this point, and the smaller the size of the bits, the more precise your rendering of the details.

Sanding

Sanding is the final process in the wood carving process. You should use another attachment for this process, and most wood carving rotary tools come with an attachment for sanding.


Buying Guide: Factors To Consider

Given the myriad of rotary tools for engraving in the market today, you may get confused about which one to choose when buying one. So that you can zero in on the right one for your needs, you need to be cognizant of the following essential factors to consider when shopping around for a rotary tool for wood engraving:

Motor Power

Motor sizes can factor well in the capacity of a rotary tool to cut through workpieces. Of course, a more powerful motor will be excellent for carving out any materials from hardwood to any other type of materials. Nevertheless, a one-amp motor will be enough for engraving purposes, though you can use more powerful motors for your more intricate engraving projects.

High Speed

Wood carving is different from other types of carving. Hence, it will be helpful to use a rotary tool with higher speed when doing the wood carving. There’s a greater likelihood that you will have a clean finish with no burn marks with higher-speed motors. 

Moreover, rotary tools are designed for delivering several thousands of rotations per minute. Hence, most of them are of higher speed.

Nevertheless, it will also help if you choose something with variable speed options or settings. Some rotary tools allow you to vary speed while operating them, while others need to be shut off first when changing speed. A workable rotary tool is expected to deliver between 5,000 to 30,000 RPM.  

Bit Material

The materials, out of which a bit is made, also matter when choosing bits. Rotary engraving bits are usually made of two materials: high-speed steel (HSS) and carbide tungsten. Carbide lasts longer than high-speed steel, and they are more expensive than the HSS bits. HSS bits, however, dull faster, and as such, they are cheaper. Nevertheless, you can get by with the HSS if you seldom use your rotary tool.

Bit Diameter

The bit’s diameter signifies the amount of material you can remove per rotation of the bit. Bits come in different diameters. Some bits are as small as 1/4 inch, while others are as large as ¾ inch. When using larger bits, you are sure to remove more materials from the wood. Nevertheless, you compromise with your level of control when using larger bits. 

On the other hand, smaller bits let you have more control and greater precision with your engraving. Moreover, with smaller bits, you can work with ease, even when dealing with intricate details.

Pointed and Cylindrical Bits

As you shop around for rotary tool bits, you will find the two most suited bit types for wood carving and engraving. These bits are the pointed and the cylindrical bits. The pointed bits, of course, have fewer surface areas than the cylindrical bits. Thus, if you want to remove tons of materials with one sweep, you can use the cylindrical bits. 

Cylindrical bits can help you dig deep into the material. Nevertheless, you can use the pointed bits for more refined and detailed engraving. Moreover, pointed bits can help you deal with the details of the carvings.


Most Recommended Wood Carving Rotary Tools

Rotary tools—as extremely versatile tools for engraving—come in different brands and models. So, you might get a bit confused as to which brand and model to choose. Yet, to save you from such a predicament, you can check out the following most recommended rotary tools in the market today:

1) Dremel 8100-N/21 8 Volt Max Cordless Rotary Tool

If you are passionate about projects that include finishing, polishing, intricate sanding, cleaning, and engraving, you should check out the Dremel 8100-N/21 Cordless Rotary Tool. This rotary tool comes with variable speed that lets you control the tool’s speed to match the accessory or attachment you are using. 

Dremel 8100-N/21 offers the same balance and heft as the corded ones though it is cordless. It also offers enough power and speed and delivers an excellent performance range from 5,000 RPM to 30,000 RPM. 

Moreover, it is powered by its 8V battery. It also comes with 18 rotary accessories. It is easy to use anywhere, being free of electrical cord. However, it takes more time to charge its battery fully.


2) Dremel 3000-2/28 Variable Speed Rotary Tool K

Another versatile rotary tool from Dremel is the Dremel 3000-2. This kit includes a corded rotary tool, plus two attachments, and 28 accessories, an accessory case, and a plastic storage case. It features a 1.2-amp motor that provides this rotary tool with excellent performance and maximum power. 

The Dremel 3000-2 comes with six variable speeds that provide you with greater control for precise usage. It also features an improved airflow system that prevents heat build-up for cooler, smoother, and quieter operation. Moreover, it features an ergonomic design that is slim for extended use and better grip. It also comes with a two-year tool warranty.


3) GOXAWEE Rotary Tool Kit

GOXAWEE Rotary Tool Kit is a complete DIYers and hobbyist kit perfect for wood routing and carving. It comes with multi-purpose cutting bits along with a drill locator. It features a keyless drill chuck that lets you quickly change attachments and accessories on this rotary tool sans using collets. Moreover, it can accept accessories ranging from 1/64-inch to 1/8-inch shank. 

The GOXAWEE Rotary Tool offers variable speeds ranging from 8000 RPM to 30000 RPM, making it perfect for different projects. You simply need to adjust its dial to get the proper speed. It is also durable and comes with a durable carrying case. It is also excellent and moisture-proof.


4) WEN 23114 1.4-Amp Rotary Tool

The WEN 23114 1.4-Amp Rotary Tool features a powerful 1.4-amp motor that offers variable speed. It offers around 40% extra power than ordinary rotary tools. Moreover, it comes with three innovative collars: LED light attachment, drilling/routing guide, and rotatable debris and spark detection shield

You can attach its three-foot flex shaft when engaged in jobs that require more complex details and intricate works. It also comes with a multi-compartment carrying case that lets you organize your tools, flex shaft, collars, and more than 100 accessories. 

This kit is a fully-packed kit with accessories that include three collet sizes of 1/8-inch, 3/32-inch, and 1/16-inch, grinding bits, diamond-coated bits, drill bits, sanding bands, felt-polishing wheels, sanding discs, and cut-off wheels.


Conclusion

If you are a serious craftsman, you can never do away with the rotary tool because it is an indispensable tool for professionals and DIYers. This device can do many varied works like cutting, drilling, sanding, grinding, cleaning, and carving. It also come with various accessories and attachments because no specific set of accessories and bits can do it all. 

Rotary tools, of course, offer a combination of power, comfort, and handling efficiency. The standard rotary tool comes with standard bits and accessories, which can be overwhelming for beginners. Yet, as you gain experience using various bits, you can always add to your accessories other bits to raise your level of expertise a notch higher.

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