Dremel Rotary Tool
by Gus Breiland
One of the most used tools in my shop is the Dremel Rotary tool. It is a vital piece of equipment if you are a buyer of aftermarket accessories, if you are a lover of old rusty bikes, or if you think you can paint. It allows you to modify and adjust plastic, metal and wood with precision, and grind off rust and paint that cause electrical gremlins to take shelter in your grounds.
The Dremel Rotary tool is a hand-held, high speed grinder, sander, mill and drill or high speed cutter. It is a very high-speed motor with a chuck that can be fitted with literally hundreds of different grinding, polishing, and shaping attachments.
Often, the Dremel is overlooked in the motorcyclist’s tool box. I can attest to the supreme versatility of the Dremel for working on motorcycles. No matter how good the aftermarket supplier is, they can’t anticipate every model or every year of bike. Minor fitment adjustments, or modifications to bodywork or parts are always necessary.
I have installed saddle bags, aluminum bits for soft spot protection, and other such items, like hand guards, on many bikes. Plastic parts on the bike, like side panels and battery covers, may need to be modified to fit a rack system. Or maybe you need to make a clearance cut, so panels can be put back on.
The aluminum brackets on my hand guards had burrs and loose aluminum from manufacturing. These burrs needed to be cleaned up, as they were inside of the portion of the clamp that fits to the bars. Those burrs caused the bracket to sit at a funny angle, and caused the bolt holes to be out of alignment. Not to mention, they can cause odd stresses on the bolts and parts as you torque them down. Eliminating the burrs and manufacturing defects allows the parts to function as designed, and makes installation easier and cleaner.
The Dremel came in handy prepping a trailer for some local boys who went to ride the Trans-America Trail this spring. The trailer was rusty and in need of repair. After the trailer was reinforced, sandblasted and painted, reassembly was necessary. We ran a new wiring harness and installed new tail lights on the trailer. The new paint needed to be ground off in specific areas so that the taillights would have a good electrical ground.
The trailer was a steel skeleton with aluminum decking. The decking was removed, and additional tie-down locations were welded to the skeleton. When we went to reinstall the decking, new slots needed to be cut into it. We were at a friend’s house without a compressor or a die grinder, so the next best thing was the Dremel with an abrasive wheel. The Dremel is small enough for fine detail work, but durable enough to make a couple of 3 inch by 1 inch holes through a 3/16th inch plate.
The ability to modify metal, wood, plastic and any other item on your project, without having hundreds of dollars of air or electric tools is a huge advantage to not only your home shop, but your wallet. Depending on how you buy the Dremel Rotary tool and what accessories you get, the Dremel will cost you roughly $60-$120+. I prefer the corded model with variable speeds. I don’t trust batteries and I don’t use the tool every day to cycle the battery to keep it healthy. I would much rather put up with a cord; then I don’t have to remember if the battery is charged.
Dremel Rotary tools are sold online (www.dremel.com), at home improvement / hardware stores, and hobby shops. These locations will also have individual accessories or sets. Buy in sets; it is the most cost effective and, sooner or later, you will use most of the attachments. When you are first starting out, get some abrasive cutting wheels, grinding stones and sanding wheels. And some mill attachments so you can remove burrs and enlarge holes. The Dremel will easily become one of your most used tools.