For cutting metal, the obvious choice would be using an angle grinder. However, there are certain situations where it’s not the ideal choice. Let’s say you need to do some precise metal cutting in a small, tough spot and your angle grinder is too big for it. Maybe you need to perform a thin, clean cut on sheet metal; an angle grinder isn’t particularly useful in that situation. In these cases (and many others), using a rotary tool like a Dremel to cut metal is definitely a smart choice. In this quick article, I’ll detail the steps you need to follow to get the best results. Shortly:
- Choose the right attachment for the job at hand: for thin cuts, use the EZ409 Wheel; for tougher materials, use either the EZ456 Fiberglass Reinforced Wheel or the EZ506CU Premium Metal Cut-Off Wheel. Both are good cutting wheels. Get the first one if you need to perform random cuts; the second one is more durable, so get that if you are planning to use the Dremel a lot for this kind of activity.
- Prepare the area for cutting. Take all the safety precautions needed. If you are cutting sheet metal, clamp it and mark it.
- Do the cutting (adjust the applied pressure and speed accordingly); perform any final touches the project requires.
Now let’s get to each one of those steps.
How to Cut Metal With a Dremel – Step-by-Step Guide
1) Choose the Right Dremel Attachment
When cutting stuff with a Dremel, the most important thing is choosing the right accessory for it. If it’s the first time you are tackling this kind of activity, choosing the correct bit might be quite confusing, since there are many of them available, and they all look quite similar. In my experience, the following metal cutting wheels cover 99% of the projects you might need to tackle:
- EZ409, 1-1/2-Inch Wheel Diameter, EZ Lock Thin Cut. This is a general-purpose cutting wheel that performs very well on metal also. It’s ideal to use for thin cuts, for example on sheet metal. It works great on aluminum also. This wheel should be your go-to choice for those odd jobs that you don’t perform frequently. For a more intense usage, it’s better to look for one of the wheels listed below.
- EZ456, 1 1/2-Inch Wheel Diameter, EZ Lock Fiberglass Reinforced Cut-off Wheel. This wheel is strengthened with fiberglass to increase its durability. The manufacturer argues that these wheels will last double the time of a thin-cut type of wheel. On top of that, it also makes it suitable for tougher materials such as hardened steel. So if you need to cut some rusted bolts, look no further.
- EZ506CU, 1 1/2-Inch Wheel Diameter, Premium Metal Cut-Off Wheel. If you are looking for a cutting disc that will last you way longer than others, this is your go-to choice. Apparently, this wheel should perform up to 20 times the cuts of a fiberglass-reinforced one. Plus, it comes with a CBN (Cubic Boron Nitride) reinforcement that makes the wheel remain sharp longer.
All these wheels come with an EZ Lock System which makes it super quick and easy to change tools.
2) Prepare the Area for the Cutting Phase
You have chosen the correct attachment for your projects. Before cutting, make sure to do the following:
- When cutting metal, make sure to take all the needed safety precautions. It’s particularly important to wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from all the sparks that will inevitably fly around. On top of that, remember to wear gloves, earplugs, and a face mask. Get yourself a pair of closed boots to protect your feet. Steel-toe shoes are suggested if there’s a risk of a heavy object falling on your feet.
- Rotary tools tend to pull away from the desired direction when pushed down on the cutting surface. If you are cutting sheet metal, this behavior will be emphasized even more: the sheet will warp along the way when you are cutting, making it even more difficult to cut along the desired path. There’s a couple of things to deal with these problems. First, clamp the sheet metal to your working surface, so that it doesn’t move around or warp when cutting. Second, mark the path you want to cut with a marker. This will help you do a better job and avoid unpleasant mistakes.
3) Cutting and Final Touches
Finally, it’s time to get to the cutting. Keep these points in mind while doing so:
- Position yourself correctly, so that if the tool kicks back, it won’t hurt yourself. Avoid overhead cuts, if possible.
- Firmly grasp the tool when cutting. Apply the right amount of pressure. You will figure this out via trial and error. It depends on the metal you are cutting, the cutting depth, and the cutting attachment you are using. With the right pressure, the tool should run smoothly, without jamming. Keep that in mind.
- What speed to keep? As a rule of thumb, you should stay between 25.000 and 30.000 RPM when cutting metal. Check the accessory package for more detailed instructions.
- When cutting deep, longer cuts, it’s better to start by doing a shallow cut. This will help you as a guideline so that you’ll get the needed depth without getting sidetracked on the second pass.
After cutting, your project might be as good as it is. On the other hand, if there are any undesired sharp edges, use a grinding bit to smooth things up. It might also be a good idea for safety reasons if you need to handle the metal piece afterward.
Cutting metal with a Dremel is quite straightforward. Once you choose the right attachment and set up the project correctly (especially safety-wise), the rest is self-explanatory. If you use some common sense, you shouldn’t have any problems.
All the suggestions I gave you apply to different metals, such as steel, aluminum, sheet metal, and so on. It’s difficult to anticipate the Dremel’s behavior with each one on them, so I’d suggest approaching the cutting slowly, to see how the wheels behave and decide what to do accordingly.
As I said before, Dremels are ideal for thin cuts and random cuts where other tools can’t be used, for example metal pipes inside a wall. For deep, extensive cuts, it’s better to use a bigger tool such as a chop saw or an angle grinder. You’ll probably end up breaking many wheels without getting any real progress if you choose to use a Dremel here.
Therefore, the most important thing is to match the tool to the project. That’s the first thing you need to evaluate if you want to avoid many headaches.