How to Cut Wood With a Dremel – Step by Step Guide

If you need to do some precise woodworking or your project requires intricate woodcutting, it’s important to choose the right tool. Using a Dremel to cut wood is a smart idea. But how to do it? What are the right accessories to use? What are the steps to follow?

Don’t worry, in this quick article I’ll show you how to cut wood with a Dremel; you just need to follow some easy steps:

  • Choose the right attachment for the job at hand: use either a wood cutting wheel or a multipurpose cutting bit for curved cuts;
  • Prepare the project for cutting: take safety precautions, do some sanding if needed, mark the line where you are supposed to cut;
  • Perform the cutting (check the related paragraph for more info), then some final touches if you want/need to.

So there they are, quickly outlined, the steps for woodcutting with a rotary tool. Now we’ll dive into each one of them more specifically.

How to Cut Wood With a Dremel – Step-by-Step Guide

1) Choose the Right Cutting Accessory

“Dremel” by Adam Greig is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The first thing to do, and also the most important, is choosing the right cutting bit. As you know, Dremels come with a variety of accessories that are suitable for many activities. So it can be quite difficult to choose between them, especially if you got one of those kits that contain 30 or more pieces. Here are some guidelines:

  • For straight, thin cuts use a wood cutting wheel. The version I linked cut up to 14mm deep, so it’s ideal for 1×2 inch wood. It’s also useful to cut small, square holes or to refine old furniture. It’s a carbide wheel, so it can cut every type of wood, from softwood to hardwood, and even laminate. No risk of tear-out.
  • What about cutting along a curved line? In this case, you need to get a multipurpose cutting bit like this one. You should also use a Cutting guide attachment, for 2 reasons. It will help you set and maintain the desired depth for shallow cuts. If you are doing some trimming, it will help you in stabilizing the action. If you need to buy both cutting bits and the guide attachment, you can get one of these multi-purpose cutting kits that include both of them.

2) Prepare the Project for Cutting

Now you have the right attachment for the job. However, you might need to do a couple more things before cutting.

  • If your cutting piece is small and/or wobbly, you need to stabilize it before cutting, or else you’ll get poor results. Ideally, you’d want to clamp it to your workbench, so that you’ll only need to focus on the cutting;
  • If you are doing a restoration project on some old furniture, chances are the wood is in rough conditions. It might be a good idea to do a little bit of sanding before the cutting phase. You can either do this by hand, or else you could take advantage of your Dremel by using a sanding accessory. Make sure to choose the right grit to avoid scratching the wood. Ideally, you’d want to use 2 or 3 different grits to achieve a smooth finish;
  • Either if you are going for a straight cut or a curved cut, it’s better to mark the surface before cutting. It’s easy to get carried away by the tool; as soon as you notice it, the damage is already done. Marking the line that you need to cut along will boost your accuracy and will help you avoid mistakes.

3) Cutting

Now that your project is looking neat, it’s time to get down to the cutting phase. This step is pretty straightforward; however, here you have some tips that will help you do a better job:

  • Try to keep a constant RPM while cutting. For woodcutting, it’s suggested to stay between 20.000 and 35.000 RPM. Obviously, hardwood requires more speed than softwood. Keeping a regular feed rate will help you achieve a smoother finish.
  • You need to apply the right amount of pressure when cutting. Too little pressure will make the tool try to kick back, making the cut uneven. On the other hand, too much pressure might damage the working surface or jam the Dremel. So how much pressure is enough? It’s difficult to give a definitive answer: it depends on too many factors. The only way is to try for yourself. A good idea is to experiment on a piece of scrap wood with a similar density before using the tool on your project.
  • Grip the tool firmly to avoid injuries. If you clamped your project as I suggested before, you should be able now to keep both hands on the tool. Using the correct handle is also important.
  • Keep your working area clean. This is key to get an accurate cut. If sawdust builds up, it will prevent you from seeing the line you are cutting. Make sure you frequently remove the dust to avoid making mistakes.

4) Final Touches

Now that you are done cutting, you can leave the project as it is if it satisfies you. On the other hand, if there are some rough edges left, you could opt for some more sanding, in order to obtain an even smoother finish look.

Finally, if your project needs it, apply a finish. For example, if you need to match existing furniture, consider applying some stain. This is also useful to change the wood’s color without covering up the grain pattern.

If you like the final look of your project after cutting, simply apply a clear top coat to preserve the wood without changing its color pattern.

Cutting Wood with Dremels: a Few Things to Keep in Mind

Now, before you get down to business, I want to give you some more tips to obtain the best result without compromising the tool’s integrity and your safety. Check them out.

  • Always put safety in the first place. Don’t underestimate the risks just because you are not using a big tool as a table saw. You’ll need 3 things: a good pair of gloves, goggles and a dust mask. The latter is especially important since you don’t want sawdust ending up inside your lungs.
  • As I said before, using the correct handle is key not only to obtain the best results (a firmer grip will result in a cleaner cut) but also for safety reasons. If you are going to use the Dremel handle-less, keep both your hands on the tool. Lastly, try to position yourself safely; avoid awkward angles.
  • Now, let’s talk about a few ideas to keep the rotary tool in good shape. Two things to remember here: using the right accessory, and the right speed. Don’t use an attachment for other materials than wood if it wasn’t designed for it. For example, by using a metal accessory on wood, you are likely to burn the surface cut along the way.
  • For the speed part of it, it’s key to use the right RPM for the application. Two things to keep into consideration here: the material at hand, and the Dremel attachment you are using. I gave you some general indications on the speed to use for woodcutting, i.e. staying between 20.000 and 35.000 RPM; try to reach the best compromise between speed and cutting cleanliness by trial and error.

How to Cut Plywood With a Dremel

What about cutting plywood with a Dremel? Well, the steps I outlined before are still valid here. Make sure the cutting bit can go all the way through the panel. A wood cutting wheel should be able to cut up to 1/2″ plywood. A multipurpose cutting bit can cut even thicker plywood, up to 5/8″. For even thicker plywood, get a proper saw for the job.

If you are planning on doing a lot of cuts on plywood, then the Dremel is probably not the best choice. It would be better to use a saw with a guide. On the other hand, if it’s a one-time job and you don’t want to face unnecessary costs, then I’d say go for it. Keep in mind that the ending results might not be the cleanest. The best approach here would be making a coarse cut, then sand it to smooth the rough spots.

Final Thoughts

using a dremel to cut wood
“dremel and driftwood” by Jessie Pearl is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As you can see, using a Dremel to cut wood is definitely possible. The key part is using the right attachment for the job. After that, the steps to follow are rather easy.

To fully tackle the matter, there’s still a question that we need to answer: is using a Dremel for cutting wood a good idea after all? Only in certain cases. I’d use a Dremel to cut wood only if there are no alternatives available, which means small cuts in though spots, or curved lines on big projects where I couldn’t use a scroll saw.

In all the other cases, it’s probably better to use a saw. For long, straight cuts, it would be particularly difficult to obtain decent results with rotary tools. That’s because they are quite difficult to control since they tend to kick back when in touch with the cutting surface.

So the final takeaway would be the following: use a Dremel for cutting wood if it’s the only choice you can make. Otherwise, get yourself an appropriate saw for it.

Use a Dremel for what it was designed for: sanding, grinding, wood carving, etc.

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