[Surprise Attack!] Getting The Most From Your Dremel

What is up, players.

The humble Dremel is a bit of kit that doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves and today we pay it proper tribute. They come in all shapes and sizes: Big, small, corded, cordless, straight, L-shaped…there’s about a million accessories for them, they’re fairly cheap, and they’re infinitely useful around the house. If you want to try your hand at embezzling household funds you can easily trick your significant other into believeing this is for household chores and honey-do lists, then accidently leave it in your hobby area. Forever.

I don’t think they sell my model any more and if I had to do it all over again I’d go with this one:

The 8050 Mini does all the tricks the big boys do but keeps it lightweight. It’s cordless, it’s rechargable, and it’s one of the few models left with truly variable speed settings. I do not consider Dremel’s new standard of a switch that gives you “either 5,000 or 10,000 RPM” to be much of a choice, this one has a dial that scrolls smoothly from 5,000 to a ridiculous 28,000. You need that wide range. It is about $90 US, which is on the steep end for these but not absurd.

Let’s continue. Page jump! Wheeeeeee-

-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Damn, that made me dizzy.

Before we begin, let me tell you the tale of how I got thinking on this subject. It’s not a happy tale, so get the kleenex handy.

I have two small children, and that statement already tells you where this story is going.

…aaaaaaaand cue the Danzig

My oldest has reached three years old, the age where not only is he a total Daddy’s Boy (ha ha, I win!) who wants to be with me all the time, but he’s old enough to navigate stairs and open doors. Monkey see, monkey do, and he’s come upstairs and seen me at the hobby table quite a bit. Sometimes he doesn’t even wait that long. Here he is doing quality assurance on my latest Dead Zone kickstarter arrival.

“Don’t mind me, son. I’m just clipping sprues. Am I in your way?”

By the time this past winter rolled around I had come into quite a bit of Infinity minis. I bulked up a horde-ish human wave Ariadna force, started an Aleph force, fleshed it out with some specialty troops, then a guy near me sold a HUGE Aleph army for a ridiculously low price and I scooped it up seconds after he posted the ad online. It got rolled into the rest of mine. My homie Sabot pushed about a dozen more Aleph minis into my hand when I stayed at his place for NOVA, begging me with tears in his eyes to help him shrink Lead Mountain. Oh, I suppose I could find it in me to do that for him. Sweet! I also had some Combined Army floating around after chitty-chatting with SinSynn about how evil and rad they are, and a streak of wins at NOVA scored me a Raicho TAG for them as well as some Probots for my  now way-too-many Aleph. Oh, and my wife’s Nomads. We’re talking hundreds of minis here. I was rolling deep like a boss, or como el jeffe, as the Spanish would say. If they used our shitty, worn-out slang.

Most of the Aleph army I picked up off the local guy was half-painted, but it was painted well. I got the recipe off him fully intending to complete them in his style but eventually I decided to do something else with them, which I will save for another day because it’s still classified Super Top Secret. So, into the simple green bath they go. While I did that my kiddo was upstairs playing with the terrain on my game table, as he does. I keep everything dangerous out of his reach and he’s old enough not to eat tiny pieces. He just wants to play with Da Da’s War Barbie stuff. He’s nuts for dice, too, he rolls them and puts them in boxes to shake them. This will be important later. Monkey see, monkey do. He came over to see what I was doing but I chased him off back to the game table before he got a good look.

Or so I thought.

One day not too long after, I’m at my hobby desk and look around for a mini I wanted to paint. I know I left it there, where could it be? I push the chair back and look under the desk. Nope. Check the shelves, nope. Huh. How peculiar. So I’m doing a little work on something else instead and my eye wanders over to the basin I do my paint stripping in.

FUCK ME GENTLY!!!

Kiddo scaled the baby gate on the stairs, snuck in while the door was negligently unlocked, took most of my troopies and dumped them into the simple green. Then he vanished back down the stairs and climbed back over the gate with no one the wiser. He’s a goddamn ninja, I say. “How did he get so many in there?” you ask. “It doesn’t look like that many.”

Worthy Foes, when it got too full he simply pushed down on the pile to make more room. Nearly all of them were broken in the crush. This is what it looked like after I took it downstairs and rinsed it all off in the sink.

Still doesn’t look like much? Well, there’s about a pound of arms, legs, and weapons under all those bodies. Holy shit. The bowl is roughly the same volume as the twelve-cup coffee pot next to it, so next time you’re pouring yourself a cup of joe imagine it filled to the top with tiny, pewter pieces. That’s what I was dealing with. Wow.

The worst part of all was that I had JUST FINISHED my Ariadnans that I’d started working on eight months earlier. I didn’t care so much about the primed stuff and I was stripping the Aleph, anyways, but this was after the big paint binge this summer. When I saw the pile of minis in the simple green I froze. Literally froze and just stared at it for about a minute. I wasn’t able to move or look away, and I was afraid to look closer because I knew what I’d see if I did: My finished army, the first army I’d ever sat back and actually called “finished, for realsies”, crushed and soaking in a pool of simple green. I have been kicked, punched, arrested, crashed cars, shot at, mortared, rocketed, drowned, fallen from planes, fallen off mountains, bucked off horses, and had bombs go off under my feet, and never in my life until now have I been truly paralyzed with fear. Serious face. Eventually I dared to lean in and move the rubble around, cringing at what I expected to find…

…There wasn’t one Ariadnan in there. By some miracle of the Dark Gods, or a keen instinct for self-preservation, kiddo had left the painted Ariadnans on the shelf and although they were traumatized from the holocaust they’d witnessed, they were whole and in one piece. It was only unpainted stuffs.

A miracle. A friggin’ miracle.

This was now a manageable situation. I could rinse all the juice off, put them together, and hit them with primer. Good as new. Lots of work but not too bad. I only lost one arm in the chaos, one of Ko Dali’s assault pistols, but I found it later. I’d already replaced it with a spare one from somewhere else but it’s nice to know I got it back. I vowed to do a better job gluing them back together, and to use a lot of pinning. So much pinning that I needed to call in reinforcements or I’d be there forever: A micro-drill attachment for my Dremel. Even with that speeding things up it took two full days, and about ten broken drill bits, before I had them all put back together again. A good chunk of that time was just spreading the pieces out across the desk and figuring out what went to what, since most of them came to me pre-assembled and primed, and I sure as hell wasn’t present when they were dismantled.

My children…they were born to bring trouble, wherever they’re at.

So that’s my tale of woe, and now you know where this week’s KHOP Pirate Radio pick comes from. I’m a little burned out on all the old school British Metal, anyways.

“Are you really? Because you’re making Rob Halford sad.”

Did I just say that? You can never have too much Brit Metal. I take it back. Shame on me, and I will play ‘Dissident Agressor’ in the near future. I will dedicate an entire army to ‘The Hellion’. I promise, Rob Halford…I swear it.

Back to Dremels! A few key points before we browse their usefulnes: All attachments are interchangeable with each other, except the freak vibrating ones. That’s not the kid you want, they’re for household chores like scraping grout from tiles. But the rotary tools are and they’re available almost everywhere (big box hardware stores have surprisingly huge selections). Changing the bits out is incredibly simple. Dremels are one of the easiest tools to use but you want to have some kind of eye protection, and you’ll want some dust protection like respirator.

There is a ‘medium’ sized spindle for most of the tools, larger or smaller bits will need large or small collets to fit them. We’ll talk more on that later. In the meantime here’s a breakdown of a typical Dremel. With me for scale, as always, is my trusty sidekick Lucky the Paratrooper.

Body on the left, battery on the right. It only came with one battery, but it lasts a long time and charges fast.

Here’s the charger tucked away on the back of my ‘build shit’ desk. Fascinating? No? Fine, then. Moving on.

How it breaks down. Just like a hand-powered hobby drill. Collet goes in the shaft, cap-thingy screws on lightly, bit goes in, tighten down the cap-thingy. Done-skis.

This wrench comes with it and is used to tighten down cap-thingy beyond finger-tight. Pretty much mandatory. I have yet to find a reason to have a loose bit spinning at 10,000 RPMs. The flat bit on the other end is used to remove and replace cut-off wheels if you use this to cut metal around the house, which I sometimes do. Like the time my youngest kid pulled the baby gate off the stairs and I said “Fuck you, I run shit here”, then bolted the gate through a wall and had to cut-off the excess bolt lengths. Don’t get me started on the stuff my kids force me to do, seriously.

Ready for accessories? Let’s do it.

This is a mix bag of all collet sizes and an extra cap-thingy for good measure. Amazon sells it for four or five bucks. It’s handy to have a wide variety of sizes around, trust me on that one. Few things are as frustrating as having a bit that’s too small/too large to use. There’s a dick joke back there somewhere. Lo? Take care of that, please.

Although there’s a lot of potential uses for these brushes I’ve only ever used them for one thing: Cleaning paint off stripped minis. They are phenomenal at this, but watch out for splatter.

Do you work with MDF terrain, lasercut stuffs, or just assemble anything at all? Of course you do. You know how sometimes the parts won’t fit together right, they’re just a bit too snug? Or sometimes a lot too snug? That’s a huge pain in the ass, right? You have to get some sandpaper or a file and spend time sanding down the edges to fit better. It takes forever. Woe unto you if you’re doing a massive MDF build like Micro Art, Warsenal, or Spartan Scenics kits. Woe, I say. Well, these two bits are your new best friend. Just spin it up and start filing away the edges until they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Which is ‘really good’ if you’re from some freak country that hasn’t discovered PB&J sammiches. Looking at you, Australia…fucking vegimite.

These are for wrecking shit, and wrecking shit only, usually terrain. The wheel on the left does straight line cuts, the middle is for poking holes, the right is for expanding on those holes. If you’re doing 40K-style ruined buildings with holes and skulls and whatnot you should check this out.

Ahhhhhhh….if you have to get only one accessory: Get these. They are properly called “burrs” but I call them “erasers”. You use them just like erasers! Get rid of excess shit on models, as I alluded to a long time ago in the Tink-Tink build. Tink-Tink had a mountain of metal around her feet that needed removing and The Eraser was crucial to that. The left two came from a hardware store, the tiny one on the right came from my FLGS. It has uses besides just erasing, which we will discuss soon. Do you convert minis? This is for you.

Ah, cut-off wheels. This came from a hobby store, you will not find one this thin in a hardware store. It cuts wood, plastic, soft metal, and is voted Most Likely To Send You To The Emergency Room. Caution is advised.

Drill adapter. This is a controversial item, you shouldn’t actually use tiny drill bits in a motorized drill but sometimes I get desperate. My local FLGS modeling guru I share techniques with told me I was “fucking stupid” for using it like this (and he’s right, I’m not arguing that), but sometimes it needs to be done. Like when, say, you have hundreds of minis needing to get pinned ’cause your kid trashed them and time is more precious to you than replacing tiny drill bits that shatter because you’re abusing them. Stock up on spares ahead of time. Two tips: Use 3-in-1 oil to lubricate the drill bit (thanks for that hot tip Dave G, that’s what she said) and use the tiny burr/eraser shown earlier to make a tiny divot that will seat the drill bit properly when you use it. Because you’re daisy-chaining a couple adapters you will get a slight wobble if you try drilling straight in, so use that divot to properly seat the drill bit and make the problem go away. Once you have this pilot hole made you put the bit to it and then slowly increase the RPMs on the Dremel until it’s working for you. Which is why you need one that transitions RPMs, not just a straight jump to 5,000.

 Ahhhhh….a flexible shaft. Also what she said. I just got this and I’m loving it. It turns your clumsy and awkward Dremel into a whirling pen of death. Very helpful when you’re working with minis. There’s an official Dremel one for $45 dollars, or you can get the Kawasaki one available here on Amazon for $15. Guess which one I went with.

The instructions are a joke, so here’s a step-by-step. Unscrew this part that I didn’t realize unscrewed until now. Put it to the side.

Take the big silver end of the shaft and pull out the core a bit, then insert it into the stock collet hole. Tighten down hard. No more dick jokes, enough is enough.

Screw on the big silver part.

Now this is ingenious. Because the end freely spins, there’s a hole here where you poke in this key to keep it from rotating while you tighten down the end.

So do that like this. Then attach the collet and cap-thingy.

Insert bit of choice and crank down while the key is in place to keep the shaft from spinning. Done.

It likes to be nearly vertical so the shaft doesn’t pinch at 10,000 RPMs, so I got a picture hangar and pushed it into the wall. I now hang my Dremel from it. It’s not rocket surgery.

Here’s what it looks like from far away. SO MUCH EASIER TO USE. It also tucks out of the way when not in use.

EPILOGUE

So, my local Infinity group has been growing strong over the winter. Young Blood is now an old hand, Nemesis Bart moved to Texas (sad face), but my wife’s friend from back home moved here with her husband. He is a super nerd who borrowed the 3rd edition books from me and wants to get his dice on, so that’s rad. Got a buddy from work who’s been overseas for a while and is chomping at the bit to get back this month and unleash his Pan O on my game table. Those fancy-pants big city boys in Raleigh have a booming scene I get out to from time to time. They’re even hosting one of the huge Dire States series of ITS Tournaments in April, stay tuned for more on that.

One of them, Viking Matt, gets down to my neck of the woods once in a while for work and drops in to fill mine and Young Blood’s poor troopies full of holes from his HaqqIslam snipers. There’s also Chef, a young lad who recently moved to my town for college and made it out to my place for games with yours truly and Young Blood.  Here he is being ‘helped’ by kiddo. Yeah, if you let him move your dudes to the middle of the street they will still totally have cover. Right.

Cute? It sure is. 

There’s just one problem: Like all apex predators, once kiddo gets a taste for killing he wants more. Moving minis under adult supervision wasn’t enough for his bloodlust, he wanted to have it all. One day I’m upstairs working away at the hobby desk when he wanders in, “cock o’ the walk” as I pretend all you limeys out there say, and proceeds to shuffle around the terrain on the table. That’s fine, no blood no foul. Then I hear him rolling dice. The scamp. No problem there, either. Then he puts the dice in a small plastic box and shakes them like maracas. That’s fine. A little annoying, but fine. If there’s one thing he likes more than watching people change his filthy diapers it’s playing with dice. He’s cuckoo for them, so I leave them laying around the game room as a distraction. He puts them down and plays with terrain. Picks them up and shakes for a while. Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

I’m laser focused on my work and after about thirty minutes of this the intermittent racket gets to be a little much for me, so I sit up and turn around to give him a Sternly Voiced Warning when it hits me: That doesn’t sound like dice banging around in the box. Too solid and clunky. I go over to open the box and see what he’s got.

Ah shit, we had a little too much beer on game night and forgot to pick up the minis after the games were over. He got to my Ariadna after all, and it’s time to put some pieces back together. Some paint touch-ups, too.

Fetch me my trusty Dremel, I have pinning to do.

Children are such a blessing.

-BC

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