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 Post subject: Bit by Bit: Dremel Tool Bits Useful for Prop Helmets
PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 9:04 pm 
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Location: San Jose, CA
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Article: "Bit by Bit: Dremel Tool Bits Useful for Prop Helmets"
Written by CSMacLaren for The Prop Den


Here is an introduction to various Dremel bits that I have found useful in my working on various Vader helmets. Each helmet has had similar and yet different challenges, calling for different bits. The Dremel is an American favorite; it's a variable speed rotatory tool (up to 35,000 RPM). I'm not a pro; I'm a starting-out hobbyist, so this reflects my discovery and is not a statement of professional authority.

This primer will focus more on the different shapes. I do not have specific product ID numbers at the time of this writing. Many of these are easy to spot. I primarily shop at Home Depot, but I've seen Dremel bits at OSH and other hardware stores.

There may also be third party manufacturers who make bits for the Dremel.

There are so many different and wonderful Dremel bits that one can feel like a kid in a candy factory. There are different categories of bits. Some are for engraving, some for cutting, grinding, sharpening, cleaning, polishing, routing, etc. Find out what works for you. The following are bits that have helped me tremendously. However, your mileage may vary based on whatever kit you had. If you want to get a sense of the challenges I've faced, please feel free to peruse any of my Work in Progress threads.

Please feel free to link to this article if you feel it will be helpful to others on other forums.


Mac's favorite 1 of 3: 1-1/4" Cut Off Wheel

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This cutting wheel has been indispensible in my arsenal of Dremel tools, and one of my absolute favorites, so I thought I'd start off with this one. A lot of Vader and Fett kits have the eyeslots filled in, and you have to cut out the eye areas. Because it is reinforced, it will cut through fiberglass and hardened resin quite easily, and it has a great deal of wear-resistance. When cutting out Vader's syes or Fett's "T" slot, I use it to cut out an approximate shape and then I'll use other tools to attack corners and difficult to access areas.

Sometimes I will use this for trimming fiberglass (FG). So if something was cast such that there is fiberglass mat overlapping the boundaries or edges of a helmet, I can saw them off easily.

I also use this to do some sanding of edges, e.g. facemask openings. I'm not sure that's what the disc was made for, but it seemed to withstand such use.

I believe it's called "Dremel Reinforced Cut-Off Wheel #426". It's dark brown. Some say it's reinforced with carbon fiber or with fiberglass. It has a very hard abrasive.

This is one of my Top 3.


Mac's favorite 2 of 3: Rotary Bit

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This one is another of my Top 3.

Because the cutting part is part of the metal itself, it is very wear-resistant and will give you good mileage. I use this to attack smaller areas such as Vader's mouth slots, or the narrow parts of Fett's "T" visor where the aforementioned cutting disc cannot reach. You have to have a steady hand, as with any Dremel bit, and I use this to clear out an approximate shape of each of Vader's five mouth slots. I'll then use filework or a finer Dremel bit for more detailed work.

Now these will vary in shape and width. Get what works for you. You have to figure out where you want your material removal with a Dremel tool to end and where handwork with files will begin. You may feel fomrotable with a narrower bit than what I've used.

There are some where the cutting part is not quite streamline with the shaft. The shaft starts to narrow to a point and then flares out to form a cylindrical cutting bit -- I don't recommend those for our kinds of projects. The one I have here is a "Rotary Bit Carbide Bur 1/8" shank #2197" and the cutting end is streamline with the shaft. The length of the cutting area is helpful if you need to go deep, as sometimes you may have a lot of resin to go through, and a short cutting area would be inadequate.


Mac's favorite 3 of 3: Ball.

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This stone ball is great for -- guess where? Vader's nose! Now there are other rotary stone burrs that will do the job. Some are kind of bullet shaped. Some are upside-down "U" shaped. Some are mushroom shape.

My mounted stone burr ball happens to be about half an inch wide. The inside of Vader's nose is wider -- I can fit my thumb in there and there's still some room left. It's very handy shaping this area.

Now you may happen to have a kit that is very well-cast and you don't need this at all. In the case of the Rubie's Supreme Darth Vader plastic helmet, I have had to widen and reshape the nose. This became invaluable towards those efforts.


Cylinders - Sanding Bands and Grinding Stones

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Here are two kinds that I'm condensing into a single category.

The upper is a Sanding Band system. It uses a replacable outer jacket or band coated with abrasives. The lower right is basically a grinding stone of similar shape.

Each has its pros and cons.

When using stone against something like plastic (e.g. the Rubie's Supreme Vader) the heat build up tends to gunk up tools and becomes a pain. Your stone wheel will gunk up into a black plastic ball. You may need to use wire cutters or something to cut off the gunk, but sometimes the gunk is too strong and your bit is essentially ruined).

The sanding band has somewhat better heat dissipation, which may make it better for plastics. If you gunk up a band, all you have to do is replace it.

The stone, however, allows you to do some sanding on its circular face -- something a sanding band bit won't do because there is an attachment screw and there is no sanding surface on that face. In fact, there is no face!

In situations where I've had to clean up the cottage-cheese with short FG fibers interiors of some Golden Armor kits, I've used the circular face to attack those areas.

I'll sometimes use this stone on Vader's eyes and even on the middle part of Fett's "T" visor. But I'm an avid fan of Nicholson files. If you're starting out, you might be overzealous and grind off more than you intended, so experience will teach you when to lay off the Dremels and when to move to manual labor with files.


Last edited by CSMacLaren on Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:54 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit by Bit: Dremel Tool Bits Useful for Prop Helmets
PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 9:05 pm 
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I'll add more to the top post as things progress....


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 9:59 pm 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Invaluable as always! Thanks Mac.


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 Post subject: 1-1/4" Fiber Cut Off Wheel
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:53 am 
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1-1/4" Fiber Cut Off Wheel

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This is the cutting wheel I mentioned earlier as one of my top 3.

The actual part information:

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Again, this is good for cutting anything from fiberglass to resin. It's a heavy-duty worker. The large surface area does help with some heat dissipation, although if you're using this on vinyl it may gunk up very slightly. Thus, with plastic/vinyl projects, bear in mind that heat buildup will melt the material and potentially gunk your tools. I love the fact that this is reinforced, but it's still possible to break this if you drop the part and step on it.

There is a mounting rod with a screw on the end. To replace the broken wheel with another, simply unscrew the screw, place a new wheel there, and rescrew it securely.

Great for:

* Reducing unnecessary dome flange length on Vader helmets where people build out additional length to the flanges to cover the back of the facemask's neck, when sometimes all that's needed is simply repositioning the dome.

* The "T"-shaped visor area on a Fett helmet (note: it is best to save this operation for the last, as without the "T" shaped area, the helmet can be less than rigid and it may be difficult to affect other refinements if the material moves under weight or pressure from being held.

* Trimming extra material from fiberglass castings or vacuum formed parts, e.g. Stormtrooper armor. Will work on HPDE and ABS.


Last edited by CSMacLaren on Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: 5/8" Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:07 am 
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5/8" Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone

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(Note tool bit on the right)

This grinding stone is tough and is good for metal but can handle fiberglass and resin without a problem. In rare situations where I needed to clean up the interior of helmets but did not have the proper reach, I used this tool's side and circular surfaces.

It's not the best choice if you're concerned about heat buildup, especially in the case of working on vinyl helmets like the Rubie's Supreme Vader. Heat buildup will cause the plastic to melt and gunk up your store. You may want to consider the Flapwheel for that (see the next post on this thread).

Good for:

* Handling some of the interior of helmets (but the best thing to do is just get a clean cast. This wheel helped me tremendously with my Golden Armor kit, but the best is to avoid a kit whose interior resembles that condition (see below).

* The inside of the "T" shaped cutout area on Fett helmets until you run out of space.

* The inside of Vader's eyes until you run into tight corners.

* The inside of Vader's chin triangle until, again you run into tight corners


Before:

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(Golden Armor kit. Note interior)

After

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(Note: a combination of tools were used for this, not just this grinding stone, but the grinding stone gave me options other tools didn't. But a better solution is to avoid a kit of this horrid condition in the first place.)


Last edited by CSMacLaren on Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Flapwheel 3/8" 80 grit
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:14 am 
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Flapwheel 3/8" 80 grit

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This is one of my favorites and is pretty much among my Top 5.

The Flapwheel is a rotary tool that has been invaluable in removing unwanted material. It has 80 grit abrasives in each flap, so when spinning, it eats into stuff better than if you were hand-sanding using 80 grit.

You have a fair bit of control, but for precision things you may want to consider a stone. The Flapwheel's flaps have a bit of a bend to them, so if you press harder, they'll flex to the pressure. Bear this in mind if you're anal about precision and control.

If you are using plastic / vinyl then this is a good choice because there is less heat buildup with this than a grinding stone. There is still some heat build up but it is manageable. If you use this carefully with a Rubie's plastic helmet, you should do okay and not gunk up your Flapwheel.

The 80 grit will be more "bitey" than the 120 grit. These aren't really used for polishing by any means. They are about material removal.

Good for:

* If you applied too much epoxy clay, putty or Bondo and want to sand down that buildup, this is beyond perfect for that

* If you want to being smoothing out rough surfaces such as the interior of certain helmets.


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 Post subject: 1/2" Drum Sander - 60 Grit
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:20 am 
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1/2" Drum Sander - 60 Grit

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This is a great alternative to the sanding wheel two posts earlier. The application/uses are similar, only the tip surface has no abrasives. The advantage of this over a grinding stone is that it reduces heat buildup.

Also, if you end up using this on a Rubie's plastic helmet, if you gunk it up due to prolonged use, then it's a simple matter of swapping out the sander band with a new one.

The drum itself is rubber, and the center rod is steel. It may take some work getting the sander onto the band.

This particular bit comes in 60 grit and 120 grit options.

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Good for:

* Vader's eyes

* Fett's T-shaped cutout

* Stormtooper eyes

* Stormtrooper armor edges after excess material has been trimmed (though you should finish it with 120 grit or manually sand the edges with 220 grit.)


Last edited by CSMacLaren on Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: 3/16" Silicone Carbide Grinding Stone
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:22 am 
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3/16" Silicone Carbide Grinding Stone

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This has been great for very tiny areas such as the corners of Fett's visor, or Vader's eyes, or even a Stormtrooper's eyes and teeth.

Because it's a stone, watch out for heat build up. It is fine grit but can be a little workhorse in its own right, provided that you allow it to cool. If you're impatient, the heat build up can cause the stone to detach from its metal stem, and that would suck.

Good for:

* Vader vents

* Stormtrooper teeth

* Corners of eyes on Vader, Fett, Stormtrooper helmets


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 Post subject: 3/32" Taper Diamond Wheel Point
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:26 am 
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3/32" Taper Diamond Wheel Point

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This has been instrumental in cutting out finer detail. You have better precision due to its tapering point. Also with diamond, it can handle very hard resins with ease. I use this to clear out Vader's mouth, though Stormdrooper mouths and eye corners, etc. -- any tight spot -- will benefit from this.

Good for:

* Fett's visor corners

* Stormtrooper eyes and teeth

* Vader eye corners, mouth vents, chin triangle


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 6:36 am 
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Location: Germany
I think Dremel has a lot of "useless" tools - epecially for "fine works", so
all my "fine-bits" are Goldsmith tools - these are great - :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:41 am 
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Again... you show how invaluable you are to this forum and it's building and scratch building users... very thorough bit by bit documentation and explanation.

Thanks. :thumbsup


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:16 pm 
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Mac, I have two Vader masks that I have to clean up and I will be using these bits.
Great info.

chris


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:56 pm 
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Impressive layout as always Mac..others should really benefit from this thread..Nice job and great presentation.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:56 pm 
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Great Thread!!!

I've learned the hard way to find those bits... trial and error... lots of error..

Some helpful people pointed me in the right direction after a while, but man... this is perfect. This is a GREAT summary of some very helpful bits.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 5:35 am 
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I'm surprised that you didn't mention the ultimate dremel bit.

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