The Dremel tool is a great power tool for potters. It has very durable diamond bits that are the most important. It comes with a variety of tips. It’s something every potter should own in their studio. It works by inserting the end and locking it in a place like a drill. When turning on the Dremel, I felt hooked and wanted to use it on everything.
When I work with clay, there are many times I want to make holes in my work. Sometimes I forget, or the hole I did make got filled with glaze and is unusable.
If you’re like me, creating the perfect hole isn’t as easy as you think. That’s why you’ll need a Dremel or rotary tool to do the work.
Dremel Bit for Drilling Pottery
Whether it’s greenware or fired pottery, I always use the diamond tip. You could also use the tungsten carbide bits. Of course, you need to be very careful with the greenware because it’s so delicate.
The Dremel comes with many different size tips, so you will always make the perfect size hole.
With your fired work, make sure to keep the area a little wet. This will help slow down the wear and tear on your drill bit.
I do this for safety also. As you can imagine, drilling through clay can give off harmful dust, which can have long-term effects on your health.
How to Drill Pottery with Dremel?
Drilling ceramic with a Dremel is a simple process, but it requires patience. Here are the steps:
- First and foremost, wear eye protection. I would also suggest you use earplugs too, as the process can be loud.
- Select the Right Bit: You will need a diamond-coated drill bit to drill hard substances such as ceramic.
- Start drilling at a lower speed. Do not apply excessive force to the workpiece. Let the diamond Dremel bit do the cutting and dictate the pace.
- It takes time, but eventually, you will get a hole.
- If you get impatient and try to force the cutting, it may cause cracks in your precious work. You can also put tape over the hole first to prevent cracking in the glaze around the hole.
- Use water to keep the drilling area wet. Water will not only cool the tool bit and workpiece but will also help to wash away the dust and debris.
- Once you get through all the glaze layers, it’s important to note that drilling through the bisque itself is fast. I always kept the area wet more frequently because the clay would quickly turn into dust.
Pottery Drilling Tips
When I hold my Dremel, I hold it at a 90-degree angle. To me, this makes the most sense since you’re exposing all sides of the pottery to the drilling bit.
Although, I have read that some score the top glaze at a 45-degree angle, then go in at a 90-degree angle once they hit the bisque. When I tried this method, it created more scuff marks around the hole and exposed the bisque, which could be a home for bacteria.
Since the Dremel makes various-sized diamond drilling bits, it’s easy to start a small-sized bit and slowly make your hole bigger with more accuracy.
The Dremel has several convenient accessories that make cutting with ceramics easy. There is an attachment that looks like a collar that attaches to the Dremel. It is mainly used on ceramic tiles to get that perfect rounded edge.
You can use the diamond tip like usual, but this attachment gives you that perfect depth of cut. It is also adjustable, too. I can see what I am doing with my cuts through the holes in the attachment, so I never make a mistake.
Cutting uses the same process as drilling, but you’re not going through the piece all the way. Keep in mind that the bisque will cut away faster when you go through the glaze layers.
I used the Dremel to make grooves in my work. I would make a piece and then have an afterthought that it needed some indentations or patterns. I used the same diamond tips to create lines before putting on my glaze.
If there were ever a piece that had to be fired separately and then attached after firing, I would use the Dremel diamond tips to cut and grind away any spots to make it fit perfectly together.
One of my favorite things to do with my Dremel is grinding. For this, I use my handy diamond tip.
Here is a video that explains the process better.
Why Grind Pottery?
It’s always such a satisfying feeling when you open a freshly fired kiln. But, upon closer inspection of my work, there were always minor imperfections from the glaze or things flowing around in the kiln.
I use the diamond tip to grind the stilt marks away, leaving a nice smooth finish, like nothing was even there. When there are imperfections from the glaze itself, I also use the diamond tip to smooth it out.
After smoothing out the imperfections, I sometimes went over them with the polishing bit to make them shine again. There would be some scuff marks, but the polishing disc with the polishing compound took it away.
I also used the diamond tip to grind away any glaze that got on my kiln shelves. This is something that every potter goes through at least once. Once the glaze is off the shelf, I use the sanding bit to try and make it as level as possible. Don’t forget to reapply your kiln wash!
Sometimes my lids to pots don’t fit, so I will bring out my trusted Dremel to grind down some of the sides. This makes any lid fit perfectly each time.
And again, I can’t stress this enough, be gentle when using it on bisque! If I used too much pressure in one area or my hand slipped, I would take out a considerable chunk when I only wanted a very light sanding.
As I have mentioned earlier, I have used the polishing bit extensively on pottery work. It works very well to make my pieces shine!
Use Polishing Compound
When you use the polishing bit for my ceramics, it is essential to use the polishing compound. If not, you’re just rubbing the surface with little result. The polishing compound makes your work shine just like the glaze does.
Tips on Working with Dremel
Since I have been using my Dremel for about four years now, I have learned a few things.
- Maintain a Safe Working Distance: I have learned not to hold it very close to my body. The Dremel tip has caught my shirt and ripped it a few times.
- Keep a Bowl of Water: You might have observed that when you use it over a long period of time, the cutting bit gets really hot. I have also noticed that the bit and area I am grinding gets hot and burnt if I put excess pressure. It also gives off a burnt glaze smell.
I have also used so much pressure that the tip broke off and left big black marks on the bottom of my piece.
This also goes for drilling holes. The drilled spot will get very hot and can even give off a burnt smell.
- Avoid Cracking: I’ve also learned (the hard way) not to push hard when drilling because the piece will crack and break. There is a perfect pressure to be used when using the Dremel. I try not to push too hard even though I am impatient sometimes.
The trick is to let the cutting bit do its job.
Dremel is an excellent tool for potters all over the globe. It comes with various tips, but the most important one for a potter is the diamond tip. Dremel also offers replacement tips at your local hardware store. You can also order them online.
The diamond tip is perfect for cutting, drilling holes, grinding or sanding, and polishing your beautiful piece of artwork. It’s an ideal size and easy to use. If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend getting one asap!