Cutting Metal with Dremel

Dremel rotary cutting tools are commonly used in DIY applications, especially in art and craft, woodwork, etc. Is the Dremel suited for cutting metal, though, and which bit should you use to achieve this?

This article investigates these questions and offers a step-by-step guide for cutting metal using a Dremel tool.

Can the Dremel Cut Metal?

Dremel Cutting Metal
Yes, you can cut metal using a Dremel rotary tool. You will need an abrasive cutting disc or a circular saw to do the cutting.

The metal thickness is limited due to the size of the cutting disc, but it will do an excellent job on bolts, nuts, sheet metal, and aluminum.

How Thick of Metal Can a Dremel Cut?

The cutting wheel diameter limits the depth of cut or the metal thickness you can cut using a Dremel rotary tool.

A 24mm (1”) cutting wheel can create a cut up to 10mm (0.4″) deep, while a 32mm (1 ¼ ″) cutting wheel can cut to a maximum depth of 14mm (1 ½ ″). However, the safe cutting limit for a Dremel rotary tool is ¼″ to 3/8″.

If you want to cut thicker metal sections, go for a die grinder or an angle grinder instead of the Dremel.

Dremel Steel Cutting

The Dremel rotary tool can cut steel, stain steel, and hardened steel by using the abrasive cutting wheel. The tool can also cut sheet metal, galvanized steel pipes, copper tubes, etc.

Can Dremel cut steel?
The above image shows the Dremel cutting a stainless steel screw rod.

Dremel Bit to Cut Metal

You can remove material from different metal objects using abrasive grinding stones, carbide drill bits & cutters, diamond bits, etc.

But what Dremel bit do you use to cut metal?
Following are the 3 types of Dremel bits that can be used for metal cutting.

1. Abrasive Cut-off Wheel

The Dremel abrasive cutoff wheel has a 1 ½ -inch diameter and is perfect for small metal cutting jobs. This abrasive wheel will easily cut through hard metals, including hardened steel. When you need to trim the length of bolts and screws, the Dremel abrasive cutoff wheel is a good tool.

You can also use it to cut grooves into stripped screws and nuts, enabling you to remove them using a flathead screwdriver.
Dremel Cut-off wheel
The abrasive cutoff wheel usually has a thickness of 0.04” or 1.10mm. The EZ409 super-thin cut-off wheel is only 0.75mm thick and can create thin, clean cuts. That means you can use it for delicate trimming and grooving too.

2. Circular Crosscut Blade

The circular crosscut or rip blade is a carbon steel blade with offset teeth. It is meant to create precision cuts on wood up to 6.35mm (¼″) in depth.

While this blade isn’t suitable for hard metals, such as steel, it will work well for cutting soft metals, like aluminum.
Dremel tool with Circular Saw Blade

3. Diamond Wheel

Diamond cutting wheels are designed to cut extremely hard materials, such as ceramic tiles and glass. This blade can be used for cutting hardened tool steel, but it is not suitable for cutting soft metals like aluminum and brass.

Related Read: Complete Guide to Dremel Bits

What is the Best Dremel Bit for Cutting Aluminum?

Aluminum is a soft metal with a low melting point of 1,221 degrees Fahrenheit (660°C). When cutting aluminum with abrasive wheels, it could generate excessive heat and result in gumming up the wheel. This could shatter the cut-off wheel and damage the workpiece.

Conversely, cutting metal with a hacksaw could lead to frustration since it will take a lot of elbow grease to get the job done.

The Dremel abrasive cutoff wheel will work on aluminum. However, these discs aren’t meant for prolonged application on aluminum, so they’ll wear through and gum up quite quickly.

The circular crosscut blade is potentially a better option for this application. It’s meant for wood, a soft material, and aluminum is a soft metal, so the blade should work well.

An even better option is to use a jigsaw or circular saw fitted with a non-ferrous metal cutting blade.

Speed for Cutting Metal

When cutting different materials using a rotary cutting tool or any other motorized saw, it is crucial to match the blade’s rotational speed to the application. Dremel recommends using a maximum speed of 35000 RPM when cutting aluminum, brass, copper, and steel.

In practice, your Dremel may not reach such a high speed, and some of the Dremel models don’t have such a high RPM setting – if you find yourself in this position, use the highest speed setting available.

Never exceed the maximum recommended speed setting for each application. If you do, the blade could shatter, or the workpiece could be damaged. Both of these could cause serious injuries.

* Correction: The RPM was mentioned as 3500 instead of 35000. Thanks to David McKenzie, one of our valuable readers, for pointing out this error..

How to Cut Metal with Dremel?

Cutting with a Dremel rotary cutting tool is relatively simple. Dremel has an EZ lock system that allows quick, easy, and safe installation and removal of cutting blades and accompanying attachments.

Here is a step-by-step guide for the process.

Install the Cutting Wheel

  1. Install the EZ Lock cutting wheel onto the mandrel attachment: Pull down on the brown outer sleeve of the mandrel. This should expose the butterfly-shaped portion. Place the cutting wheel over the butterfly-shaped portion, matching the patterns. Here, the cutting wheel will slide down over the shaft. Turn it 90° and let it go over the brown outer sleeve. Slowly release the outer sleeve. This will lock the blade in place.
  2. Before installing the mandrel or shield onto the Dremel rotary tool, ensure it is switched off and unplugged. If your Dremel model is battery operated, remove the battery if possible.
  3. Install the shield attachment if you’re using one: twist off the collar at the tip of the Dremel tool by turning it counterclockwise. Screw on the shield attachment in its place by turning it clockwise. Move the shield around to the desired position.
  4. Install the mandrel with the cutting wheel: Press the lock button for the duration of the action. Loosen the collar using the wrench tool by turning it counterclockwise. Place the mandrel into the collar. Press down lightly on it to ensure that the mandrel goes all the way into the collar. Tighten the collar by hand, turning it clockwise. Finish tightening it using the wrench.

Preparation and Safety Precautions

Safe operation is essential when using the Dremel rotary cutting tool. This tool is powerful enough to amputate fingers that get in the way and can cause severe damage when you’re not careful during the operation.

  1. Wear safety glasses. Cutting metal with the Dremel tool will generate sparks, which can cause severe damage to your face and eyes. Using the Dremel shield attachment will minimize this risk.
  2. Wear gloves. This will protect your hands from sparks and sharp edges.
  3. Securely clamp the workpiece to your workbench. This maximizes the control you have over the cutting operation.
  4. Use a two-handed golf grip when handling the Dremel cutting tool. This offers you greater control over the tool and minimizes the risk of injury.
  5. Use the proper speed setting for each application.

Dremel Metal Cutting Procedure

Before using the Dremel tool, ensure that all safety precautions are in place.
How to Cut Metal with Dremel?

  1. Mark the cutline clearly.
  2. Connect the Dremel tool to a power socket or attach the battery if it’s a battery-operated cordless model.
  3. Dial the tool to the proper speed setting.
  4. Using a two-handed golf grip, position the cutoff wheel at the intended cut line, holding it a few millimeters away from the workpiece.
  5. Press down on the power button. Touch the cutoff wheel to the intended cut line in one slow, even movement.
  6. Move the cutoff wheel sideways along the intended cut line, applying minimal pressure if needed. Do not force the wheel into the metal. Let the abrasive wheel do the cutting.
  7. Once the cut is complete, remove the cutoff wheel from the cut line and release the power button.
  8. Do not touch the workpiece or the cut-off piece with your bare hands. Metal cutting with abrasive discs generates heat. Allow it to cool down or use a plier to remove the piece.
  9. Disconnect the Dremel tool from the power socket.
  10. The edges on the cut line may be sharp and jagged. File or sand these down if needed.