When I was growing up, my dad had a Dremel “Moto-Tool” tool. It came in a nice dove-tailed wooden box with what seemed to be at least 6,000 attachments and accessories. He had purchased it in the early 50's and he used it a lot for his hobbies – miniature trains and building wooden replicas of boats and classic cars – as well as a myriad of little projects around the house. Sometime in the late 1980's, it finally wore out and quit. He dug out his original paperwork which stated there was a lifetime warranty on it, and being true to his Scottish heritage, sent his 35+ year old Dremel tool back for repair. The Dremel Manufacaturing Company sent a letter stating this particular model was no longer supported, as it had gone out of production about 25 years earlier. They would happily provide him with one of the new models at no charge, however, if this was acceptable – which was and which they did. Now that's customer service!
When my parents downsized from a house to a condo, I inherited a lot of his tools, including the Dremel tool and attachments. Then, when we downsized from our house to the boat, I seriously doubted I would get much use out of a Dremel tool on-board Nine of Cups and debated whether to keep it. But it was small, especially if I kept only the essential attachments and accessories - probably no more than 500 or so. I was sure I could find room for it, and it made the final cut. I rationalized that if I didn't use it, I could always part with it later.
It turns out that my dad's old Dremel tool is a pretty essential part of my tool kit. There's probably not a week goes by that I don't find a use for it. Here are some of the more common uses for my Dremel:
Bolt Cutting: I use it regularly to shorten small bolts (less than 1/2” or 12mm diameter). It is easier to handle and more precise than an angle grinder. I use the cut-off wheel attachment for this. It also works well to dress stripped threads on bolts of any size.
Rigging: I used it when we were replacing the stainless stays and shrouds. The cut-off wheel makes a very neat, square cut on stainless steel wire.
Lifelines: When we last used stainless wire for our lifelines, it was simple and easy to cut the stainless wire with the Dremel.
Cleaning small orifices: I have some tiny drill bits (5 of the 500 or so attachments) that I use for cleaning small orifices. For example, the tiny jets on our propane stove sometimes get clogged with carbon, and the Dremel works great for clearing them.
Routing: I have a routing attachment, and the Dremel is quite handy as a small, precision router. For example, I occasionally need to rout a small cutout in thin aluminum, which is simple with a small metal milling bit. Or by using a lettering template, I can engrave letters in aluminum or plastic.
Drill Press: I have an attachment that allows me to use it as a precision drill press. As an example, we bought a number of black pearls in the South Pacific. None of them had holes drilled in them. I used modelling clay to hold the pearl in place, and I drilled a hole through the center of each pearl using a small drill bit.
Shaping: There are innumerable times when I need to shape a small piece of plastic or soft metal, and the Dremel grinding stones and sanding drum work quite well. For example, a couple of years ago, an odd shaped plastic part in one of our cockpit winches broke. The winch is 27 years old, and Lewmar no longer stocked the part. Unlike Dremel, they didn't offer to replace it with the latest model. Using my trusty Dremel tool, I was able to fabricate a new one from a piece of aluminum.
Dental Work: While I haven't actually used it for repairing either of our teeth, I have some small grinding accessories and a few tiny drill bits that I am sure it will work well for this application. Marcie has been particularly reluctant to let me give it a try, but I remain optimistic that we will eventually meet some sailor in dire need of some reconstructive dental work.
As I wrote this blog, I went to the Dremel website and discovered they have several new models and I'm thinking a tool this important should have a backup. There are also a whole host of cool new attachments and accessories, and I'm not sure how I ever managed to keep Cups afloat without some of them. I should have plenty of room for them if I give up a few of my extra hats and some of my older t-shirts. One has to have one's priorities right. And I'm sure I can convince Marcie that bringing back a Dremel will be a much more beneficial use of space than some extra galley gadgets.
I highly recommend the Dremel 4200, and if you're interested, it can be found on Amazon.