Can I use a Dremel for drilling enclosures?

Frequently asked questions about tools and instruments used in stompbox development.

Can I use a Dremel for drilling enclosures?

Postby RnFR » 02 Mar 2009, 23:43

i've got a question regarding using a Dremel.

is it possible to use it to drill my 1/8in guide holes on my enclosure? or am i going to burn this little guy out that way.

i know they are not made for heavy duty drilling, but i don't have a real press, just the Dremel press, and i'm sick of my drilled boxes being just a bit off. noone can probably notice but me, but it still bugs me.

i don't want to hurt the little dude. is this a bad idea until i get a real press?
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby tictac » 03 Mar 2009, 01:33

If you use a 1/16th drill to make a pilot hole you shouldn't have a problem. I've used my dremel to drill 1/8 holes in epoxy board without a problem...

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Re: Dremel users?

Postby RnFR » 03 Mar 2009, 02:07

i'm talking about metal enclosures. how hard is this epoxy you are talking about?
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby clinchfx » 03 Mar 2009, 02:50

A few years ago, I used my Dremel to modify the combustion chambers and ports in the alloy head of a 4 cylinder car engine. :roll: The Dremel is still going fine. I doubt that the load of drilling pilot holes in a die-cast box would stress the Dremel badly, but I'm finding that a small proper drill press is a very handy tool to have in the workshop.
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby RnFR » 03 Mar 2009, 05:36

ok, thanks. i'm planning on getting a true press soon, but until then, this'll have to do.
the dremel press is great for drilling out pcbs though.
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby clinchfx » 03 Mar 2009, 05:41

I'd be lost without my Dremel. I've also used it with a metal burr to make the oval cutout for DC sockets. The mini cutting discs are great for cutting slots in thin sheet metal.
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby soulsonic » 03 Mar 2009, 06:13

If you don't have one already, I highly recommend a spring-loaded automatic center punch. They're cheap and they make drilling much easier. I used to drill pilot holes, but after getting the center punch, I don't need to any more. The punch makes a deep enough dent in the box that it's easy to set the drill bit in the right spot. I love it!
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby lolbou » 03 Mar 2009, 08:06

As long as you enlarge he hole regularly up to 1/8th, there should be no problem... To me it's harder to drill through glass fiber epoxy than through aluminium cast...

But a real press is definitely better for big holes : I'm still holding the enclosures in my left hand when drilling up to 12mm (almost 1/2"), and it's a real magic to keep it centered (although I do it quite well actually)... :D
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby RnFR » 03 Mar 2009, 10:08

i'm just going to make some small guide holes before i take my unibit to it. i just want to be sure my holes are centered as the unibit kind of of floats to one side even if you have center punched.


------------------------
maybe we can make this thread into a log of basic tips and tricks for dremel users?
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby soulsonic » 03 Mar 2009, 10:41

RnFR wrote:i'm just going to make some small guide holes before i take my unibit to it. i just want to be sure my holes are centered as the unibit kind of of floats to one side even if you have center punched.

I found that I can get away with only using the center punch with Unibit. My trick is that I only hold the enclosure very lightly when I first press down the bit into the dent. If you hold it lightly and let it move, the box should softly center itself on the bit. This only works with a drill press and it only if you get the bit as close as possible to the punched spot. I'm saying that if you hold the box tightly and press down the bit, it may drill off-center if you don't get it exactly on the spot; but if you hold the box lightly, it will bump itself into place as the tip of the bit wants to center itself.
I hope that makes sense. It's worked very well for me
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby RnFR » 03 Mar 2009, 11:15

yeah, i get it. i'll be sure to give that a try after i pick up my press. thanks for the tip!

anyone have any leads on a decent inexpensive drill press?


while we are on the subject of drilling, i think i'll share a little pcb drilling technique that i use when drilling with my dremel press. the trick is to use 2 light sources. one overhead, like a normal bright light fixture or shop light, and another bright table lamp from the side. this way you can use the shadows from the drill as a kind of crosshairs to judge the distance when lining up your pcb for the next hole to be drilled. it's kind of weird explaining it, but much easier to do in practice. just make sure your lights are bright and you don't have a lot of extraneous light besides the two lamps. i find it much easier to judge the spot of where the drill is going to come down this way, and it lends itself to much quicker drilling. give it a try- you might find it useful!
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby JiM » 04 Mar 2009, 22:50

For those that don't have a small drill-press for Dremel, here is a desperately simple DIY one :
http://www.delorie.com/pcb/dremel-stand/
Especially made for drilling PCB !
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby RnFR » 05 Mar 2009, 00:01

JiM wrote:For those that don't have a small drill-press for Dremel, here is a desperately simple DIY one :
http://www.delorie.com/pcb/dremel-stand/
Especially made for drilling PCB !

that looks like a novel idea, but it also looks like a great recipe for breaking a bunch of drill bits.
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby Dan N » 05 Mar 2009, 01:00

I drill by hand with a dremel and #66 carbide bits. One time I jabbed myself in the thumb. It hurt, but no big deal. Long after the wound healed that spot on my thumb was kind of numb. Some months later I was poking at the spot trying to get some feeling and noticed a strange black spot under the skin. With a little cut and a pair of tweezers, I extracted a surprisingly long length of broke drill bit>
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I do plan on getting a little press one of these days.

That wooden gizmo looks like something you could do on the cheap. Maybe vertical supports between the tool arms and a little tab at the bottom for finger-tip control? Maybe a button on the tab so when you pushed down, you'd turn on the drill at the same time? Hmmm.
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby JiM » 05 Mar 2009, 21:26

RnFR wrote:that looks like a novel idea, but it also looks like a great recipe for breaking a bunch of drill bits.

Did you notice that this rig is a flexible parallelogram, hence keeping the drill bit perpendicular to the PCB ? And as the vertical travel need not to be long, i don't think that horizontal deviation due to the flexion is a problem especially if the PCB is not rigidly clamped.
I did not try it, so i can't guarantee it won't break bits, but i thought the design is clever enough to share.
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Re: Dremel users?

Postby RnFR » 05 Mar 2009, 21:49

JiM wrote:
RnFR wrote:that looks like a novel idea, but it also looks like a great recipe for breaking a bunch of drill bits.

Did you notice that this rig is a flexible parallelogram, hence keeping the drill bit perpendicular to the PCB ? And as the vertical travel need not to be long, i don't think that horizontal deviation due to the flexion is a problem especially if the PCB is not rigidly clamped.
I did not try it, so i can't guarantee it won't break bits, but i thought the design is clever enough to share.

yes is did notice that. and i think it's clever, too. i just think it looks a little sketchy. if it really works, that's great!
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