When it comes to engraving, cutting, drilling or polishing stones & gems – there are a few approaches.
Experienced lapidary workers or hobbyists might choose to make their own tool & bit set ups, or purchase machinery that you feed to stones or gem into.
That would be a more professional approach.
For beginners to intermediates though, a Dremel is a base level tool for lapidary work, and working on gemstones.
When choosing a Dremel for lapidary, there are a few options in terms of the tool you can choose (which we list below).
And in terms of the bits, it’s worth considering choosing bits tipped with or made with diamond or tungsten (except when choosing cleaning/polishing bits), which are made for hard surfaces like stone.
Let’s look at the lapidary Dremel tool and bits options …
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Which Dremel Tool & Bits To Choose For Lapidary & Gemstones?
Some of the more popular Dremel tools for lapidary and gemstones might be:
Which Dremel Tool To Choose For Lapidary/Stones?
Option 1 – Dremel 4000 Electric Rotary Tool
Good for soft to medium hardness stones, wide range of speeds, takes most Dremel accessories and attachments – very versatile for lapidary and non-lapidary based tasks, can purchase Dremel workstation and flex shaft attachments for lapidary work
Not the most power, possible electrical hazard when using with water
A rotary tool like the Dremel 4000 make good options for lapidary – mainly soft to medium hardness stones and gems.
A Dremel 4000 is variable speed tool with an RPM range of 5,000 RPM to 35,000 RPM, and they max out at 1.6 Amps – which is definitely on the lower end for an electric tool.
A Dremel 4000 can take a range of bits – for cutting, grinding, sanding, polishing/cleaning, drilling, carving, engraving, etching and more – so they’re extremely versatile not only for lapidary, but a whole range of light & detail tasks.
If you choose a rotary tool for working on stones, strongly consider getting the Dremel workstation and/or Dremel flex shaft attachments.
When working with stones, you need to have the stone in contact with water (some people use a cut off container filled with water and submerge the stone).
A workstation is a drill press attachment that holds the tool secure for you over the water (so you can’t drop it).
A flex shaft attachment is also a smart choice as it keeps the main unit away for the water, and allows precision with the hand piece.
Read more about the Dremel 4000 in our guide on electric Dremel tools
Option 2 – Dremel 4300 Electric Rotary Tool
Good for soft to medium hardness stones, wide range of speeds, takes most Dremel accessories and attachments – very versatile for lapidary and non-lapidary based tasks, slightly more power than the Dremel 4000, pivot light for adding light to your work surface, universal chuck for quicker and easier bit changing
Not the most power for a lapidary tool, possible electrical hazard when using with water
The Dremel 4300 is Dremel’s highest performance electric rotary tool as of February 2017.
It is very similar to the Dremel 4000 in terms of how you can use it for lapidary and gemstones – including the speed range and ability to accept all Dremel accessories and most attachments.
The notable differences are:
The Dremel 4300 has more motor capacity at 1.8 Amps
The Dremel 4300 has extra features like a pivot light for providing additional light on the stone or gemstone you’re working on
The Dremel 4300 has a universal 3 jaw chuck – which you can change bits with tool and collet free
Read more about the Dremel 4300 here – including a comparison with the Dremel 4000.
Option 3 – Dremel 8220 Cordless Rotary Tool
Good for soft to medium hardness stones, wide range of speeds, takes most Dremel accessories and attachments – very versatile for lapidary and non-lapidary based tasks, works with the Dremel workstation and flex shaft attachments, less of a hazard when working with water than the electrical Dremel models, portable
Not the most power for a lapidary tool – less power than the electric Dremel 4000 & 4300 options
The Dremel 8220 as of February 2017 is the highest performance cordless Dremel tool – with a 12 volt lithium ion battery.
Because it’s battery operated, there are no cords to deal with, and it’s less of a hazard around water than the Dremel 4000 & 4300 models.
It still maintains a lot of the features of the Dremel 4000 tool – being variable speed, and accepting most accessories and attachments. So, you’ll be able to use it for a lot more than just stone work.
If you want a portable option, this one is worth a look. Read more in our Dremel 8220 comparison with the Dremel 4000 tool.
Option 4 – A Dremel Forti-Flex, or Foredom Flex Shaft Tool With Handpiece
Good for most stones (soft, medium and hard), much more power and torque than the rotary tools, takes most Dremel and Foredom accessories and attachments – very versatile for lapidary and non-lapidary based tasks, less of a hazard when working with water than the electric rotary tool models, flexible shaft allows for precision and detail work
Lower max speed than the Dremel rotary tools
The fourth and last options are flexible shaft tools:
The Dremel 9100 Forti-Flex
A Foredom SR or TX model flexible shaft tool
We reviewed and compared all 3 models in our Foredom vs Dremel flex shaft tool guide.
Flexible shaft tools give you more precision and control – with flexible shaft running from the motor (the motor stays away from the water), and a lightweight handpiece that is gripped like a pen.
Both these brands of flexible shaft tools offer much more power than the rotary tools.
The Dremel 9100 comes in at 1/5 horsepower (2.5 Amps), the Foredom SR at 1/5 to 1.4 HP, and the Foredom TX being the most powerful at 1/3 HP.
These tools have lower max speeds than the rotary tools though – the Dremel at 23,00RPM, the Foredom SR at 18,000 RPM & the Foredom TX at 15,00 RPM.
The Dremel 9100 in designed by Dremel for detail and precision tasks like power-carving, shaping and grinding applications.
The Foredoms are designed for any general application precision task – with the TX in particular being for tasks where the extra power is needed.
They also operate with 3 jaw chucks – which means no collets to change – but you’ll need to use the provided wrench to change bits.
[*Note – an alternative flex shaft option from Dremel is the ‘Dremel Flex Shaft Attachment’, which can be attached to a Dremel rotary tool]
The flex shaft attachment comes both by itself (and can then be attached to a compatible Dremel rotary tool), or, in a kit with a tool (like the Dremel 3000 or 4000 models) …
Attachment Only – Dremel Flex Shaft Attachment (on Amazon)
Attachment + Tool – Dremel 4000 with Flex Shaft Attachment (on Amazon), or, Dremel 3000 with Flex Shaft Attachment (on Amazon)
We’ve written more about the Dremel Flex Shaft Attachment in a separate guide
Which Bits To Choose For Lapidary/Stone?
Below is a selection of bits you might like to try with your Dremel or Foredom tools when working stones.
If working with a Dremel rotary tool, you may like to purchase a flex shaft attachment (on Amazon)
If you’d like to read more on review’s and buyer’s guides of both Dremel brand and non-Dremel brand bits for lapidary, check out these guides:
- Bits For Cutting, Engraving & etching
– Diamond points (For fine detail work, cutting, engraving, carving, touch-up and finishing. Use on wood, jade, ceramic, glass, hardened steel, semi-precious stones and other hard materials),
– Diamond wheel points (fine detail work, cutting, engraving, carving, touch-up and finishing. Use on wood, jade, ceramic, glass, hardened steel, semi-precious stones and other hard materials)
– Silicon carbide grinding stones (grind and etch stone, glass, ceramic, porcelain, gemstones and non-ferrous metals)
You may like to check out these non-Dremel brand cheap burr sets:
> 10 Diamond Burrs Lapidary & Rock Bit Set (on Amazon)
> SE 82331TF 30-Piece Set of Titanium-Coated Diamond Burrs (on Amazon)
- Bits For Drilling
– Refer above burrs, or source another third party diamond drill bit supplier
– Dremel workstation/drill press (on Amazon)
– Cutting oil/drill bit lubricant
- Bits For Polishing
– Dremel Polishing wheels & cones (for general polishing of most ferrous metals, stones, glass and ceramics)
Note that in addition to Dremel’s official bits, there are also many third party bits and bit kits on Amazon with good ratings.
Although you should use them at your own discretion (and Dremel recommends their own bits), they may make a good point of difference to consider.
More Resources On Dremels & Lapidary
YouTube has some more good resources on lapidary tools and bits for lapidary.
One example is this video:
Rotary Tool Bits For Lapidary, & How To Use A Rotary Tool On A Rock
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