In part 1 of “An Artist’s Tools…”, I covered a very broad introduction on how artists sometimes need to make and use their own tools to create with. Here, in this blog post, I will delve further into how I make tools to create art with – starting with my stone polishing bits/disks for my dremel and stone work.
Now it’s worth mentioning, I feel, that I am by no means an expert at this. I just know what works for me and I HAVE been given good, experienced guru-like advice regarding “homegrown” tools for stone carving/polishing with a rotary tool. From that advice, I improvise and discover new things. Stone carving is a relatively new thing for me, but I have in the past learned to improvise my tools for recording music, painting and the like (i.e. using an old 2″ speaker taped to my banjo as a “pickup” – it actually worked REALLY good! I miss my banjo :(. It’s a long story).
I feel it’s important to mention that I have learned a LOT of this from my friend and neighbor, Todd. He has been working with stones and lapidary work (to mention only a few genres of art!) for years. He is an absolute expert. He has taught me a few starting points on making tools, but understandably (and I appreciate this), doesn’t tell me all of his secrets. After all, I can understand that learning this trait over years of trial an error, that just giving someone all of the meat and treasure, might sometimes not be in one’s best interest, but yet allowing one, (myself, in this case) to foster ones own techniques and learn from trial and error, too. Not only did he give me insight into the world of polishing stones with a dremel (rotary tool), he inspired me to take my dremel up and use it beyond my “I wonder if I could do this” dabbling mentality. So I owe him many thanks, to say the least! With that said, I’m not going to give EVERYTHING away, either. This is more of an encouragement – if anyone actually reads this and is interested in rotary tool rock polishing. I’ve also learned a bit here and there from surfing the internet, checking out videos, and the like. If you are an individual that is just newly delving into the land of rotary tool stone/rock polishing, you will have to experiment and learn, too. Again… I am no expert, either, so if you have any suggestions or input, I welcome your feedback.
Now, back to the details of making rotary tool (Dremel) “bits”. Here is a “short” recap and edited version of “THE GRIT” portion from my last blog post – if you’re interested. If not, skip it.
THE GRIT: … polishing my stones lately has been a challenge. For one, my Dremel is not balanced. I noticed this from the get-go (and yeah, it has a warranty since I purchased it to replace my older one that died, but I can’t afford to ship it to only learn that they might not replace or fix it…). SO instead of returning it, I have learned how to adjust my technique.
That wobble from the slightly bent shaft that exponentially transfers itself to the bit and then the sanding disk, has become more of a boon, actually. At first, the rapid, very unfriendly vibration and “choking” that happened when I put the stone to the sanding disk, was incredibly awful … Being determined to keep working, however, I learned how to adjust my movements, my technique and work with the wobble (this actually took days to learn). Low and behold, I was actually so surprised at the outcome, that I felt like sharing my new-found insight! (I’ll extrapolate on this more, later) The stone was nearly as shiny as glass! …
I make my own sanding disks with any piece of plastic (yogurt container tops, product packaging) that I can find and cut into a circle. The sandpaper is then glued to the disk (with super glue) and then to a cut dowel or any cylindrical shaped object that is or can be attached to a bit. After this, I shape the disk even more by attaching it to the Dremel and spinning it against a larger diamond bit that is unattached. This process usually ends ins a nice, round disk.
As you can see in the images below, my sanding disks are not perfectly round. That’s a technique that I am trying to learn! (Todd does NOT approve of my disk making skills – yet) :)
Let me go over in a bit (pun intended) more detail on how I made this particular sanding disk. I’ll call this one my “3 inch flat surface disk”, as it is solely intended for sanding and polishing a flat surface of a stone. I made it specifically for an amulet that I am working on for my Mom. This was the disk I was referencing previously that had a wobble that turned out to be more beneficial rather than bad. Note of caution: Dremel advises not to use disk sizes larger than two inches, so if you decide to make a disk larger than 2″, please understand that this could possibly harm your dremel (or whatever brand of hobby rotary tool). So far, I have not experienced any problems. Most of my other disks are around 1″ to 2″ diameter.
You can see that this sanding disk is layered – one older disk below the newer, larger disk on top of it. The previous smaller disk was to hard for my liking – I like to have a little bit of “play” or bending – which I like to believe, prevents me from putting too much pressure on the stone when polishing it. So I decided to experiment with a larger diameter disk, giving more play to the sanding/polishing experience.
Here, I was about to give instructions on how I made my sanding disk(s)… but after reading over it again and again… I thought it was more confusing than anything… so in the interest of finishing this blog post, I omitted it. It may… or may not appear in the near future. I’m not sure how far I will take this, exactly. I think I need to just have more images in order to instuct on the making of sanding disks. :)
I’ve also experimented with a bit of scotch-brite pads, which seems to do a nice job as a “course(r)” grit, but yet also adds a bit of polishing. The only drawback – if you set the rotary tool at to fast a speed, the green pad will discolor the stone green and you will have little bits of the pad all over the place. I’m going to experiment with the natural colored pads at some point. Maybe share my findings here. The images below show my scotch-brite disks with the piece from the wooden handle of a foam staining brush. I basically applied the same technique above and cut the pad with scissors to fit the circle. I didn’t bother with rounding it off on a grinding bit, as it cut fairly nicely.