How to Use a Rotary Tool on Wood (11 Steps)

How to Use a Rotary Tool on Wood

Do you own a woodworking shop or a metal shop? Are you working on a woodworking project? If the answer is “YES”, then you are familiar with the rotary tool.

A rotary tool is a multi-functional tool that can work with several accessories like wood, metal, plastic, glass, electronics, and many more.

Using a rotary tool, you can create beautiful art on a wooden surface and make small household repairs. Also, there are always some places at our home we can’t reach, but we need to do a little grinding or polishing. A rotary tool is always helpful for these types of tasks.

If you want to carve a design on a wooden surface, you first need to know how to use a rotary tool on wood.

Step-by-step procedure of using a rotary tool on wood

Step 01: Choose a plank of softwood to carve your design

Why did I state to choose a softwood? Softwoods are easy to work with; they will not make you disturb during an operation. Choosing a plank of wood of pine, basswood, or butternut will be the best option to begin your work.

Also, ensure no imperfections like knots or warps are in the wood. Otherwise, it will be challenging to carve a design.

Step 02: Make your design using a pencil

Did you already select a design? If yes, then you are one step ahead. If not, choose your design. Either online or from any other area.

Then, take a printout of the design. Next, use carbon paper to copy it on the wooden surface.

Place the carbon paper underneath the design paper. Using a pencil outline to transfer the design to the wood plank.

Step 03: The plank of wood needs to be clamped on your worktop

Select an even worktop where you need to place the wood piece. Place the wood piece at the corner of your worktop and clamp it to remain stable during the operation. Depending on the size of the wood piece, you may require several clamps to accomplish this step.

Step 04: Wear all safety equipment

Safety is inevitable; you mustn’t operate the rotary tool without safety equipment. The rotary tool creates dust, so wear goggles to cover your eyes completely. Put on a face mask to keep your nose and mouth safe. Wear hand gloves to protect your hand during a sudden wood kick-up.

Step 05: Placing the design on the wood

Take a rotary tool and make sure the attachment is flexible enough so that you don’t feel any fatigue in your hand.

Hold the rotary tool like a pencil. Keep your hand at a 30° – 45° angle to the wooden surface to get the most control. Thus, you will be able to create the carve with ease.

Step 06: Don’t hurry; make small strokes

A rotary tool contains a small motor. It means you can’t run the tool for a long time. Don’t hurry while working with a rotary tool. So, press the rotary tool lightly and pull the machine on the wood grain, not more than 5 – 10 seconds at a time.

Step 07: Use a sabretooth bit to carve large areas

A sabretooth bit is a handy tip to carve large blank areas because it has sharp teeth that tear through the wood easily. Place the bit of the sabretooth at the end of your rotary tool. Rotate the bit clockwise to secure it nicely. Turn the tool on, place it on the large blank area, and don’t force it to create a carve.

Also, ensure your selected sabretooth bit is compatible with wood.

Otherwise, the design will get damaged.

Step 08: Use a fluted carbide bit to create an outline

A fluted carbide bit will leave a smooth finish in the outlines because it has shaped edges with vertical channels. While using a fluted bit, be careful to follow the outlines slowly to avoid any mistakes.

Step 09: To smoothen your cuts, use a diamond bit

A diamond bit works like sandpaper as it has a rough texture in it. This rough texture assists in smoothening any sharp edges. Choose a diamond bit as per your requirement and place it on the head of the rotary tool. Working slowly and carefully to smoothen the sharp carves is always advisable.

Step 10: Wipe away the sawdust

As I stated earlier, a rotary tool creates a lot of dust. And because of the dust, it may be difficult to look at the design during a cutting operation. So, during the operation, stop the rotary tool every 5 minutes and wipe away the dust from the top of the design.

Step 11: Final Finishing

You can use a ball-shaped fluted bit in your rotary tool to add a vibe to the design. Thus, the design will look more attractive. Continue to press the bit around the design to create a random design on the wooden surface.

Also, you can apply a wood burner on top of the design to give a darkened look.

Remember, if you place a burned mark on the wood, you cannot remove the mark later. So, before deciding to use a wood burner, think twice.

Next, choose a polyurethane or other type of colour to create a coating on the design. Apply the coat using a natural-bristle brush, and after applying the coat, wait for the next 24 hours to let the coat dry.

How To Wood Carve/Power Carve Letters With A Dremel or ANY Rotary Tool

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a rotary tool?

A rotary tool is a small, handheld power tool that can perform various functions like grinding, sanding, polishing, sharpening, cutting, and engraving using interchangeable accessories. Popular models include Dremel and RotoZip.

How does the rotary tool work?

It rotates a small, cylindrical attachment at high speeds, usually between 5,000 to 35,000 RPM. The speed allows the accessories, like grinding stones, cutters, sanding drums, etc., to grind, cut, or polish the material.

What is it commonly used for?

Rotary tools are commonly used for projects like:

  • Grinding, sanding, polishing stones, glass, metal, etc.
  • Engraving and carving on wood, plastic, or metal
  • Polishing jewelry and rock tumbling
  • Sharpening tools and blades
  • Cutting tile, glass, plastic and wood
  • Cleaning in hard-to-reach areas
  • Detail work like trimming, deburring, filing

What accessories do I need for a rotary tool?

Common accessories include cutting and grinding wheels, sanding drums, polishing pads, wire brushes, engraving tips, mandrels and burrs. A flex shaft handpiece allows better control and access.

What safety tips should I follow when using it?

Safety tips include:

  • Wear eye protection and a dust mask
  • Secure the workpiece using clamps if possible
  • Don’t apply too much pressure and let the tool do the work
  • Avoid touching accessories after use, as they can be very hot
  • Replace damaged accessories immediately
  • Keep flammable materials away from cutting/grinding areas

How do I maintain and care for it?

Maintenance tips:

  • Clean the air vents regularly to prevent overheating
  • Lubricate the spindle with light oil periodically
  • Inspect accessories for cracks or damage before installing
  • Change accessories only after unplugging the tool
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines on servicing and repairs


So, isn’t a rotary tool a versatile tool? By interchanging the bit in the above project, you have shaped, sanded, and roughed using a rotary tool. All you need to do is keep yourself safe from any hazardous situation by following the safety precautions.