Caution: Be careful using such equipment.

They can be brutally dangerous to you and your models!

Never overlook saftey!

 

This is a guide for using rotary tools & the Unimat modular system.

Getting to know your tool

This is a cheap budget rotary tool with flexi-cable attachment (it's not actually a 'Dremel'). It serves its purpose very well. There is however, a tiny little problem with it. That is when using it with the flexi-cable, it doesn't quite spin dead centre (perhaps the tension applied by curving/twisting the cable is the cause). It means that finer, smaller tips are a bit tricky to use (engraving would be hard for example). But it is still good for general shaping, sanding, grinding, drilling, and cutting stuff. If you use a flexi-cable, try to keep it as straight as possible. Normally this tool is kept suspended from a rail with the flexi-cable attached.

drem1drem2

This is the control for the variable speed, but slowest is quite fast enough already (Warp 9 Mr Scott!).

drem3

This is where the bushes go. Simply unscrew the cover and pop them out. But generally, they'll last ages and won't really need replacing.

drem4drem5

Battery powered dremels are ok. They can be sometimes easier to handle, more transportable (get into awkward spaces). However relying on a battery means having recharge times and the power draining after some time of using it. If you have a more permanent workspace, a plug-in type would be more ideal.

Care & Warning: Be careful not to obstruct the air vents. Be extra safe when using things like the cutting discs. All tips can cause harm, even the dull blunt looking types! Make sure your workpiece is firmly secured before working on it.

 Tips:

  • Get a dremel with a flexi-cable attachment.
  • Get lots of tips & accessories.
  • Wearing ear & eye protection & dust-mask is sensible.
  • Some tools come with variable speed which can be useful.
  • Vice/clamps can be useful.
  • Do not block Dremel's vents, check occasionally that nothing is obstructing them.
  • Check, replace/renew bushes inside the dremel (although they last ages). If you hear high pitch squealing, that's probably not a good sign.
  • Suspended, dangling dremels are pretty cool, helps save space.

------------------------------------------------------oOo------------------------------------------------------

Accessory Tips

There are lots of other alternative tips similar to these shown. They come in many shapes and sizes.The choice of materials and quality suit budgets pretty nicely. You can never have too few either. Spares are a really good idea. Spending a bit extra for tools will in the long run will save you cost in replacing parts, time, effort etc later. You shouldn't need to struggle with tools and accessories whilst actually working. If you find this happens, be careful as this can result in accidents.

Collets & mandrel (Spindle) - Various sizes for attachments. Useful to have a bunch as well as mandrels. Mandrels come with 2 washers usually which can be easily lost. More importantly if the thread on the screw becomes worn (result from over tightening), then it won't hold the disc in place properly when being used and it could quite easily start moving about or even fly off.

 
drem6

Diamond coated (engraving) - Great for finer detail on glass and metal and gradual sanding. Smoothes metal edges nicely. Good for removing rust. If using glass, masking tape the back may help prevent breakages. Ball shaped tip is great for knocking protruding pins/studs down.

dia7dia6

dia5dia4

dia3dia2

dia1

Discs - Careful not to break them or slice yourself. They can be very brittle (Carborundum and so metal (diamond coated/ sawing) discs may be preferred. Fibreglass reinforced discs are cool. A mandrel is required to mount the disc. When in use, be sure the tip is properly (strongly) secured in the collet of the dremel as once you get going, and you got your focus on the disc, you might not notice the mandrel slipping outwards (or inwards) from the dremel. Be careful in case discs suddenly bite into workpiece and try to race away.

disc1disc2

disc3disc4

Orange Tips - Not bad for grinding. Tougher than pink tips. Comes in various shapes.

orange1orange2

Pink Tips - Not bad for grinding, deburring. They can wear out and become out of shape. Try to give gradual wear to keep an overall shape.

pink1pink2

Drill Bits - Make sure you use with appropriate size collet. Be careful not to bend drill bit to avoid it snapping.

drem7

Mill ends - Great for shaping, carving, hollowing in wood, metal & plastics. Not good for smoothing or finer detail. 

mill4mill3

mill2mill1

Polishing (buffing) - Great for making metals, glass, stones shine. Do not use without compound or automotive polishing stuff (you could use even toothpaste apprently). There are varies tips of different shapes and sizes which are usually screwed onto a mandrel. They can be felt, wool, silicone tips.

polish1polish2

polish3polish4

This is the compund which you might typically find with accessory packs.

polish5polish6

Sanding Drum - Great for sanding things down and shaping. Sometimes the sanding roll becomes loose on the drum. If this happens, use some bluetac to help fill in the gap and add grip.

sand1sand2

Lower-left is a more surface type sanding disc. You can make you own replacement paperdiscs with some sandpaper + double sided tape.
Lower-right is a Flappy type (they tend to get a bit beat-up and worn quickly). An alternative is a mandrel with a slot which you add your own paper flap by inserting it into the slot.

sand3sand4

TIPS:

Keeping Drill bits cool: Place a strip (ring) of Blu-Tac around the spot you want to drill. Add some oil into it to make a pool. Now drill. Try not to drill for prolonged periods.

Cutting Curvier Curves: Use the diamond cutting disc. As you cut, hold at an angle and you can then do tighter curves. Careful not to cut yourself as the blades is being manipulated. Make sure you have a good firm grip on the dremel as it may suddenly grip into the workpiece and race-away. With practice you can move over to other discs which can be reduced in size given even tighter curves still!

Making your own discs: Get a drinks can and cut out a circle, centre punch it. Mount it onto one of the mandrels which would hold discs. Now you got a razor sharp cutting disc. Be extremely careful with this!! Not only is it razor sharp, but will easily get damaged and wear out - resulting in potentially razor sharp things flying about. It could easily slice off a finger cleanly. Not even we mess around with these.

Using dremel for weathering effects: experiment with different tool tips. Be gentle but be in control (good grip) of tool head. Be careful not to get carried away, review your work as you go along. Do not rely solely on a dremel to achieve realistic weathering, other techniques such as sculpting or pigments should be used).

Happy Rotarying!

------------------------------------------------------oOo------------------------------------------------------

The Unimat System  (review)

uni14

Unimat Website, Click <here>

The Unimat is a modular system of components which can be arranged to create workshop machinery like a drill press, lathe, jigsaw and much more.You can also configure the components in alternative ways to give you more options when working on pieces.

There is the Basic/Classic system which is suitable for light work. There is also the Metal Line series which is much better in construction (quality) and accuracy. It is also possible to add CNC parts and a controller to make it even more funky however the costs begin to add up. I have a few Metal Line pieces and I'm slowly upgrading each main unit to Metal Line as they do make a big difference.

Costs can be spread out and you can be selective with what bits you get. For what it can do, it beats the cost of buying each style of machine separately.

Instructions are ok, and it's good to keep them handy. The illustrations can really help work out how to configure the pieces.

Features include (Classic box kit):
Jig-saw
Lathe/ Turning
Drilling/ Milling machine
Disc sander

 

Over some time I've bought additionally:

ML longitudinal slide
ML Cross slide 
Powerdrive unit     
Gear milling head
Rotary table
HSS bits 
Metal collets Milling table with attachment      
Variable speed transformer    
12V distributional connection
Precision chuck as well as a ML chuck 

Countershaft  
Dividing attachment 


164480

164060
162320
162210
162300
162231
162460
162330 + 162332
MX82020
162492
162430 +
162030
162040

                      

The Unimat is small, which is great for miniature modellers like me. It's managed to fit on my desk without problem unlike other machinery where you need dedicated space. This thing is actually portable.

The concept is great, the numerous possibilities for setups is also good. However knowing if things are perfectly 90 degrees and dead centre is often a challenge and can become extremely frustrating. There are ways to help get parts to square up properly and accessories such as stabilizing plates can be added to help reinforce components. Things like set-squares (tri-squares) and digital calipers are good tools to have to help confirm accuracy. The most time consuming part is setting up the Unimat for the job you want to do. But that's the same as with most industrial equipment.

It's not very powerful (it's not industrial equipment) and can have trouble with tough materials. But it still has some pow and handles softer materials well. The Powerdrive motor has more pow than the motor unit that comes with the classic kit. A variable speed transformer is also handy to have so that you can control the speed of the motor unit.

The slides have limited travel, so moving objects along can only go short distances. Trying to work on larger pieces can become difficult.

The joining blocks are adequate but are not the best at securing things together (they're a bit short). It's very easy to over tighten and wear out the screw heads. Over tightening is quite a problem with the Unimat. Parts clamped together can still move about when the Unimat is in use and you won't notice as your attention will be focused on the work piece. Where possible, it's best to use as many fixtures in as many places as you can. Buying extra spare fixtures is handy.

I've been using the Unimat especially for the Cryostasis project I'm doing. 

Warning

Caution & care must be taken to avoid injury and damage. This can happen especially as you get to know the Unimat system. I've already damaged parts, some by accident others by simply over-tightening bolts ensuring they're locked together tightly.

Be careful that the power cable for the motor unit is not in the way of the motot's belt. It has a cover you can add, but it covers the gears and belt which makes changing them along with the chuck hassle.

You must concentrate and work in a precise manner.

 

Here are some pics of the components:

This the joining block. The kit comes with a bunch of these. It also comes with other fixtures such as the screw and small threaded plate. Extras/spares are good to make securing things much better and the screw heads can wear out through usage.

uni1 uni2

The motor unit. Adding chucks and other bits is pretty straight forward. When unscrewing attachments, hold onto the gear belt to stop it rotating. Try not to tug or put tension on the belt. A stop/lock pin would have been be a good feature to include.

Gear ratios can be achieved by swapping belts and gears around and by using a countershaft unit.

uni4

The 3 Jaw chuck is pretty cool. It has a spare set of jaws and the jaws can be flipped round to grasp larger work pieces. The jaws are small, so you need to make sure the work piece is secure before using it.

uni5

This is the Tailstop. I damaged this by over tightening the allen screw.

uni6

This is the Long Slide. It's best to secure this using 2 joining blocks. I upgraded to the Metal Line slide which is much longer (200mm).

uni7

This is the vice. It's a bit annoying that there isn't a split pin or something to hold the handle in place. So to open the jaws, you have to unscrew the bolt and then push it in to slide the jaw open. You can get 2 of these and mirror them to give yourself a wider vice.

uni8

This is the smaller Slide. The kit comes with 2 of these and I damaged one. The red handle wore around the split ring which holds it on. I've also glued the nuts at the end as they tend to pop out.
I got a Metal Line version of one of these and it's much better.

uni9 uni10

These are HSS bits for lathe. The kit comes with 1 general bit (shorter). I bought an additional 5 (longer) which give different styles of cuts.

uni11

These are clamps. Used for holding things like HSS bits or work pieces. They're made from plastic which isn't so good as you can see that some of them have started to split from being over tightened.

uni12

If you're serious about making small things with some degree of precision, then the Unimat is a great tool. However if you want to roughly get things done then something like a dremel might suit you better. But it's like one of those things that once you get into the practice of using it, you won't to go back. I would recommend having a budget for the Unimat as getting additional components really do make things easier and allows you to do far more than just with the box kit on its own.

Feel free to ask for any tips & advice especially if you have a Unimat system!