How To Carve Rocks With a Dremel Lite Cordless Rotary Tool

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Dremel Lite

What's This?This post is sponsored by The Home Depot. When you think of rock carvings, you may envision large, powerful tools or heavy iron chisels. But did you know you can actually carve rocks with a handheld rotary tool? We’re all aware of the myriad things these versatile jacks of all trades are capable of. So today we’ll explore a lesser known use – how to carve rocks with the new Dremel Lite cordless rotary tool.

How Do I Use Thee – Let Me Count The Ways

Dremel Lite
The Dremel Lite isn’t as powerful as a corded rotary tool, but its portability makes it incredibly handy.

Dremel is pretty much the “Coke” of rotary tools, to the point where many people think they’re one and the same. I’ve used “Dremels” since my teens for everything from repairs, cutting, cleaning, polishing, grinding, sharpening and carving to slotting stripped screw heads in order to back them out with a slotted driver.

Dremel Lite with a sanding drum.
As a carving tool, the Dremel Lite can be used on wood and many other materials. Here, I’m shaping a basswood dolphin.

To be clear, the Dremel Lite is not necessarily made for carving rocks. But as a rotary tool – a general purpose machine with countless uses (depending on which bits and accessories you install) – rock carving is definitely on the résumé.

Between A Rock And A Carved Place

Rocks carved with Dremel rotary tools.
Rocks are really hard, but not hard to carve with the right tools. Here are two of the ones I’ve done.

The new Dremel Lite model 7760 is a cordless variable speed (8,000 – 25,000 RPM) rotary tool designed for light jobs. And I could think of no lighter job than carving a rock (hehe, I know). This project let me test the Dremel Lite with bits ranging from really thin – which barely loaded the motor – to a buffing felt and 3/4” brush that gave the Lite more of a workout.

Which one will I carve next?
Eeny, meeny, shiny stone. Which rock is next to go?

Carving small rocks is surprisingly easy; we’ll walk you through the process. The key to rotary tool success is selecting the right bit or attachment for the task at hand. For rock carving, you need diamond bits. If you can’t find what you need in the Dremel lineup, look for inexpensive 3rd party kits. There are lots of size and shape options out there, including cylinders, tapers, balls, cones and discs.

Be A Rock Star – Laying Out Your Design

Pattern layout
Use a fine tipped marker to sketch your pattern on the rock.
Layout 1
To lay out this geometric pattern, start with three pairs of dots positioned like the points of two nested equilateral triangles. The “+” is an imaginary center point.

This design was selected solely for its simplicity and visual appeal. It’s one variation of the so-called “Celtic trinity knot” and is also known as a “triquetra” or “trefoil” (with pointed loops). You may be able to freehand the pattern, but this series of drawings will help you visualize the layout.

Layout 2
Connect two pairs of dots with arches, as shown.
Layout 3
Next, connect one of those sets of dots with the third set.
Layout 4
Then join the other two in the same manner to close the loop.

If you make an error, you can erase the marker lines with denatured alcohol. Especially on smooth or polished rock.

Layout 5
Finally, draw solid lines to determine where the cross-overs will be.
Layout 6
Rotate the image and repeat the same pattern until all lines are accounted for.

Carving Stones Won’t Break My Bones – But Bits And Debris Can Hurt Me

Dremel 130-pc accessory kit
At just under $35, this 130-pc accessory kit is a good deal. But remember to take proper safety measures, no matter what accessory you use.

A few safety notes before we get started:

* I did not wear eye protection while carving this piece. I’m not saying you shouldn’t (you should), but these diamond bits are extremely unlikely to ever throw rock chips (unless you create really thin ridges that can break and fly off). You’re basically just sanding the material away. However, with more aggressive bits and accessories (especially cut-off wheels and wire brushes), eye protection is a must.

* You’ll see that I have my fingers pretty close to the bits during this project. These small diamond bits “dissolve” (grind away fine particles) the material with grit akin to fine sandpaper. If my finger was to touch a small diameter diamond bit like this while it’s spinning, the most that would happen is a light sanding burn.

However, the more aggressive the bit, the greater the danger of personal injury. More aggressive (and larger diameter) bits are also at higher risk of grabbing the material and kicking the tool. So keep those digits out of the line of fire.

A dust mask is a must.
Always protect your lungs when carving stone, bone, resins and other materials that create fine dust.

* The main hazard with diamond burr rock carving is the fine, powdery dust; you do not want to breath it in. So work either over a downdraft table or with a fan blowing the dust away from you. And ALWAYS wear a proper fitting dust mask or respirator while grinding rock (and other materials).

A Diamond In The Rough – Rock Carving With Dremel Lite

Diamond bit
This small pointed bit was used to engrave the pattern into the surface of the rock.

The stone will be handled a lot (and wiped with alcohol) during the carving process. To prevent the pattern from disappearing on you, you should engrave it with a small, pointy diamond burr.

Rock steady
I hold my little finger against the workpiece to keep everything “rock steady”.

Personally, I’ve always found the idea of neatly engraving stone or glass free-handedly to be laughably impossible (even with specialized vibratory engravers). For the life of me, I just can’t stay on the line. The spinning bit is going to want to skate around. But that’s OK. Get as close as you can.

Pattern engraved with Dremel Lite
The engraved pattern doesn’t have to be deep (or neat). Just scratch the surface enough that you can see it.

Start With The Inside

1/16" cylinder diamond burr
Obviously, the optimal bit size and shape will depend on your project. I switched to this 1/16” diameter diamond burr to start defining the inside details. (This bit also has diamond grit on the very end.)

Start with the inside details. That way, if you overshoot the line you can adjust your outside border to compensate. Carve shallow at first then slowly work your way deeper. Once you’ve defined the outline, it will be a lot easier to stay on course.

Inside details defined.
I want a lot more depth, but this is good for now. Depending on the look you’re going for, this may be all you need. But note that you’ll lose the contrast if you polish the roughened texture.
Clean away the dust.
When the workpiece gets covered in dust, wipe it down with denatured alcohol and a rag so it doesn’t become airborne. (Alcohol, because it dries much faster than water and won’t rust your bits).

Defining Boulders Borders

Digging down to bedrock.
Digging down to bedrock.

Now that I’ve established my inside spaces, I installed a larger, slightly tapered bit and cut a groove around the perimeter of the design. I was able to dig in fairly aggressively without a problem. But don’t force it; it’s still a relatively slow process and the more you load the motor, the faster the battery discharges. For perspective, this entire project took just over two full battery charges to complete.

Carving rock with Dremel Lite
I dug a trench to define the outside borders.
Removing more waste material.
While I had that bit in the collet, I went ahead and worked a little more on the inside areas. Later, I’ll switch back to the thinner bit to clean up the inside corners. But this one does well to hog away a lot of the bulk.

Level The Surrounding Area – Rock Carving with Dremel Lite

Knocking down the weeds.
To knock down the waste material around my trefoil, I switched to a straight sided 1/8” cylinder bit.

Having the design raised above the the surrounding material is going to really make this rock pop. I switched to a larger diameter bit and started grinding away at the background.

Easing the transition.
Round over the edges for a smooth transition to the natural surface of the rock.

Wrestling Announcer: Can You See How The Rock Is Looking!? [Crowd Goes Wild!]

The rock is rolling right along.
This is what we have so far.

There are still a lot of rough edges and corners to take care of before polishing the surface.

Carving the details.
Here, I’m lowering the parts of the pattern that go “underneath”.
Almost done.
Looking good so far. Just a little more cleanup.
Cleaning the corners.
Finally, I went back to a thinner bit and sharpened up the inside corners.

Romancing The Stone Carving

dremel lite Felt buffing wheel and mandrel.
The Dremel Lite kit comes with a handful of accessories to get you started, including some buffing wheels. Screw the felt onto this mandrel.

At this point, the carving looks dull and unrefined. There are several ways to make it more presentable. The easiest would be to spray it with clear lacquer or enamel. But the best option is polishing.

Buffing compound.
Load the felt with polishing compound. I used the red rouge that came with the kit. Reapply as needed.

With light colored rocks, you may want to use a white polishing compound, rather than the red that comes in the kit (especially if the rock is porous) to avoid possible staining. Or go with a clear wax based polish. When in doubt, test on another, similar rock.

If The Dremel Lite Is ‘A Rockin’ Don’t Bother Knockin’ – Come On In

Polishing the rock carving.
Continue polishing until the compound “goes away”.

A high relief surface like this is going to be hard to polish with a 1” felt wheel. So I used a 1/2” felt (the smaller of the two included sizes) to polish the more exposed surfaces of the rock. Then I got the tighter areas with a rotary brush.

Dremel rotary brush.
The inside nooks were polished using the brush that came with the kit (not a wire brush). Load the brush with the same buffing compound used on the felt wheel.
Scrub a dub-dub.
Scrub with a tooth brush (preferably not your own) to clean excess compound out of the crevices.
Rock & roll!
Not too bad, huh? Even though mine has room for improvement, the fact that you can even make something like this with such a simple tool is pretty impressive.

Final Thoughts On The Dremel Lite

Dremel Lite & 130-pc accessory kit.
The Dremel Lite kit includes a charger, USB cable and 10 accessories. For a wider assortment of accessories, grab the 130-pc kit. NOTE: Neither kit includes diamond bits. I used ones I already had in the shop.

Every workbench I’ve ever had (and all of my former techs’ electronics benches) has been equipped with at least one Dremel rotary tool. I’m not a fanboy; I’m just a fan of tools that deliver. As for the Dremel Lite, the name says it all: it’s a light duty tool best suited for smaller bits, and smaller jobs and craft projects. If you’re a heavy rotary tool user, this is not a replacement for your corded unit.

Built-in collet wrench.
The Dremel Lite comes with a standard collet wrench. But there’s another one integrated into the screw-on nose cap. Honestly, its not as easy to use as the regular wrench, but it’s nice to have that option.

The internal 4V MAX lithium ion battery takes nearly 3 hours to charge and you’ll get around 30-45 minutes of use per charge in most situations. The motor also slows down as the battery drains. But it’s cordless and does an admirable job in the time you have; and that goes a long way towards a recommendation. Especially considering most small jobs will be done long before the battery dies.

Get the Dremel Lite 7760 variable speed 4-V Li-Ion rotary tool w/10 accessories for around $50

Buy Now - via The Home Depot

Get a Dremel 130-pc. rotary tool accessory kit under $35

Buy Now - via The Home Depot

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with Home Fixated in sponsored content. As a part of the sponsorship, Home Fixated is receiving compensation for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are our own words. This post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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4 thoughts on “How To Carve Rocks With a Dremel Lite Cordless Rotary Tool”

  1. I’d like to remove some very old soot from two long stones above and below my fireplace. I’ve used liquid products and they’ve gotten the first layers, but I’d like to remove the rest so that the stone looks “clean.” The stones are each 6″ tall by 36″ wide and the soot I want to remove is in spots. Is this a good dremel for this purpose; if not, suggestions? Thanks so much.

  2. Steve might want to add,to use water every few seconds 15 -30
    At least Steve is on the internet and knows what he’s doing I have one.but I would of bought it..hope this and Steve.


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