Wednesday, March 21, 2012

10 Things I have learned; Dremel Edition

While learning to use my dremel today I learned:

1) Dremels don't have to be scary. I have come to the conclusion (actually, came to, several years ago) that the man who did the first workshop I ever saw, using one of these tools, was a particular breed. A gods-damned idiot. And its no wonder he ended up needing stitches.

2) The bits that came with my dremel are completely worthless.

3) The bits that came with the dremel bits box I purchased are slightly less useless, but really aren't made for what I'm doing with them.

4) One of the local birds knows the opening bars to 'Three Blind Mice'

5) My dremel is extremely low powered.

6) No matter how low powered it is, my dog is still terrified of it.

7) Fresh cambium from a juniper gunks up the bit FAST.

8) None of the bits I have are very helpful on live bark. They work, but peeling that part off by hand (for now) seems to be more time effective for me.

9) No matter how low powered it is, it still takes off deadwood and hardwood faster than I do by hand. This is neither positive nor negative on its own, but could be either depending on what I'm trying to do...

10) While not powerful, I like the multiple speed settings on a smooth functioning dial that I can change with my thumb while working.

General thoughts:
The dremel is a tool. It is neither better than nor worse than doing deadwood by hand. It has pros and cons, and I am certain that some of the cons I'm encountering will improve with a) practice and/or b) appropriate bits.

Generally, I like the work I do on freshly stripped wood better with a knife and several different pliers. I'm more familiar with this sort of wood working, since I had someone teach me wittling at a young age and never really gave it up completely. I can feel the weakness and strenth in the grain of the wood, and know where it will peel easily (i.e. would have rotted naturally first anyway) and where it's going to give me grief. This gives me a very realistic bit of deadwood on my smaller trees and on smaller jin on larger trees. What this is exceedingly time consuming on is large areas of freshly carved wood.... and on existing deadwood.

Enter the dremel. I was very pleased with what I could do on existing deadwood with this thing once I got the hang of it. It is really easy to try to let the grain of the wood dictate where the dremel ought to go; with disasterous results. Once I developed a firmer hand I had an easier time of it. My artistry with the dremel is low, something I know will improve with practice. The dremel also gives a smoother finish than my previous methods, which opens up a more weathered deadwood look than I can get with my hand tools, without waiting a season or two for actual weather to take its toll on the exposed wood and smooth things out. It will become, I think, an essential tool for me when working on existing deadwood, as my usual method is not very effective on that work at *all* and I have thus far avoided doing any serious work on areas of pre-existing shari on any of my bonsai, limiting myself instead to working on newly formed deadwood areas. This opens up work on several pieces of stock I have been stumped on for the last couple of years. Which is extremely satisfying.

I have an enormous way to go with learning the limits of what I can do with this tool. I kept the work on the deadwood today relatively limited, and used a combination of knife, pliers (three sizes and types)and the dremel. I will start doing more research on better bits for this, though for now I am content with the low power, rechargeable dremel I have; spending a lot on something more powerful now would just be silly until I know just how far I can work with this one.

The deadwood on the learning tree as I'm calling it, is actually on what I intend to be the back of this juniper. I spent some time playing on some dead branches from a cherry we'd taken down in the yard last year, but it wasn't really the same by any stretch.

There is still a lot of 'fur' left over from working with the dremel, another 'con' that I'm not accustomed to. I know I can burn this off, but I'm going to wait until I do some of the foliage work I intend to do tomorrow, so I know what I need to protect and can save myself some time. There is still more work to do, and I didn't do anything deep or drastic, but I'm content enough for now, just getting used to the feeling of the tool in my hands.