Category : General Crafts

What do those Dremel bits do? Well I’ll tell ya!

Yeah, I’m an overachiever.

I originally thought I could fit all of my notes from Jill Timm‘s class, The Amazing Dremel, into one blog post.


I did not take into account how many notes I took during the workshop. In fact, my table neighbor at the workshop teased me for two days on how many notes I took.

My plan is to split the information into three blog posts:

Please note that this post only focuses on what the bits look like and what they do. Oh, and the bits mentioned are the only ones that we used in the workshop – we didn’t use any routing bits. Sorry.

That said, let’s talk Dremel bits.

I think that one of the things that both attracted me and freaked me out about the Dremel was its huge buffet of accessories. The packages are labeled by use, but it still seemed like gibberish to me. Jill created the perfect environment for overcoming my Dremel fear.

You can read about my class in the following blog posts:

This post is in no way meant to replace the total awesomeness of taking Jill Timm’s class. I benefited so much from hearing Jill’s experiences and seeing her work in person. If I had bought a Dremel and experimented with it on my own, most likely I would have never tried it on the range of materials that we did in class.

Jill recently announced that she’s taking her Dremel class on the road and would love to be scheduled by your group. I highly recommend the class if you have a chance to attend.

The main categories of bits, according to Dremel, include the following:

  1. Carving & Engraving
  2. Sanding
  3. Cutting
  4. Grinding & Sharpening
  5. Cleaning & Polishing

These categories are pretty consistent among other manufacturers of rotary tool accessories, so you can often find alternatives if you shop around. Carving & Engraving I used two different types of bits that fall into the carving & engraving category – diamond bits and high speed cutters.

Diamond bits can be used with the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Bookboard
  • Ceramic tile
  • Glass
  • Mirror
  • Steel

High speed cutters can be used with the following materials:

  • Bookboard
  • Linoleum
  • Polymer clay
  • Wood


Sanding involves two different parts – the drum and the sanding band. Sanding bands come in different grits, just like sheets of sandpaper.

To use the sanding band, you simply slide it over the drum. Replace it when it wears out. Easy peasy.

Attaching a Dremel sanding band

Dremel sander ready to use

Sanding bits can be used with the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Bookboard
  • Plexiglass
  • Polymer clay
  • Wood


There are different types of cutting wheels for different materials.

Abrasive cutting wheels can be used with the following materials:

  • Bookboard
  • Plexiglass
  • Wood

Fiberglass cutting wheels can be used with the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Bookboard
  • Ceramic tile
  • Wood

To use a cutting wheel, you have to attach it a mandrel.

Unscrew the tiny screw on top of the mandrel and remove one of the washers.

Attaching Dremel cutting wheel

Slide the wheel onto the screw, then add the second washer. Attach the screw to the mandrel base and tighten.

Attached Dremel cutting wheel

Replace the wheel it when it wears out.

Grinding & Sharpening

Grinding and sharpening stones are made of two basic materials: silicon carbide (green bits) and aluminum oxide (brown, orange, pink, or grey bits). You may have noticed that some of my grinding stones are oddly-shaped. This is because the stones wear out with use. You can reshape your grinding stones using a dressing stone.

Orange stones can be used with the following materials:

  • Ceramic tile
  • Glass
  • Mirror
  • Steel

Blue/green and pink stones can be used with the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Ceramic tile
  • Glass
  • Mirror

Cleaning & Polishing

Felt polishing wheels and cones are used in combination with polishing compound.

To use a polishing felt, you have to attach it a mandrel (different from the cutting wheel mandrel). The felt has a tiny hole in the center of it – you screw the mandrel into the hole to attach it.

Attaching Dremel felt polisher

Attached Dremel felt polisher, ready to use

Felt polishing wheels and cones can be used with the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Ceramic tile
  • Glass
  • Mirror

For further reference, you can check out Dremel’s website for information on all of their attachments. Even better though, is this very sexy poster: Dremel Accessories Guide Poster. We got one of these posters from Jill in our workshop packet.

I can’t decide if I want to hang it in my studio…

Stowe Street Arts Festival

Today I am breathing a big sigh of relief.

For the past several months, I’ve been working as a consultant for the Stowe Street Arts Festival in Waterbury, Vermont. This was the first time that I’d worked on an art show where I didn’t exhibit. For weeks, I’ve worried about the fact that our weather has been rainy for most of the summer.

Yesterday was the big day.

And it was fabulous!

Lots of people showed up for a day of full of art. There were no major catastrophes and no rain all day long – thank you masters of weather, wherever you are. You made the artists very very happy. And me. I was happy too.

There were lots of reasons to be happy about yesterday. One of them is that I bought a painting for my studio. I should let it be known that I am really picky about what I hang on my walls. That would explain why most of the walls in my home are bare. My poor husband. I fell in love with this painting by Tally Groves the moment I saw it. It is now mine.

Oil painting by Tally Groves

The most interesting part of the story is that it turns out that Tally and I both went to the same graduate school – Lesley University. More specifically, we both attended the same program and have Master’s degrees in Expressive Therapies from Lesley. A bit of serendipity there.

Of course, I can’t ignore the similarity between the painting and my business logo.

Blue Roof Designs logo

What can I say – there’s comfort in the familiar.

Stick Painting with Andie Thrams

There’s more to the Focus on Book Arts conference than the daily workshops – there’s an opening reception, a keynote speech, an artist marketplace, a vendor fair, a faculty-staff exhibit, and Hospitality Night – a time for conference attendees to share their work.

In addition to all of that goodness, at lunchtime there were informal demonstrations on three of the conference days. On Friday, I attended a stick painting demonstration with Andie Thrams.

Andie Thrams

No, we did not paint sticks. Instead of paintbrushes, we used sticks to apply paint. It sounds strange, but was actually quite an elegant process. Andie explained that the longer the stick, the “grander the gesture”.

Don’t use brittle sticks because they tend to crumble. When you paint, move from the shoulder – treat the stick like an extension of your arm. Sticks absorb ink the longer you work with them, which can help improve the flow.

When you use this technique, you are creating somewhat uncontrolled work that will be similar to the chaotic patterns in nature. You use this technique on watercolor paper. If you work dry on wet, you get more definition and precision. If you work wet on wet, you get freer and blurrier lines. You can either brush the water on your paper or use a spray bottle.

For variety, you can also apply layers of methyl cellulose paste mixed with dry pigment or acrylic paint to your paper.

You can use any type of ink for this process, just add ox gall to your ink to help it flow better. Always pour your ink into a separate container so that you don’t contaminate your main source.

You don’t want stick bits floating in your bottle, now do you?

Stick painting with Andie Thrams

Stick painting with Andie Thrams

As soon as Andie asked for volunteers, I jumped at the chance. Here’s my piece:

Stick painting

Oh yeah, I’m a beginner. Super-blobby-blurriness going on in the middle there. But I’m actually pretty psyched about some of the dry work. Painting with the stick was awkward at first, but then started to feel more natural. If I were to do this again, I would use a spray bottle instead of brushing water on.

I’ll leave you with this great comment from Andie:

If you think about a pencil or a brush – we’re all just working with sticks.

The Amazing Dremel with Jill Timm – Day 2

Day two at the Focus on Book Arts conference is now over. Well, not quite – right now I’m listening to Peter Thomas and Jim Croft doing a duet on a harmonica/ukulele and trombone, respectively.

Today was day 2 of The Amazing Dremel with Jill Timm. The day progressed much like it had yesterday. Jill would do a demonstration, then we would have the opportunity to practice what we had learned. Thankfully, I was much more relaxed with Stan today.

More from the “E Series”:

I think my favorite material from today is the ceramic tile. You can remove the gloss from the tile to reveal the matte color underneath, then you can drill further to access the clay base.

My least favorite – plexiglass. Blech, blech, superblech. Jill told us that plexi gets more interesting when you use a thicker piece. That may be true, but my piece from today looked like I dragged it out in the road.

Working with steel was a wacky experience. It was hea-vy – about 3/8″ thick, which doesn’t sound like much but it was substantial. We put some rust goo on it yesterday and set the pieces outside overnight. Today our steel was covered in rusty goodness. When you use the Dremel on steel, sparks fly.

Seriously, sparks fly. Be careful.

Here’s the “E Series” in it’s entirety:

We made simple books using a Zutter Bind-it-All. We used 2 pieces of bookboard for the covers and CD sleeves for the pages. We could store each of our samples in one of the CD sleeves – pretty cool idea. The last CD sleeve houses a small book we used for recording tips learned while working with each material. The book should prove useful for reference in future projects.

Unfortunately, the book isn’t big enough for all of my samples and I need to do some more work on it.

I’m sad that my workshop is over. Jill Timm is a fabulous teacher – very patient and kind. I would take another class with her in a heartbeat. As a nerdly side note, I had Jill sign my Dremel manual. If it weren’t for her, then Stan would never have come into my life.

Dear Stan, I love you. I’m sorry you have to go home in a UPS box and not on a plane with me. Don’t hate me. Love, Elissa

Trip to Arch Art Supply

Arch Art Supply - exterior

The very first stop on my bookbinding-focused trip to San Francisco was Arch Art Supply. The San Francisco Center for the Book (another stop on my trip – details in a future post) recommended Arch as a good source for papers.

We arrived shortly after 9:00 a.m. and were the first ones in the store. The folks there were really nice – they knew how to be helpful without hovering around while you fondle papers…just my type of staff. There’s something cool about being the only person in an art supply store – it’s like it’s all yours…

So I didn’t buy as much paper as I had anticipated, but I’m pretty happy with my haul. These tissues are really lightweight and the colors are so vibrant. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask what country they’re from…does anyone know? It’s important to me to know where my papers are made. I might just have to give those Arch folks a call and see if I can describe the papers…

Tissue papers

I also got these really nifty metallic papers – and I’m not really a metallic girl. I just loved the textures on them.

Metallic papers from Taiwan

I did ask about the origin of these papers – they are machine made in Taiwan, made of wood pulp and recycled paper. The papers above are called (from left to right):

The coolest part of the trip was discovering that they still had Gocco supplies in stock at reasonable prices. 5-packs of B6 screens and 10-packs of bulbs were under $16.00 a piece – much cheaper than the going rate at most retailers. They also had a variety of inks for under $4.00 a tube, along with some other supplies. I bought 4 tubes of pearly inks and 3 packs of ink block (sorry – I bought all they had out). They did not have a lot of supplies left so if you are in the SF and are looking for supplies, go soon! They may not last for long.

Vermont Open Studio Weekend – Montpelier Watershed Artists

Vermont Open Studio Weekend logoThe last bunch of artists I’d like to give exposure to for Vermont’s upcoming Open Studio Weekend are the Montpelier Watershed Artists. This is my home crew – if I were participating, I’d be working with this great group of folks to get the word out.

The Montpelier Watershed Artists are offering 11 artist studios/galleries with exhibits and demonstrations of demonstrations of pottery, jewelry, sculpting, weaving, photography, rug hooking, and more.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the Vermont Studio Tour Guide 2009. There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

Here’s the rundown of who’s who in the Montpelier Watershed Artists (click on the links to learn more about specific artists):

Luckily, these studios are close to each other either. You can visit quite a few studios within a short period of time.

My sweet little orb

Last Friday I went to the Artisans Hand Craft Gallery annual winter sale, as I mentioned in this post. I got there in the afternoon and had already missed the early day rush.

As I sifted through the handmade treasures, I found a basket full of orbs made by Alan Paschell, a ceramicist from Calais, Vermont. I’m not one who is easily won over by quotes, but I couldn’t resist the one I discovered.

Alan Paschell ceramic orb

Everywhere I have sought rest and not found it, except sitting in a corner by myself with a little book. — Thomas A. Kempis

Well, as a bookbinder, I just can’t say it any better than that. The orb is now mine.

Is Yudu the new Gocco?

As I mentioned in this post, I am newbie owner of a PG-5 Gocco machine.

Gocco is a self-contained screen printing unit. You can use it to both burn master screens and to make your prints. It’s damn nifty. I wanted one forever. I got one. Life was good.

Then Amanda at PaperLust rocked my world today. I read on her blog to find out that just this week, Provo Craft unveiled its new Yudu personal screen printer.

In fact, the Yudu just became available for sale today exclusively on the Home Shopping Network. They’re selling the machine today for $279.95 with free shipping and handling.

So just what is this Yudu thingie? Well, it does essentially the same thing that a Gocco does, with some interesting differences:

  1. Gocco screens measure 3.75″ x 5.75″ for the B6 and 6.5″ x 9″ for the B5, while the Yudu 110 mesh screens measure 11″ x 14″.
  2. When you burn a screen on a Gocco machine, the bulbs are not reusable. The Yudu has a built-in light box so you can reuse the same bulbs for additional screens.
  3. Gocco screens are pre-treated with emulsion, whereas the Yudu screens come without it. You have to manually apply an emulsion sheet each time you burn a screen.
  4. Gocco screens are not reusable for new images. Yudu screens are reusable – you can clean off the emulsion and reuse the screen for a completely new image.
  5. To burn an image into a Gocco screen you must use a carbon-based image. For the Yudu, you don’t. You can print your image on a transparency directly from your inkjet printer.
  6. Using the Gocco, you apply ink to your screen and then print directly from the machine by opening and closing the top. With the Yudu, you have to use a squeegee to print your image.

So what is my problem? Well, I just spent way too much stocking up on supplies for my Gocco (which I haven’t yet used). While I feel it was a worthwhile investment, I am oh-so-easily distracted by shiny new things. And goofy product names.

Other than that, this Yudu dealie looks interesting. It’s brand spanking new, so there’s no way I’d buy it hot off the press, so to speak. Plus I still need to use and kill off the supplies I already have for my Gocco. The Yudu seems like it has potential for the future.

However, I’d like to be sure of a few things:

  1. The kinks have been worked out.
  2. It has longevity as a product.
  3. It has good reviews from users.
  4. There’s a wide variety of ink colors and accessories readily available.
  5. It’s affordable.

Of course, none of this stopped me from getting a Gocco, even knowing that they weren’t making machines or supplies for them anymore.

I showed the Yudu video to my hubby when he came home from work today and he had an interesting comment. Yudu’s light box uses bulbs that are a standard size that can be bought in any hardware store. He pointed out that the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has effectively banned the production of  incandescent bulbs by 2014. There are some exceptions to the ban, but he suggested that it might be worthwhile to find out what kind of bulbs are used by the Yudu before getting sucked into another Gocco fiasco. Wise words.

If you’re interested in more information about the Yudu, there’s a really interesting conversation going on in the Etsy forums. A rep from Provo Craft is involved has been very open in answering everyone’s questions.

You can also watch demo videos on YouTube. I’m fond of the following video, where I learned that one should think long and hard about consuming champagne while demonstrating a new product.

Just say no.

Artisans Hand annual winter sale

Artisans Hand logoAs I’ve mentioned before, Artisans Hand Craft Gallery, located in Montpelier, VT, holds a special place in my heart – it was the very first gallery to sell my handmade books. The gallery exclusively features work created by Vermont artisans, which is great. All of the folks there are so sweet and it’s clear that they value the work and the artists they represent.

Starting on Friday, January 30th and lasting through February 8th is Artisans Hand’s annual winter sale (just in time for Valentine’s Day shopping). The sale offers items from 10% – 20% off, with each artist setting their own discount.

All of my work in the gallery will be offered at 20% off during the sale. As an added attraction, artists have brought in their seconds, experiments, and discontinued pieces and are offering them at discount prices during the sale. I brought 8 photo albums to the gallery today, mostly orphans from discontinued styles.

Being an exhibitor at the gallery has its perks – I got a sneak preview of the work that has been submitted by other artisans. I already have 2 pieces of work by Jean Meinhardt and was drooling at some large vases she had brought in…I already have a small vase and methinks he wants an older brother. Her glazes are really lovely.

I plan to be at the sale on opening day – hope to see you there!

Keep your hands off my vase.

Artisans Hand Craft Gallery
89 Main Street, City Center
Montpelier, VT 05602
(802) 229-9492

Artrider Holiday Crafts Park Avenue Show wrap up

I know it’s been a month since I did the Artrider Holiday Crafts Park Avenue Show, but I still felt it was worthy of a wrap-up.

Load-in starts at 6:00 a.m. at the Lexington Avenue Armory. We usually drive overnight to get to Manhattan at the start of load-in.

That night was spectacularly crappy as we left during a pretty bad snowstorm in Vermont. My husband Chris did the evil snow driving which was good, except that it left me distraction-free for freaking out. I asked several times if we could turn around and go home – it wasn’t worth getting killed for a craft show. Chris kept calm and told me that everything was fine. Luckily, we made it to New York safely.

New York City parking permit

After waiting in line for about 20 minutes, we decided that we’d be better off parking and hauling everything in by hand. I was bummed to not be able to drive our van into the freight elevator, which is one of the few enjoyable moments of load-in. We got a nice parking spot just near one of the doors and we were given a parking permit to put on our windshield so that we wouldn’t get a ticket. We found the permit amusing as it stated that we had a “permit to conduct street activity”.

We took that to mean that if we were desperate for cash on the last day of the show, we could start a mime act and put out a hat for donations.

It didn’t take us long to haul everything into the armory and as you can see in the image above, not many people had arrived yet. The weather was the big topic of discussion – that and the fact that the bagel dude hadn’t shown up yet and where the hell was he?

Chris and I set up the booth for a few hours then popped over to a friend’s apartment for a power nap. A few hours later I was back in the booth. Somehow I managed to get everything done early…it’s much more my style to still be running around the booth during the first hour a show is open.

It always amazes me how the armory transforms into such a beautiful space over such a short period of time. As I mentioned in this post, the show is just so darn sparkly. I am honored to have shown my work in the presence of some truly amazing artists.

Here are two of my favorites:

  • Joan Dulla: I can’t stop raving about her wonderful crocheted wire work. It just left me breathless. She had this fabulous wire basket that incorporated shredded currency – loved it loved it loved it!
  • Nancy Nicholson:  A great booth neighbor and amazing stained glass artist. Nancy’s panels present a romantic, nostalgic view of urban landscape and architecture. I’ve never seen anything else like it.

Sadly, the batteries in my camera died before I was able to get a shot of the “Craft Show Carcass”, always one of my favorite shots (see this post). However, my husband did take a shot of me in the booth during the show…I think is the first picture I’ve had taken of me in the booth.

Elissa Campbell in the Blue Roof Designs craft show booth

Thankfully, we had an uneventful ride home after the show closed on Sunday. I wish I could say the same for my stomach after the awful Indian food we ate before we left.

Note to self: Ask about spice level BEFORE ordering. Duh.

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