How to Use a Dremel to Cut Metal

A dremel is used to cut through a metal screw

There are a variety of different tools you can use to cut metal. Some tools are relatively simple to use while other metal cutting tools are more complicated and dangerous. One common tool that a lot of homeowners and project goers have is a dremel, and this tool can be used to cut metal.

Can a Dremel Cut Metal?

With the right attachments, a Dremel can cut all kinds of metal, ranging from sheet metal to aluminum. This versatile handheld tool creates power with a spinning rotary shaft with a cutting or grinding tool affixed to the tip.

A dremel is used to cut through a metal screw

Metal Types a Dremel Can Cut

As a general rule, sheet metal refers to steel, either galvanized or stainless. This metal is safe to cut with most commercially available cutting tools such as Dremel attachments. With the same cutting tools and safety gear, you can also safely cut copper. 

For example, a Dremel is a great tool to use for cutting through a galvanized pipe.

However, if you're working on hardware and the grinding doesn't seem to be making any headway, do not force it. Cutting some hardened steel hardware needs more power or a bigger bit than can be found for a Dremel.

If you don't know the material you're working with, stop and reassess your project.

Different Kinds of Dremel Cuts for Metal

A Dremel can be used for a wide array of tasks, ranging from cutting to grinding to polishing. When it comes to working with metal, the same applications apply:

Cutting

If you're cutting sheet metal and can't make the cut with a hand tool, a Dremel rotary tool can do the job. The cutting wheel designed to cut metal will likely be a spinning disk that sits flat at the end of the shaft.

Simply open the jaws or clamp to accept the shaft, insert it and turn it on. The spinning disk will provide a cutting edge perpendicular to the handle.

Grinding

To grind out metal will require a grinding tip. These cone shaped tips have tiny flutes or a heavy duty stone coatings shaped like a cone designed to widen holes.

A grinding Dremel tip is a useful tool for expanding holes in existing hardware or countersinking a screw hole for a flat finish when joining two pieces of metal together.

Polishing

Whether you're cutting sheet metal into different sizes or altering a hole size, both cutting and grinding tools can leave jagged edges behind. Even if you're careful, a sheet metal cut can leave a nasty wound.

​Your Dremel kit will likely come with barrel-shaped polishing tools. Before you're done with your metal cutting project, insert a polishing tool into the Dremel and grind off the burrs left on the metal.

Dremel Safety for Cutting Metal

First of all, Dremel rotary tools are designed to cut and will thoroughly cut whatever is in front of them. This includes fingers and workbenches.

Whether you're cutting sheet metal or grinding out hardware, make sure you've got the piece you're working on clamped in place so you have both hands free to manage the Dremel.

While these are very small tools, they can buck or bounce back off the surface of what you're cutting, and having two hands available will protect you from a dangerous situation.

Safety Gear

If you've never used a Dremel tool before, make sure to invest in and use the proper protective devices, including

  • protective eyewear to reduce the risk of metal splinters and fragments near your eyes
  • chatter-resistant gloves
  • ear protection
  • ​respirator or dust mask
  • long pants
  • shoes that completely cover your feet
  • a shirt that fits close to the body

Any time you cut metal you will be dealing with tiny shards or scraps of hot waste material. If you're wearing shorts and sandals, you may not notice where these hot pieces of metal are going until they land on your bare skin, either on your feet and legs or down the front of a loose-fitting shirt.

As such, wear pants and shoes. Chatter-resistant gloves are a good investment if you'll be using the tool long-term. Make sure they fit snugly and can protect you from hot metal.