Review: Jill Timm’s Dremel Class

After this weekend’s class, I’m convinced that every artist needs a Dremel tool. And every Dremel tool user needs a class from Jill Timm. In the two-and-a-half day class Jill led us through the mechanics of using a Dremel to cut, grind, dig, emboss, deboss, drill, sand, polish, buff and trim using the tool.

The wood tool box filled with tools was part of the class fee. (Tweezers, blue tool box and Dremel not included)

A large number of materials lend themselves to Dremel use. We tried skills on a surprisingly wide range of materials:

  • glass
  • mirror
  • plexiglass
  • steel
  • brass
  • ceramic tile
  • floor tile (linoleum)
  • wood
  • book board
  • polymer clay
  • Jill is organized and had the activities planned out ahead of time. The class was offered through Tucson’s (AZ) Paper Works, a  group of artists dedicated to book arts and paper. Jill is a book artist based in Wenatchee, Washington, who “creates limited edition books that celebrate the spirit and aesthetics of the natural environment,” according to her website. She is straightforward, eager, and always ready to help participants learn as well as share their own experiences.

    Jill Timm (left), shows her books. Bobbie Wilson (using 3-D classes) enjoys Jill's 3-D book, while Val Bembenek (in white top) and Lynne Carnes wait to use the glasses.

    We started working with glass, which got us over the fears of breaking and damage. Not one piece of glass was broken by any of the 16 class participants as we ground down the edges and etched in patterns using 5 or 6 diamond bits. Jill provided bold, simple patterns to use. Some chose to use their own preplanned designs or freehand sketches. Amazing detail is possible with diamond bits. Once you are finished with the Dremel, Jill showed us how to  paint the glass as well, either in the cut portion or on the reverse side.

    Mabel Dean's collection of tiles, all using a self-made design.

    We then moved to linoleum and wood. Jill demo’d using different bits for different results on the surfaces, and gave us additional information on the materials–woodgrain, hard v. soft wood and linoleum types. Enthusiastic, high-speed drilling gummed up some of the bits, and Jill showed us how to clean up Dremel points. This problem-solving as we went along helped build confidence and enthusiasm for the next project.

    Mabel Dean used her designs as printing blocks–handmade wood  and linoleum print blocks. She did a demonstration of this on day 3 of the class, giving us a whole new use for the Dremel in art book creation. I discovered that using a cutting tool in a grinding position can cut into the linoleum edge, making it appropriate for paste  paper applications.

    Fine detail and bold writing combined on this tile by Lynda Abare.

    Ceramic tiles make a great base for Dremel art. A light touch etches the tiles, a more determined grip breaks away the glaze and reveals the ceramic core. Lynda Abare discovered that you can combine the light touch in the feather design and the bold touch in writing.

    On day 1, we pre-rusted some steel squares to use on day 3. While waiting for them to dry, we worked on plexiglass–which I discovered you can drill and screw together, sandwiching in mica or print to form a see-though page or journal cover. I discovered that it helps to start the hole with an awl, as a drill will slip on the glass (at least in the hand of an novice user) and move the hole’s position.

    Polymer clay can be drilled, stenciled, cut,  sanded, and dug into.  Using a Dremel cutter or drill, members of the class cut open portions into the polymer clay, embossed the surface and drilled holes.

    Participants' steel squares covered in oxidizing material.

    Brass is softer than steel, so the tools needed for art are different. Designs can be made using grinding tools, steel brushes and polishing tools. Jill demonstrated how each tool gave a different effect, then set us loose to make our own discoveries. Each time we went to our work stations, we returned with examples to share and results to show.

    Jill brought some of her own books for us to look at. She’s made complicated, cased books, 3-D books (including the glasses needed to see the pages come to life), and complex constructions. Jill has also made small, delicate books in complex cases. All worth seeing.

    Glass etched with diamond tools in various grades. Freehand design of imaginary seed pod by Quinn McDonald.

    The class was useful, interesting, stimulating, and in the best way, exhausting. I’ve taken classes (so have you) where you get bored and begin to drift off into chatting or doing your own work. Not here. I’ve seldom seen so little texting or email checking. Phones were being used as cameras here. Good choice. We made a lot of interesting items.

    If you were at the class and have posted photos on your site, please leave a link in the comments, or email them to me at QuinnCreative [at] yahoo [dot] com.

    See all the photos I took on my Flickr page.

    Quinn McDonald is the owner of QuinnCreative. She’s a writer, artist and certified creativity coach.