TOOLS Making a Better Dremel Buffing Wheel

Desiree's stitched polyester felt buffing wheel


Anita's stitchless cotton buffing wheel


While I thought my main buffing tool was a Foredom bench model, I find, more and more that I'm favoring my variable speed Dremel for its convienence, extreme portability and increased suitability for doing small to modest sized items like beads and pendants. IMHO, the key drawback with my Dremel, however, had been it's tiny cloth buffing wheel, a thin little disc that's about 3/8th inch thick and 1 inch in diameter. The area that actually touches the item to be buffed was very small - too small for my needs. Dremel's cloth wheel was also a bit too course for polymer clay. Which is understandable since it was not designed with polymer clay in mind.

On the page Make a Better Dremel Spindle, I describe how I made a spindle to accommodate holding more than one Dremel cloth buffing wheel. On this page, I want to share with you how I made a superior (IMHO) buffing system. I didn't think this one up, Becca Crauswell did (the 'angel'), who told a wonderful email friend who suggested I try making one. So I did! In fact, I made two. Then I tested my new buffing system on some unfinished polyclay eggs I had laying about. (heh heh)

I must say I've buffed/buffed for quite a few years using various methods and machines, including a Foredom bench buffer with a cotton wheel, not to be confused with the slightly courser muslin wheel. The trick is the polyester felt. It produces a wonderful shine in at least a 1/3 - 1/4 of the time. I highly recommend trying this, if you can. I went from liking my Dremel to loving it and wanting to buff anything in site. (OK, I was a little excited in the beginning.) And for those who have not buffed before, keep in mind you need to do a good sanding job first or no amount of buffing will help.

Don't get me wrong, I also find my Foredom bench buffer to be great. I use both appliances. But that blasted Dremel is so darn convenient. I find I use it most of the time. Plus, because I can make the wheels any size I want.

Below are instructions for two different types of buffing wheels:

Desiree's stitched polyester felt

Here's what I used:

  • a square foot of polyester felt (make sure it's not wool felt - regular wool felt is too coarse). Make sure it's soft and at least 3/16 inch thick ). For sources, try thefeltpeople - thickfelts (Durafelt) or talk to the nice folks at Nancys Sewing Basket.
  • OR some possible alternatives to felt (any of these need to be tightly woven)
    • a nice soft piece tightly woven aged denim
    • sweat pants or shirts
    • you get the idea ;-)
  • scissors
  • a 1" - 1.5" diameter circle template
  • a way to stitch (preferably a sewing machine)
  • 1" long spindle (click Make a Better Dremel Spindle, for how to make your own)
  • felt marker
1) Using your circle template, mark 1.5 inch diameter circles on the polyester felt. Cut them out as precisely as possible. I usually stitch 4 circles to make one wheel and join three wheels on that modified wood screw, so I'll cut out 12 circles.
2) Stack 4 circles on top of each other.    
3) With a felt marker, make a spot dead center in the top circle. Make a hexagonal outline and a 5pt star outline on the top felt circle. Stitch along those outlines. Since the felt material is so soft, the stiffer and stronger you can make the wheel's core, the better. This outline pattern stitching provides minimal reinforcement for the wheel. More stitching within the hexagonal outline can make it stronger.    

4) Trim as best as possible with scissors. I usually make 3 sets and stack them together. With the type of felt I use, this buffing wheel lasts me at least a year, depending on how much I buff, of course.

Note 1: These directions are for a wheel that can be mounted on a hand held rotary tool like a Dremel. I suspect you can cut out larger circles for making a buffing wheel that would fit on a bench buffer. But don't make the wheels that you'll use on the Dremel any larger than 1.5" or you'll overwork the motor and shorten its life.

Note 2: Another method is to cut out squares instead of circles; about 1.5" square in size. Stagger their positions so 3-4 squares stacked on top of each other looks like a 12-16 point star. Why a star? It spins cooler, which is better for polymer clay.

You'll need to stitch the set in the center area to make sure they remain staggered. Make 2-3 of those sets. Caution - make sure the squares aren't too big. If you hear the motor pitch is lower when running, the wheel is too big and is overloading the motor. Trim the squares a bit to reduce the workload.

Anita's stitchless cotton sheet

I cut several approx. 2" diameter circles from a 600 thread count satin cotton sheet (it's very soft and dense at the same time), stacked them on top of each other, folded the stack over a Dremel sanding bit (the one that looks like a little drum...???), ...and tied a wire around underneath the "drum". When you turn on the Dremel, the cloth disks spread out like an umbrella and do a great job buffing. Sometimes I use the upper half (where the cloth is pulled over the "drum") for removing small imperfections. But I do not like sewing and tried to rig the cloth this way, and it seems to work great.
I considered Anita's technique so clever, I asked her if I could include it in this tute. Since I haven't tried it yet, you will need to direct any questions about it to her via her Esty store.

Want some buffing tips? Click here.

Still don't care to make your own little buffing wheels? Widget Supply has what you might be looking for. Click here.

Last update to this page: 4 Jul 07. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.