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Can You Use Dremel Bits in a Drill?

From carving to cutting and sanding to sharpening, there’s no shortage of tasks that you can complete with a rotary tool like a Dremel.

There are hundreds of different Dremel-branded or aftermarket accessories to choose from, and you can pick these up either individually or in bumper packs for a bit of a discount.

If you don’t yet own a rotary tool, though, or you’re finding it hard to justify the price of a new Dremel to tackle the odd bit of DIY here and there, it can be tempting to try and use these Dremel or generic rotary tool bits in your drill instead.

It’s a pretty logical thought process, too, what with how closely the round ‘shank’ of the average Dremel bit resembles the rounded end of a drill bit.

So, can you use Dremel bits in a drill?

While Dremel bits physically fit in drills, the lower RPM can result in a slower process, and poor quality finish. In addition, the drill’s size and weight can make precision working difficult, and its higher torque can damage bits, particularly on tough materials, leading to damage or injury.

It’s not all bad news, though.

While we view it as one of those DIY hacks that sounds great but ends up being more hassle than it’s worth, there are one or two situations where it can be a great way to save a bit of money on potentially expensive tools.

Can Dremel Bits Be Used in Drills?

As mentioned above, Dremel bits will physically fit in a drill.

That’s because the shank of a Dremel bit (i.e. the metal end that you insert into the tool) is very similar to the non-drilling end of a drill bit, as shown below:

an image showing a dremel bit and a drill bit side by side

Dremel tools use something called a ‘collet’ to hold the bit in place. It’s basically a nut that, when tightened, closes small arms that grip the Dremel bit in place, keeping it secure during use.

Each of Dremel’s accessory bits is designed to fit the standard 1/8″ collet or the optional 1/32″, 1/16″, and 3/32″ collets which sell separately.

On the other hand, Drills use what’s known as a chuck that you tighten in place to grip whatever bit you’re using.

an image showing a comparison between a drill chuck and a dremel collet for holding bits

The advantage of a chuck is that it typically opens and closes to a much larger extent than a collet, meaning you can use a variety of different sized items in your drill, whether that’s drill bits, Dremel bits, or even non-round accessories like screwdriver bits.

It doesn’t work in reverse, however. A Dremel’s collet is typically so small, and it doesn’t open or close to a large enough extent to allow you to insert perhaps more than one or two specific sizes of drill bit.

What Are the Advantages of Using Dremel Bits in a Drill?

From wanting to save money on yet another power tool to discovering that you’ve forgotten to charge your Dremel’s battery (again), it could just be that using your Dremel accessories in your drill isn’t such a whacky idea after all.

Here are a couple of advantages to using your Dremel-branded or generic rotary tool bits in your drill:

1. There Are Plenty of Bit Types Available

When it comes to drills, there is the odd specialist attachment that you can get, for example, a sanding or polishing pad, but the most common bits available are generic drill or screwdriver bits.

With rotary tools, however, there are literally hundreds of different bit types and accessories available to cover pretty much any task imaginable, for example:

  • Carving bits – high-speed cutters, etc.
  • Engraving bits – engraving cutters, etc.
  • Routing bits – corner rounding router bits, straight router bits, etc.
  • Grinding bits – aluminum oxide grinding wheels, silicon carbide grinding stones, etc.
  • Sharpening bits – chain saw sharpening stones, etc.
  • Cutting bits – carbide cutting wheels, diamond wheels, etc.
  • Cleaning bits – bristle brushes, brass brushes, etc.
  • Polishing bits – felt polishing wheels, polishing cloths, etc.
  • Sanding bits – sanding discs, carbide sanding bands, etc.
  • Drill bits – standard drill bits, brad point drill bits, etc.

Each of Dremel’s accessory bits are designed to fit the standard 1/8″ collet, or the optional 1/32″, 1/16″, and 3/32″ collets which are sold separately.

In each of these cases, the shank sizes are small enough to fit in a drill’s chuck, and so the bits will physically fit in your drill to open up the possibility of completing more tasks with one tool.

2. It Allows for Multi-Directional Working

With standard drill accessories, for example, drill bits or screwdriver bits, you’re typically working in a parallel (forward or reverse) direction to that bit, for example, when drilling into wood or inserting or removing a screw.

The same is true for some rotary tool bits, such as Dremel-specific drill bits or engraving bits, for example.

However, most rotary tool bits are designed to work perpendicular, or at 90-degrees, to the direction of the bit’s shank as shown below:

an image showing the typical backwards and forwards motion of a drill versus the perpendicular working direction of the typical dremel bit

By using Dremel bits in your drill, you open up the possibility of ‘sideways’ working, for example, cutting, sanding, polishing, that you wouldn’t be able to do without using these specially designed attachments.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Dremel Bits in a Drill?

No DIY hack is perfect, and unfortunately, swapping out a Dremel for your drill to save a bit of time or money is no exception.

There’s no denying that it opens up new possibilities thanks to the hundreds of different accessory bits available, but we’d argue that the drawbacks significantly outweigh the benefits.

Here are some of the key disadvantages:

1. It Can Be Slower

The main characteristic of rotary tools like the Dremel is their high-RPM output, and this is considerably higher than you’d get in a drill.

For example, the Dremel 4000 can achieve a maximum of 35,000 RPM versus the relatively tiny 1,750 RPM of the DEWALT DCD777C2 drill driver.

Because of this, it can take much longer to cut through materials or sand rougher timber, for example, than it would be using the appropriate rotary tool bit in a Dremel.

2. The Finish Usually Isn’t as Good

Another disadvantage of a drill’s lower RPM is that the quality of finish might not be as good as you could achieve when using a rotary tool.

For example, a higher RPM may be required for specific sanding tasks. By settling for the lower RPM of a drill instead of a rotary tool, you might not be able to remove as much material, leaving the surface rough or continuing to showing imperfections and defects that you can’t remove.

Cutting could also be an issue, and it may necessitate multiple passes with a drill that ultimately won’t look as clean as the single-pass you might be able to achieve with a Dremel.

3. Dremel Bits Can Break Easily

In addition to their high-RPM, Dremel tools, and rotary tools in general, or also notorious for having a low amount of torque (i.e. turning force).

Drills, on the other hand, have a much lower RPM but significantly higher torque.

For example, the DEWALT DCD777C2 drill driver mentioned previously has a torque of 500 in-lbs, versus only a fraction of that with the Dremel 4000.

The other thing to bear in mind is that Dremel bits can be notoriously brittle, and cheaper non-Dremel-branded alternatives can be particularly bad.

In some cases, even tightening the screw at the top of the bit holder ever so slightly too much can cause the cutting disc to snap, as shown below:

an image showing a broken dremel cutting disc

Because of this, the bits can easily break under the load of the drill, potentially damaging whatever you’re working on at best or causing injury at worst.

For this reason, using Dremel bits in a drill can be very dangerous, and it’s one of the main reasons we usually don’t recommend using them this way.

4. It Can Be Awkward and Unwieldy

If you’ve ever used a rotary tool, you’ll know that they’re generally pretty small.

They’re both short and narrow, and that’s what makes them so well-suited to precision tasks.

Because of this, the various bits and accessories are also on the small side. While these bits are well proportioned for use in something like a Dremel, they can appear minuscule next to even the smallest drill drivers.

It’s a combination of factors that makes using a Dremel bit in a drill particularly awkward and unwieldy.

First, the bits themselves typically have a pretty short shank (the bit that fits into the tool) which means they don’t extend very far past the end of the drill.

While this is fine in a Dremel given the smaller size of that tool’s collet (the part that holds the bit you’re using), the thicker diameter of a drill’s chuck can get in the way and forms the second major restriction, as shown below.

an image showing how the larger size of a drill chuck can prove restrictive when using dremel bits

It’s this combination of a short shank and thicker chuck that makes it particularly difficult when using cutting bits or any bit that requires a sideways action in your drill.

5. It Makes Precision Working Harder

The bodies of rotary tools are typically smaller and lighter, which makes them easier to manoeuvre and work with to allow for precision tasks to be completed.

For example, it isn’t uncommon for a drill to weigh more than twice as much as the average rotary tool.

Because of this, working on smaller projects can be much trickier with a drill, and you can cut, sand, or engrave off much more than you want if you aren’t careful and don’t have a steady hand.

Using Dremel Bits in a Drill – The Bottom Line

In summary, Dremel bits will physically fit in a drill, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a good combination.

As you can see above, the drawbacks significantly outweigh the benefits of using rotary tool bits in your drill.

Unfortunately, rotary tools like the Dremel typically operate at a much higher RPM, and the most likely outcomes of pairing a Dremel bit with a much slower drill are:

  • A project that takes much longer
  • A poor quality finish

Because of this, we wouldn’t recommend using a Dremel bit in a drill for larger projects or where the quality of finish is paramount.

There’s also a significant risk of injury or damage given the relatively brittle nature of rotary tool bits and the much higher torque output of a drill, and so considerable care and attention are needed, as well as the appropriate safety equipment.

Noting these drawbacks, we’d personally only use Dremel bits in a drill for smaller-scale DIY jobs or projects, and only in situations where we’re working on softer materials and applying less pressure to reduce the risk of breaking whichever bit we’re using.

If you have any particular questions or queries that you can’t find an answer to above, drop us a comment below, and we’ll do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.

Thanks, and good luck!

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Author: Jon Maxwell
Senior Writer, ToolCrowd
Jon Maxwell writes about various topics for ToolCrowd, including tool reviews, material advice, common home problems, and general DIY advice and how-to articles. His work has been published in national publications for audiences including consumers, homeowners, and industry experts. Jon has a bachelor's degree in Building Surveying and a master's degree in a branch of Civil Engineering focusing on concrete and steel durability. When he isn't writing for ToolCrowd, Jon enjoys completing DIY tasks in his own home, as well as woodworking in his home workshop, snowboarding, and website development. Contact Jonarrow_right_alt