Butterfly carving on slate

This is my first ever effort at engraving or carving with a rotary (Dremel type) grinder. This is not a tool I have used in my professional career but I am intrigued by the possibility of creating small craft projects on natural stone without the need for a large workshop or a lot of equipment. I planned this piece very much as as a practice run with no expectation of having anything worthwhile at the end. The video below is a record of how I got on. I hope you enjoy it!

The Diamond Burrs.

The finished butterfly was not my best piece of work ever, I clearly need more practice, not only with the grinder itself but also with the diamond burrs. The tools used with the grinder are called Burrs. They are available in a huge range of shapes and grit size. I found that towards the end of this project I was changing the diamond burrs more frequently as I started to learn what each shape of tool would do.

Design for Engraving

I drew up the image of the Butterfly on Corel Draw from scratch.
I found many of the smaller details very difficult to carve. The next time I create a drawing for engraving I will try to give more thought to the design of the detail work to better suit the tools.

I find it very useful to draw up artwork on Corel draw as it is simple to revise and re-size images to suit the size of the stone you are engraving. If you do not have or use a drawing App, or you are simply a talented artist who likes to sketch by hand, make sure you make a copy of your drawings before using as a mask or template. When printing out, many word type programs will allow you to re-size the drawing.

Practice, practice, practice!

At first I struggled to find the best way to hold the grinder itself. There are for instance essentially two ways to grip the tool, “pen fashion” which feels the most natural way, and what I can only describe as “overhand”. Basically gripping the body of the tool in your fist.

I found that each way works well for different ways of working, for small detailed work the pen fashion seems to feel right. For deeper heavy duty cutting the overhand method is best. One issue i found with the overhand method was that the tools spindle-lock got in the way. The spindle clattering on the pin as I inadvertently pressed the button. However as I practiced this became less of a problem.

Carving Welsh Slate

Slate can be a lovely material to carve. In terms of hardness it falls somewhere between Sandstone and Marble. However the very fine grain makes for sharp edges and clean lines. The big disadvantage of carving slate is it’s tendency to flake. This is a result of the laminated nature of slate.

However, we don’t need to restrict ourselves to slate, think of the possibilities, we are surrounded by small stones, rocks tiles and pebbles.

Will I carry on carving?

I really enjoyed doing this, although I clearly need to practice there is a simplicity to working with this method. Someone more talented than me could simply pick up any piece of stone, sit at a bench and start carving.

I am looking forward to my next effort. I will try to plan something that will improve my tool handling skills. The problem will be deciding what to do, the possibilities seem boundless!

Rotary grinding tool, the big attraction.

This Rotary grinding tool has already proved to be a really useful addition to my workshop. Not only for engraving and carving stone, I find it is the “go to” tool for many small tasks, cutting grinding and polishing small and difficult to hold items.

But the big attraction is the ability to craft small stone items. Since obtaining this tool find that I am always casting about for interesting pebbles slate chippings and rocks. I have already have a tidy collection of potential pendants, candle holders, paperweights etc. all just waiting patiently for my skills to catch up with my ideas!

If you fancy a go at this craft I urge you to buy a rotary grinder and have a go! I promise you it is great fun and very rewarding.

However, as always with Lidl’s tools there is a problem, you almost certainly cannot buy this particular tool, unless you are very lucky with your timing, it probably won’t be on sale in the shop! The most well know of this kind of tool is Dremel. There are however plenty of other types of rotary grinding tool available in places such as eBay and Amazon and you don’t have to invest a fortune!

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I apprenticed at the age of 15 as an ecclesiastical marble mason and have worked in the stone trade for 52 years. I have Made headstones in marble, worked on ancient monuments as a restoration stonemason, made marble and stone fireplaces and specialised for twenty years as a stone engraver. I am now retired but am active in making videos and advice articles about natural stone and engraving.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thank you for your explanation of the dremel tool.

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