An Affordable Start in Fossil Preparation
The Dremel® 290 is a fantastic, affordable way for a beginner to get started in fossil prep. No compressor required! The Dremel® 290 is a popular choice in fossil preparation. Amazing work can be done with an electric engraver, for a fraction of the price of air tools.
It's a brilliant way of finding out if you enjoy fossil preparation without the outlay in space and budget for a pneumatic kit. You can always upgrade to pneumatic tooling at a later stage, but we do find many of our customers who have gone on to purchase air tools, they often keep using their Dremel for specific jobs!
The standard Dremel® 290 is supplied with a stylus in the box, but you'll find that this is not suitable for fossil preparation. It's too fat, too small and the tungsten carbide is of a metalworking grade and so wears to practically nothing in no time. We recommend using purpose built fossil preparation styli to get the most out of your Dremel. It seems counterintuitive, but the very fine tungsten carbide needles actually focus what power the Dremel does have leading to more power transmission than a wider, chunkier stylus.
The Dremel 290 in action prepping an ammonite
What is Tungsten Carbide and why do I need it?
Stone-grade tungsten carbide (not metalworking grade) is by far the best material for fossil preparation – it withstands the abrasive nature of rock and stays sharp far longer than other metals like steel which will quickly blunt and wear down to nothing. We use the same top quality, high grade tungsten carbide in our Dremel nibs as we do in our air tools.
Keeps its shape well
Less sharpening than other metals/grades of tungsten carbide
Hard and tough!
The compromise is that tungsten carbide can be brittle. A stylus can last many years without requiring replacement when looked after correctly, but always consider the material when you're prepping and the most appropriate shape for the job. We recommend the chisel for instance for matrix removal on softer rocks, but not for harder rocks to prevent chipping of the edges. The short stylus is a much better candidate for matrix removal on harder rocks.
The number one with tungsten carbide is DO NOT DROP! It will break. It can also break if used as a lever to pry open a fissure in a rock.
Will these fit my Rotary Dremel?
Many people have a rotary Dremel® or Dremel-style tool in the house. Whilst these tips will fit, we wouldn't recommend trying to use a rotary tool for fossil preparation. The model we recommend using them with, the Dremel 290, is an electric engraver with a reciprocating or percussive action. This simply means that it moves back-and-forth rather than round-and-round. Think of it as a tiny, electrically powered hammer and chisel!
Will these fit other electric engravers?
These will fit some the electric engravers found in Aldi and Lidl, and some other brands. They do not fit the Record Power Engravers, but we can make custom tips for these separately if you contact us. Please note that the Record Power Engravers have been discontinued and remaining stocks are being sold through.
Health & Safety Advice
When working with rocks and fossils, please always wear a well-fitting medical grade dust mask. The minimum requirement would be a FFP3 or N99 mask (higher grade than FFP2 and N95) or a respirator. This is to prevent inhalation of stone dust, which is known to cause a lung condition called silicosis.
You should also use safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying rock chips, and you may wish to wear ear defenders.
Another condition to be aware of is white finger - where the nerves are affected by vibration over a period of time. The Dremel vibrates quite a lot, and so should not be used for extended periods. Take frequent rest breaks, and if you have pins and needles/tingling you've done too much. Consult a doctor if you have any questions. Using a shock absorbing surface like a sandbag can help. Air pens vibrate a lot less, and so can be used for longer periods but precautions still need to be taken.