Dental drill for jewelry making

We held a studio open house over the weekend. I made several new
contacts and friends as a result. Thought this one fellow was pulling
my leg. He’s cleaning out his garage in preparation for a new cooler.
John works for a mortuary and is moving one of their DB coolers to
his place. DB=dead body… Yikes. John is a collector of “stuff” and
has this old dental drill that was looking for a good home. We
bartered a bit, I now have that drill in addition to a pile of other
items i.e. cutoff wheels, burrs, cratex wheels, saw frames, spatulas,
attachments and etc. More stuff than I can list. Spent a little time
this morning cleaning and lubricating the pulleys and hand piece.
Replaced the power cord. I’m assuming that I can add a foot speed

This isn’t a tool that I really needed but how could I resist. Yes,
I get to be a kid today digging through all this stuff. Now to find a
place for my new toy.

How many of you actually use these? Don’t think it’ll ever replace
one of my flexshafts. Repurposing old news is a lot of fun.

Jerry in Zig Zag, Oregon where it’s a gorgeous fall day.

Hi Jerry;

I do not have one of these but I know what you are referring to. This
is one of those tools that may not get used much but it is too cool
not to have. Speaking of dental equipment, when I go for my checkup I
always ask for the used dental bits. They are too dull to drill teeth
but just right for goldsmithing and other things.

Take care, Paul LeMay in Bracebridge where it is to rain today and
still above zero degrees. All in all a nice fall day.

I acquired a pneumatic dental hand-piece recently. It’s a Athena,
Little Champion. I had to clean it up and there are some teeth
missing on the planetary gears. That strikes me as funny, considering
it’s a dental drill with teeth missing. It is not a high speed hand-
piece but runs at a maximum of 3000 rpms. at 40 psi. It’s very smooth
with negligible run out. Lots of torque. It is short enough to fit
between the objective of my microscope and the work. With a quarter
millimeter round burr mounted in it, restoring platinum filigree is
easier. The speed is controlled at the hand-piece. I’ve used it for
setting micro pave also. The best part is it was $20. Athena wants
$470 for a new one. Dentists don’t want them because they only have
one inlet, compared to four inlet modern hand-pieces. Your dentist
might even give you an old one! So far so good!

Best regards, Kevin

Jerry -

I got my first dental drill in 1975 or 76, and used it for years in
lieu of a flexshaft unit. A sewing machine foot-rheostat works fine
as a speed control. That first unit was part of the estate of a WWI
dental technician. Over the years I purchased others. There are
conversion kits which allow you to make a dental drill over into a
flexshaft using regular Foredom shafts and hand pieces. I’m still
using one of my dental units (having sold the otehrs to students of
mine). I got a floor unit, which has roll-around wheels at the
bottom, a three-foot tall stainless steel pipe support, and then the
motor mount and motor: I use this for wet work in my lapidary shop,
drilling and carving hard stone with it.

Jim Small
Small Wonders Lapidary
Church Hill, TN

I have been rebuilding and using “Emesco” style belt drive dental
engines for years. One of the best advantages is that only the tool
itself rotates so there is no spinning chuck or anything else to mar
your work. There are hundreds of different hand pieces available
every one of which is smaller and lighter than any common flex shaft
tool (with the possible exception of the fabulously expensive micro
motors). Depending on the engine model you can get tool speeds up to
34K rpm (there is a 45k pulley bit it just eats up belts). Nearly
all of these engines use bronze bearings and I have a process to
convert them to ball bearing. I totally prefer these engines to flex
shafts; the only downside is they are exclusively 3/32 for tools. I
keep my flex shafts around for the larger bits.

Garden Grove, CA

This engine is indeed an Emesco. The drive cord appears to be new.
You’re correct, the pulleys use bronze bearings. The hand piece was
getting warm so I disassembled it completely and lubricated the
bearings, it now runs very nicely. One of my flex shafts has a
conventional 110vac plug which allowed me to use the foot control. I
just might take that flex shaft off the bench and use the Emesco for
a while. It’s kind of interesting, I have a centrifugal caster that
came from a dentist friend. I offered him $100 for it, he refused,
saying he’d take $50.


Make sure you totally sterilize these bits. Lots a bad germs in the
mouth that live in the crevices of these drills.