I use air powered handpieces all of the time. I am a dentist, but I
also have my fingers in full sized CNC machinery and flex shaft
In the dental world there are basically 2 types of air handpieces:
the high speed (400,000 RPM) using friction grip (FG) burs. There is
a wide variety of bur types available, but there is a limit to their
The low speed handpiece that may go up to 40,000 RPM and uses 3/32
diameter burs. There are adapters available to take the FG burs.
In dentistry we try to minimize the weight of the handpiece and we
live with the torque that we can get. There are new brushless
electric handpieces that are variable speed and range from almost
zero to 200,000 RPM but they are larger, heavier and very costly
(probably around $3,500: how many NSK 50K RPM handpieces will that
buy?). I also have a NSK electric, not used in the office: it is a
dental lab value item (price when mine was acquired was about
There are turbocarvers out there with control packages for probably
under $400. Look for something that does not require lubrication: you
do not want to breathe in the mist. The air supply is probably
something like 3 CFM at 35 PSI but this varies with the type of tool.
Make sure the air is dry.
High speed is good for carving egg shells and other items, the
dental high speed ones offer water and air cooling. There is a
learning curve. Do not bear down hard, gentle caressing strokes will
get you where you want to go.
One major difference is the amount of noise generated. The electric
handpieces of all types are usually much quieter.
Sorry for the long rant.
Charles Friedman DDS
Ventura by the Sea
Blue sky and 65 today at the shore!