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Buying a flex shaft or a Dremel

I’m a beginner and would love some help determining if I should buy a
flex shaft or a Dremel. Can anyone tell me the advantages &/or
disadvantages between the two? Thanks, Lynn

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in st louis

Lynn, Dremel has a flex shaft attachment. Look for the model that
includes this and you have it all at the same time. Good luck,


Hi Lynn; Buy the flex shaft. A Dremel would be fine if you were only
making duck decoys, otherwise, you’ll find it’s totally inappropriate
for the kind of work jewelers and metalsmiths do. If money’s the
issue, you can get a fairy inexpensive model at Harbor Freight, I
believe, or check e-bay for a used one. MPG electronics will repair
or recondition them for you. Please don’t waste your money and
frustration on the Dremel.

David L. Huffman

Hi Lynn, If you’re serious, invest in the flexshaft. I have both, but
can’t remember the last time I touched the Dremel. My flexshaft is
indispensable. The Dremel model I have is bulky and relatively heavy
(compared to the flexshaft handpiece). I’ve never used the Dremel
version of a flexshaft, but I suspect it’s underpowered. As time has
passed, I have acquired additional handpieces for the flexshaft,
including a reciprocating hammer and quick-release pencil thin
handpiece. There are also many tools that use a standard Foredom #30
handpiece as a power source.

I don’t mean to “dis” the Dremel… it served me well for years and
beats the heck out of nothing. However, it is not in the same league
as a flexshaft.

My humble opinion,

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

        I'm a beginner  and would love some help determining if I
should buy a flex shaft or a Dremel. Can anyone tell me the
advantages &/or disadvantages between the two? Thanks, Lynn 

Hello Lynn, I have both and if I was limited to one, it would be a
quality flexshaft. It is the most versatile, especially in selection
of speed. Think of a sewing machine - there are times you want to
stitch slowly and other times go full bore. The Dremel doesn’t go
very slow; even the slowest is several thousand rpm.

As has been said before, the cost of a tool is directly related to
its durability and versatility. There are flex shafts for $50 and
many times that much. Check the archives for past discussions on
some brands and their “Orchid ratings.” Best of luck and keep on
asking questions! I wish I’d had this forum 20 years ago - oh well,
if experience is the best teacher, and I’ve been well taught! Judy in

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936

Dremel: Portable–means you can take it with you on the road, or to a
workshop; high speed, low torque–advantageous for certain things,
and a disadvantage when you need particularly low speeds and high
torque for things like cutting precise seats; vibration–this may have
changed recently, but I’ve always disliked the vibration, which makes
precision difficult; inexpensive, but requires frequent brush

Flex shaft: Stationary–requires a hanger for the motor and a foot
pedal; relatively low speed on most models, high torque–means cutting
seats for settings is easier, but polishing is very slow; little
vibration–more control resulting in higher precision; more expensive
than a Dremel, but with proper care will last a lifetime with an a
rare shaft or sheath replacement.

If you’re a beginner, and you don’t plan on making your own flush,
prong and channel settings right away, go with the Dremel. You will
always use it, especially if you’re planning on taking workshops,
classes, or doing shows. Save for the flex shaft, and invest in nice
one, which will allow you to do your more advanced techniques at a
later time. In time, with a better idea of what your future needs will
be, the motor can be matched with which handpieces you will be using.

Lynn, Definitely a flex shaft. I am a beginner also, and I own a
Dremel. The Dremel is useful for some things, or in a pinch, but it is
not a serious tool and is insufficient for many tasks. I own a
variable speed unit and the minimum speed is 5,000 rpm; way too fast
for some tasks. I usually keep my Dremel in a drill press. It’s pretty
good for drilling holes.

Just recently, I made some brooches from painted steel. I surface of
the steel was textured and the intention was to paint the steel and
then sand off the excess. When I tried sanding off the excess with my
Dremel the paint, although dry, smeared. I went into the Metalwerx
studio and used a flexshaft and was able to remove the excess with
minimal smearing. I think the problem was that the Dremel was just too
fast, and frictionally heating the paint, causing it to melt slightly
and smear, instead of just being scraped off. (I’ve also learned to
not apply more paint than I need, even if I do intend to remove the

Dremels are big and clunky and noisy compared to a flexshaft, though
I guess you can buy a flexible shaft for the Dremel. But they’re not
that cheap, either, especially if you buy the flexible shaft. I think
it would be better to take that money and put it towards an Ottoflex
( 1/5 hp flexshaft with a Lucas foot pedal. The
flexshaft will last years and years, you won’t outgrow it, you can
learn to easily service it, and the Lucas foot pedal will afford
exquisite speed control.

For many years, I bought cheap shoes; no more! I guess I feel the
same way about rotary tools.

Christine in steamy Littleton, Massachusetts, USA

I'm a beginner  and would love some help determining if I should
buy a flex shaft or a Dremel. Can anyone tell me the advantages &/or
disadvantages between the two? Thanks, Lynn 

Lynn- I started out with a Dremel. In retrospect, I really don’t
recommend it- but it got me started. They are a pain to change from
one bit or buffer to another, and not very heavy duty. Now I have a
real flex shaft, and I love it. If I had it to do over, knowing
what I know now- I’d suck it up, and use the VISA to order all my
tools at one time and get it over with. Instead, I bought a little,
sold some things to buy more, etc. Good tools make the work go
faster, no question about it. Just my humble opinion- Anne

Well to make things realy easy for you Dremels do come with an added
option of a flex shaft. This is what i have been using for a couple of
years now, then you have the option of using teh flexshaft or not,
depending on teh job you are doing at the time…


Lynn - I just finished a small class on channel setting. Two of the
students brought dremels because they thought that that was the tool
they would be using at home to do the work. They had a lot of trouble
cutting seats with the dremel - much less with the flexi shaft. In
the end, both of them decided that they preferred the flexi shaft.
Debby Hoffmaster

I agree, a flex shaft is a much better investment than a Dremel, any
day. I bought 4 of the Harbor Freight flex shafts ($65 each) and have
to send them back. A friend and I were having lunch about 20 feet
from the flex shaft when we heard a noise- the flex shaft started
running on its own, the foot pedal was not depressed. After a class
one night, I forgot to unplug one, came in the next morning -the motor
was running and the foot pedal was quite hot. They are a fire hazard.
Also the handpiece/chuck are not true, you certainly can’t set stones
with them. For my $, I’ll stick with the Foredom flex shaft. (The
last one I got was from Rio for $175). HTH Kate Wolf

Hi Lynn, As most others have indicated, a flex shaft is the way to go.

The Dremel costs almost 1/2 the cost of a flex shaft & it doesn’t
have near the power, versatility or life expectancy of a flex shaft.
Unless you’re going to to be using the unit 4 or 5 hours a day, you
may find some of the imports from places like Harbor Freight will
fill your requirements. Most flex shafts accept the same handpieces &
that’s one of the big points of a flex shaft, handpiece

I’ve got a Dremel & all it gets used for is powering my Koil Kutter,
to cut coils into jump rings. (I use lots of them for chain making.)

One rule of thumb that I’ve used when deciding on which tool to buy
is this, “What do the pros use?”. They’ve probably used several types
of the same kind of tool & figured out which works the best. I
haven’t seen many jewelers using Dremels.


Dear Lynn, I have to agree with most that the best thing is to have a
nice heavy duty flexshaft but I must say some good things about the
small battery operated Dremel tools. I use mine for complex surface
finishes. I can pack up my children, the dog, and my work and head
out for the park. Even to most time consuming processes, ones that
would take a toll on my mental health if done in my studio, are
somewhat fun when I work under the trees.

Best Wishes and Luck,

I have a couple of quick notes to add about to the debate. I used a
Dremel for several years, and have used a Foredom for many since.

Christine - If you’re going to be stuck with the Dremel for a while,
I’m pretty sure you can plug it in to a sewing machine foot pedal and
get some speed control. I seem to remember doing that…

And Lynn, if you’re going to use it for long periods of time,
remember the motor is in the handpiece on a Dremel. It seemed to me
the durn thing got awful warm in my hand after a while. That was a
long time ago though, maybe they’ve compensated for the problem by

Hope some of this is useful!

PS, there is another player in the flex shaft biz. Pfingst! An old
american company, been around for about 85 years. Used one while a
denture tech in the Army, couldn’t kill it. 6-7 hours a day 5.5 days
per week…just kept on kicken! I sell them

Mike & Dale
Ultrasonic repair guys

Mike, The two flex shafts in my studio are Pfingst. I have had then
since 1978. The look and work if they are brand new. I do have one
problem. The outside rubber casing on the cord coming out of the motor
is cracking. I live in LA and the pollution level is high.I am not
electrically inclined and would like to fix them or have them


The black rubber on the outside is called a sheath. You can get a
replacement through IJS, Pfingst or Thunderbird. If I remember right,
you need a hex key for the collars at both ends.

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a multi functional tool for your jewelry projects? We recommend: