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Cheap flex shaft, is it worth it?


#1

First,thanks to all who have responded to my questions specifically,
and for this list in general, it has been a tremendous help.

I am just starting to get back into jewelry after many years away and
would like some input on one of the low end flex shaft machines
offered by Harbor Freight:

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=40432

I have always believed that you get what you pay for and normally I
am more than willing to pay more for a quality product. In my current
situation I do not have the extra funds for a $175 to $200 Foredom
and I wonder if anyone has experience with this low end model.Since I
am just starting again it will be at best a part time hobby only as
time and energy allow. The unit in question is a 1/4hp ball bearing
motor…normally I would think a higher hp would be better, but with
a flex shaft is it likely to produce greater vibrations? Or would the
shaft and sheath be more of a cause for vibrations…and if so would
a foredom shaft work with this motor?

Thanks again for a great resource.


#2

Mr. Joe Cuteye, I did purchase one of these flex shaft motors from
Harbor Freight simply out of curiosity, I don’t think this is what
you want Joe, I wound up giving mine away to one of the auto
mechanics on the same block as my business.

If your interested in purchasing a quality flex shaft motor, at a
reasonable price, then I have exactly what I believe your looking
for. (see picture).

I have about 15 of these units left in my inventory and there all
brand new. Each set comes complete with everything shown in picture.

Chrome plated motor our model #98 with speeds up to 14,000 RPM, 2.0
amps at 1/8 H.P. The handpiece is our model #330 and is equipped
with a jacobs chuck with an opening of 0-5/32" and key. The foot
rheostat is our model #9 “Low-Boy” solid state giving you variable
speeds from 0-14,000 RPM, and the motor hanger which you can fasten
to the wall.

Joe, not only do we manufacture the best Spring Driven Centrifugal
Casting Machine in the USA, our model #750 “Giant” Casting Machine @
$275.00, we also manufacture one of the best flex shaft machines
which is available to you for only $165.00 plus UPS shipping, and
your getting a quality product that is made in the USA.

Thank you for your time, Sincerely, Richard Lucas Lucas Dental Mfg.
Co. 18 Herkimer Place Brooklyn, NY 11216 http://community.webtv.net/lucadent


#3

I bought this flex shaft about a year ago and actual f have been
very happy with it. I had to replace the foot pedal, but thelex shaft
has been very satisfactory. I too would like to know if the Foredom
handpieces would work with it.

Janet Kofoed


#4

Dear All, I bought my first Flex shaft machine in 1977 as an
apprentice. Before that I used a chord run dental drill. The unit I
bought was a Foredom Model CC with a Faro hand piece & duplex spring.
I am still using the same unit today as well as other Foredom units.
This is the same machine they sell now as far as I know. For my money
I buy quality that lasts. Foredom wins hands down. The only thing
that has broken is the duplex spring. Somewhat easy to fix. But the
spring makes the unit SO much easier on the hand and wrist. Time and
dependability is my judge.

Best Regards,
Todd Hawkinson


#5

For the average person who would use it more than a few times I
would say don’t buy this HF item. I was able to find and correct some
of the faults with one but don’t think many others would be. A lot
of hf tools are worth “the price” and I have bunch of them --but not
this one. problems with the handpiece, flex shaft attachment to the
motor and the foot pedal is rather poor. Jesse


#6

Joe, I bought one of these. My main complaint was not the motor but
the handpiece. I have had to put Teflon tape on the threads just to
keep the thing from falling apart. And even after that was fixed
there was just to much play in it to try to use burrs in it.
However, you can use it for polishing and grinding. I feel your
pain in this dilemma, there aren’t any mid-range flexshafts out there
(If I am wrong about this folks please feel free to correct me!).

Good Luck!
Shane


#7

Joe, I would say that it is worth it, Wow, not a big investment,
and they do have a small cost warranty over and above the usual one.
Several years ago I bought a low cost one from Grizzly in Seattle,
Washington and it has been chugging right along, I also have a
Foredom that I use for wax that has a reduction gear. The cheapo
works fine, but I do prefer the Foredom for stone setting.
Bye-the-way, I paid $100 for mine, This price looks good to me!

Best regards,
Frif


#8

Joe, In my opinion. one of the most important bits of advise a
beginner jeweler can follow is pass on budget tools. I have broken
this rule in the past and in almost every case I have had to replace
the cheap substitute with a well made version. Why buy tools
twice?

In the case of this flex shaft I have to be honest and admit that I
have not used it. But I have used other cheap flex shafts and I
can tell you that foot pedals blow out as well as worn bushings,
shafts and switches. With the well made setups, while they may still
eventually wear out, all parts are designed to be rebuilt and all
spare parts are available. Also the foot pedals and hand pieces are
interchangeable Is this the case with the cheap version?

A flex shaft is one of the basic fundamental tools needed on a
jewelers bench do you really want to take a chance with this
purchase. Is it worth it?

John Sholl
Littleton, Colorado


#9

If you check the archives you will find several posts about this
machine. At the time I bought mine to use for a backup piece of
equipment I thought it was worth the money for the handpiece and the
peace of mind if nothing else. That opinion has definitely changed.

The foot pedal is inadequate and overheats as Kate Wolf wrote
before. In addition, I recently had occasion to use mine, not for
jewelry but for a minor home repair. The handpiece literally fell
apart in my hand. The top part where the indentations are for the
chuck key separated from the rest of the handpiece and now just
falls off every time I try to put it back together. There may be a
trick to getting it to stay in place but if I had it to do over, I
would NEVER have purchased this. Save your money and get a reliable
flex shaft like Foredom or the house brands from numerous reputable
suppliers.

My twenty year old Foredom is still going strong. I recently
replaced the foot pedal but since I do all my polishing with this
machine I am truly happy with the Foredom.

Linda M


#10

Dear Joe, Welcome back! Perphaps I might be of some help to you and
others who may be looking for some tools without incurring the
current high costs. As a result of closing a teaching facility I am
charged with the task of selling off an extensive collection of many
and various items used in both jewelry making and silversmithing.
They are too numerous to post here and inappropriate to occupy the
space on this wonderful forum.

However, if there is one or more items you might need, if you email
me at DrDule1@aol.com I will let you know if I have the items and
tell you the price. Generally, the price would be @ 1/2 the current
list plus shipping. I live in a suburb of NYC, so if one lives
fairly closeby, it would eliminate the shipping and allow inspection
of the item. I do have a few Flex shafts from Fordom as well as many
other tools. Hope this will be of help to you and perhaps the
newbies who are always in need of tools and short on funds. Joe
Dule


#11

I was working at my bench just now and it occured to me, on the
subject of flex- shafts, if you have any sense that you like or love
jewelry making, having the best tools will make it so much easier for
those of you that have some skills. You will be creating instead of
fighting the limitations of the tool, and unless you have experience
with better quality tools, you will think it is the nature of the
task.

I lived with a foredom “cc” for many, many years. I kept having
trouble when setting faceted stones. Cutting the seat with new
burrs, the burr would catch and jump out of the head. Sometimes it
would damage a prong that would need repair.

The problem is that for setting you need full torque at low speed. I
am sure that some of you can use the “cc” and get descent results.
My world changed when I got a series “s”. The better foot control
made it even easier as I had much more control over the speed.

Frustration, and the regret of having beat myself up for years for
not being able to control the handpiece, no matter how hard I tried
to brace myself, now made sense. The tool was most of the problem. I
even had a techno-x handpiece! If you have the flexshaft for 10
years, and I have had mine longer than that, (with little proper
maintenence), it works out to $25 a year.

Richard in Denver


#12

Hi Todd

The only thing that has broken is the duplex spring. Somewhat easy
to fix. But the spring makes the unit SO much easier on the hand
and wrist

FWIW: Foredom has come out with a new sheath for the flexshafts. One
of it’s ingredients neoprene. It’s lots more flexible than the older
sheaths. I used to use handpiece with a duplex spring, but the last
time the spring broke, I didn’t replace it. I just stayed with the
new sheath & haven’t found the need to retun to the duplex spring.
I’m using it with the ‘R’ series motor.

Dave


#13

Joe,

My husband purchased a cheap flex shaft for work he does from Harbor
Freight. If you use this about 6 times a year, for about 5 minutes
each, for his jobs it is perfect.

Go with the good one. As a rule of thumb, I buy the best tools I
can, and so far, nothing has lost its value. Good tools can be
passed on to others. Your flex shaft will be come your right (or
left) arm. Most important, you will concentrate on your piece,
where you should be looking, and not worry if your tool will fall
apart, makes too much noise, vibrates strangely, etc.

When I purchased flex shafts for the school, I went all out and got
the best. Just one less thing I have to worry about fixing.

-karen


#14

Regarding the request for opinions of the Harbor Freight Flex Shaft
this is a copy of a post I put up a year ago:

 Words can't express how much I hate these units. I ordered 6 flex
shafts from Harbor Freight last year. They would run (no on or off
switch, just a foot pedal) when no one was near them (at first I
thought I had a studio ghost!) The foot pedal got so hot that you
couldn't touch them The hand pieces weren't true (off center-
wobbly) and made a grinding sound. Harbor Freight wouldn't take
them back, wouldn't replace them. After 8 or 9 emails, and many,
many phone calls, threats to file complaints with the Better
Business Bureau and Underwriters Laboratory (the foot pedals were a
fire hazard!) they agreed to send me new revised foot pedals. This
took 6 & 1/2 months! I replaced the hand pieces with #30 Foredom
handpieces from another vendor. It is an incredible waste of time
and this kind of frustration does hinder creativity. I've seen
other posts on Orchid about Harbor Freight tools that folks like,
but after this dreadful experience, I won't be back. 

I have a Foredom cc in the studio that has seen heavy use for 28
years with little maintenance. I also have been using the Foredom TX
for a year now and love it. It has excellent torque at all speeds and
the speed control is fantastic. The flex shaft is one of our most
important tools- when I add up the hours I use it, and the money and
time it saves me- it’s one of the most affordable tools I own. I’d
recommend staying far far away from the Harbor Freight and Dremmel
units. It is quite frustrating trying to hone your skill with a
handpiece that is not true and a motor that has poor torque.

HTH
Best Regards, Kate Wolf, Portland, Maine hosting workshops by the bay.
http://www.katewolfdesigns.com


#15

I agree, buy something decent. A deal is only a deal if the product
is still working long after you buy it. I bought my Foredom from
RIO about 13 years ago. I greased the spring once about 7 years
ago. So far that is all the maintenance I have had to do. Do you
think you are going to get that kind of performance out of something
you spent $69.99 on, that was made in china? Have you ever bought
from Harbor Freight before? I have, and the general rule of thumb
is, if it is not electronic (eg: screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches,
pliers) then I would say go for it. But their electronic "No Name"
tools are only good to throw in the back of your car for
emergencies, and should not be considered for daily work.

Still, it is tempting to buy cheap when it looks like a deal. Just
try to make sure it is a “good deal” before forking out the money;
unless you just want to take a gamble.

Silverfoot


#16

Hey Joe, I just bought a similar Chinese flex shaft ($89) and find it
very good. I have used Foredom flexshafts and other than the fact
that the speed is low it has great torque. Foredom has a similar
series with high torque and they charge about $250 for the basically
same product. I have looked inside mine and an old Foredom and the
parts are every bit as good as the Foredom. It has ball bearings on
both sides of the armature and the windings appear to have the same
gauge wire. The biggest drawback was the foot control which was
definitely el-cheapo. The return spring in the durn thing took
every bit of strength I had (I am disabled) to force down. I took it
apart and modified the spring so it now works quite well. The foot
pedal still looks cheap, but it works. The other problem is that it
comes with a “#30” handpiece. It is definitely a Chinese
reproduction. I am getting a # 8 Foredom handpiece as a replacement
because I do very intricate carvings in opal. I personally love my
cheapo flexshaft. It fit my budget (such as it is) and it has the
torque for me to use a 40mm diamond saw on ironstone boulder opal (it
goes through like butter) and I will soon be getting some very cool
boulder opal from Brazil that will need sawing before cutting and
polishing. Some of these old-timers don’t realize how expensive a
startup operation is these days. This cheapo will do until I can
afford a better one. Go for it Joe Rick Carew AZopals


#17

My flex shaft is the best tool I own. Mine is Foredom with the "R"
motor. An important element in my purchase decision was
standardization. Not only are Foredom components readily available,
other manufactures build accessories for these. For instance, a
hammer hand piece, I bought Grobet, preferred theirs over Foredom.
The hammer piece has earned its keep.

Buying good quality tools is always a challenge. Don’t recall ever
being disappointed buying good stuff. Buying cheap has always let me
down.

jerry