Comparing flex shafts

…as I mentioned, my old machine has been laid to rest. I looked in
the archives but did not see a preference for Foredom or Grobbet,
Vigor or any other make…

Pros and cons of any model and size of motor, speed etc all

In short, where is my money best spent?


In one word Foredom. Determine what you need (several models) plus
Handpieces. Check their site and shop for the best price.

Kenneth Singh

My vote is for the Grobet flex shaft. It is smooth running and
quiet. I don’t do a lot of setting or bur work so I can’t speak to
the low end torque. But for my purposes it is great tool.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Ok. I’m going to expose myself here, and hope you will all bear with
me (bare with me?) When I first got serious about pursuing
metalsmithing and enameling (6 years ago), I pretty much had a zero
budget. And so many tools that I needed to buy. After thinking long
and hard, I purchased a Chicago Tools Flex Shaft from Harbor
Freight…it was about $70. I “knew” that I’d have to replace it
fairly soon, but just wanted to get started with my new life. (I DID
have my mechical engineering husband take a good long look at it
before I committed…)

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Long story
short, I have used that tool every working day, often for many hours
a day for the past 6 years. It still runs like a champ, and I have to
say that I’m really very surprised, but also very pleased.

The down side? It WAS a risk. Also, I can’t use the cool alternative
handpieces that you can use with Foredoms, et al., AND you have to
use a chuck key rather than enjoy the rapid change mechanism. But
this puppy is still singing, and when I have $'s for tools, it’s for
Other Stuff, at least for the time being.

Someone at the recent enameling conference told me that she didn’t
have enough money to buy cheap tools. Point taken. But sometimes,
with some knowledge, and a little fearlessness, it all works out.

Thx for listening!

Barbara Bowling

P.S. I DID spring for the BD hydraulic press…

…I need it for finishing bronze, gold, silver and wax…so fairly
heavy duty use.

Could you tell me which size of motor you have…does it change
sizes of bits easily?


For many years we only used Foredom flex shafts and motors. But we
really prefer Ottoflex for an all purpose flex shaft. With the Lucas
pedal it runs really smooth and best of all it has a super duper
soft & very flexible sheath, much more flexible than Foredom (which
isn’t bad if you go that way). Any time one of the Foredoms breaks
down and is beyond repair (which doesn’t happen very often) we
replace it with an Ottoflex.


There is no substitute for a good Foredom. When you are buying a
flex shaft, you expect it to last for years. Foredom has an excellent
reputation for service, parts, innovation and quality. Mike Zagielski
has been the sales rep for Foredom for 15 years.

As far as heavy duty, Foredom offers the TX 1/3 hp for heavy duty
torque for harder materials. There is a 1/6th hp, and that is under
load of the SR Reversible motor. It’s a good solid machine which we
have in our school.

Any distributor will have these,, Rio Grande,
Otto Frei and Gesswein.

Also, don’t forget the book, “Making the Most of your Flex Shaft”.
It describes motors, flex shaft accessories and more.

karen christians

Someone at the recent enameling conference told me that she didn't
have enough money to buy cheap tools 

I am, like many here, a tool nut. And the above statement is good -
I’m going to remember that. And for the topic - flex shafts - yes,
I’d say stick with Dremel for $40 or go for a real flex shaft when
you get there. In the big picture, though, it’s not that simple
sometimes. I bought a milling machine and needed tooling - all of
it. I bought a set of Chinese R8 toolholders for $200 or something -
that’s 12 pieces. Since I was a beginner and I’m not doing
aerospace, it was a good starter set. We’re not talking garbage like
the anvils mentioned here. The distinction is Tawan, which makes
fairly high quality products in general - it’s mainland China that
is iffy. Anyway, to buy better would cost me about that for each
tool - top of the line would have been 10 times that, like $1000
each and up. Meaning in tools there’s quality and then there’s
quality. I use a $10 ball pein that I got at the hardware store for
my main hammer - it’s American made, hickory handle, still going
strong. I COULD buy a $90 European gadget hammer, but it’s not going
to do any better work, frankly. And of course, junk is junk. The
point being that the right tool is important, too. I could be all
idealistic and say I must have the very BEST for my miller, but it
would cost me $100,000 and the tools would be better than I am and I
just don’t need that. I cross paths with a lot of students buying
tools, and they’re all starry eyed looking at all the cool stuff
they could plunk down their hard-earned cash for, and some are
useful and some are more just gilding the lily. I use my dapping
punches periodically but not all that often - if you have a line
that requires using them 30 times a day, then you want that kind of
quality, but if you’re more like me, then a “reasonable” quality is
just fine. Yes, fine tools are wonderful, but it’s very easy to
break the bank, too. But a real flex shaft is going to be your best

comparison means taking two or more things and objectively making
statements, coming to conclusions based on some sort of standards
laid side by side and observing the results, etc…

While Mike Zagielski is a wonderful man, great salesman, and works
for a fantastic sub company of an even better parent
company-(blackstone industries) I did not get an iota of comparison
from your post. Foredom does make great equipment backed by
reasonable warranties, and tools and accessories that exceed others
standards on the market ( a case in point is their Allset Master
system, that I can’t endorse enough for saving time, money and
allowing even a relative novice bench jeweler, or hobbyist to
achieve perfect results every time - when the equipment is used and
maintained properly)… but so does Pfingst. Buffalo Dental, and a
myriad of other pendant motor manufacturers.

All too often on Orchid i have seen the trend id to go with the most
advertised name, as though it were the only brand acceptable or made
to x tolerances and standards… that is simply not the case.
Pfingst, for instance makes pendant motors and backs their products
for the virtual life of the product, and when inquiring about one of
their tools, or motors refers to it’s birthdate- that tells any
consumer (or should at least intimate to the consumer) that Pfingst
knows and cares about each item they produce. It is another American
company that should at least be mentioned in any comparison. Price,
warranties, functionality, and features make for comparisons, not
just the mere suggestion of a popularized name that has a vast
advertising budget, maximized by a brilliant salesman, and used by
many - often because, like sheep, the herd presumes there is only one
manufacturer that makes a machine that comes in a variety of
configurations, with a variety of speeds, torque calibrations, and
features, that are also available from other equally reliable and
dedicated companies that stand behind what they sell, offer similar
features and configurations ( sometimes more than the most well
known) and are available at competitive or more reasonable prices off
the shelf… My point is one must know first what they are looking
for- if it is a single speed pendant motor or a variable speed model,
what they intend to accomplish with a given motor, what HP is
required to do a job to the best possible end, what maintenance is
involved, what accessories are available, what factory maintenance is
required and when…mere statements are not comparisons, but
endorsements… A more effective comparison may be to educate novice
jewelers on the differences in motors, even if by one manufacturer,
and what is required for stone setting rather than woodcarving,
shaping and forming rather than setting, finishing, rather than
shaping, and so on…

If there is one thing lacking in the threads on various products it
is any discussions of alternatives to the brands most heard of… we
are not sheep, or at least i am not part of a herd… and I urge
everyone interested in buying equipment to look past the big boys
catalogues (RG) and discover some quite competitive alternatives,
and then make an informed decision…just because ea jewelry maker one
admires, or aspires to create works as original as theirs, does not
mean that the jewelry maker has all the facts, or even some of the
facts, on any given piece of tooling or equipment - particularly the
basics f the industry like micromotors, powerhones, rolling mills,
pendant motors, lighting, etc… that all are derived from the dental
industries original equipment needs- as jewelry making has changed
little since the middle ages, if not before- with more options
available to consumers, be a good consumer and don’t just accept
that if the herd says acme brand is the best, that it is in fact the
best, or only thing available that will accommodate ones needs at the
bench, and budget considerations as well…

R. E. Rourke

I am a tool junkie, I love tools - I have more drills than my wife
has shoes. At my bench I have three flex-shaft motors hanging. two
Chicago Electric (HF) and a Pfingst and a Foredom flex shaft under my
bench. While I would not call the HF motors models of precision, they
do the job for many things, and cost a little as $35 on sale. If you
need high accuracy you need to replace the hand piece at a minimum,
or if you can, buy a real tool like the Foredom. However, none of
these flex shafts seem to get much use since I purchased a Foredom
Micromotor. Richard Hart, a frequent contributor of this forum,
suggested a micro motor, and I find it extremely useful. These tools
have speed feedback where as you use more force, they apply more
power to maintain the speed you choose with the foot control, even
very slow speeds.

Marlin in Denver, Looking forward to a GREAT Clasp conference - the
speakers are excellent and the program looks superb!

But we really prefer Ottoflex for an all purpose flex shaft. With
the Lucas pedal it runs really smooth and best of all it has a
super duper soft & very flexible sheath, much more flexible than

Foredom also has a softer more flexible sheath available. I love it!

Allan Mason

Foredom also has a softer more flexible sheath available. I love

Oooo, interesting. I missed this new development. Where did you buy
it? What do you love about it? I can imagine, but still, I’ll ask


Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Someone at the recent enameling conference told me that she didn't
have enough money to buy cheap tools 

I taught a class where many of the flex shafts were the Harbor
Freight Chinese junk. They were brand new out of the box and every
single one of them had failed in some form or another by the end of
the 5 day class. Some could be fixed but several died completely.
Cheap tools take your time and money and give nothing but frustration
and grief in return.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


Hi Elaine,

Foredom also has a softer more flexible sheath available. I love

Oooo, interesting. I missed this new development. Where did you
buy it? What do you love about it? I can imagine, but still, I'll
ask anyway. 

It’s available from Rio Grande. It’s listed on page 240 item L,
Neoprene Outer Sheath of the 2006-2007 tool catalog.


Dear R.E. Rourke:

During my research of the book “Making the Most of Your Flex-Shaft”,
I had many flex shafts at my disposal to test including Buffalo,
Ottoflex (OEM Buffalo), Pfingst, Foredom and Grobet, plus other
economy models by Contenti and Harbor Freight.

Each of these units were given rigorous testing through cleaning
operations, quality of parts and torque under loads, including the
gentle polishing of bristle disks to chewing away metal with a carbon
rotary bit. We have Otto Flex for all of our students, and not found
them as durable as Foredom.

As an educator and school director, equipment that stands the test
of students abuse is good equipment indeed. Foredom is simply the
best, not because it has the best branding, because the parts and
service are outstanding. Foredom is committed to work with my
students and help them in any way possible. They also give a 10
percent rebate of the listed retail price which is often above a
negotiated price of a dealer.

As you can imagine, our school is approached by many vendors all
vying for our business. The bottom line for us is performance and
service and not just price. We will go the extra mile for quality
made machinery because it has to stand up to what our students dish

Karen Christians
Director of Metalwerx

Again…not my experience with the Chicago Tools Flex Shaft at
Harbor Freight. Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe you just got
unlucky? It’s been a great little machine.

Barbara Bowling

I agree. I’ve had my flex shaft from Harbor Freight for several
years now, and I’ve been very happy with it. I guess I got a good

Janet Kofoed

Foredom also has a softer more flexible sheath available. I love

Hi Elaine. Got it from Rio, and it’s definitely more maneuverable.

Allan Mason

We have Otto Flex for all of our students, and not found them as
durable as Foredom. 

I do value Karen’s work and her opinions. It’s great that she
conducted a systematic comparison of flex shafts. It’s like Consumer
Reports for jewelers. I do however feel strangely compelled to stick
up a little bit for the Otto Flex. I walked around the shop today a
noted that we have seven Foredom’s and eleven Otto flex’s in the
shop being used by eight goldsmiths. We use these things up! Granted
we take care of our tools much better than students, but we all work
work 2000+ hours a year and those things are buzzing all day long. I
personally prefer the Otto Flex because of the super soft sheath and
I think the Lucas pedal is particularly good at running smoothly at
low speeds without jerking. Many of these units are over ten years
old, so I’d say they all hold up pretty well. We have a real mix of
bench people from European trained, trained in the US by other
Europeans, US shop trained, University trained and so on. So this
melting pot of very talented people all seem to like the Otto Flex as
well a Foredom. They each seem to hold up as well as the other in
our situation. A good pedal does really makes a big difference.

I just felt like I needed to speak up for my good friend Otto Flex,
who is always there for me…right by my side.


I love my Otto Flex (Buffalo Dental) flex shaft. I have several
Foredom S machines and the Otto and use the latter as my primary
bench shaft. Never have had a problem. Owned it since 1994.