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Comparing flex shafts


#6

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.

http://tinyurl.com/hroaa

Mark


#7

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, McKinnonglobal.com, 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.

http://www.ganoksin.com/item--Orchid-in-Print-Vol-1--flexshaftbook

karen christians


#8
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
friend.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#9

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


#10

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!


#11
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 

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

Allan Mason


#12
Foredom also has a softer more flexible sheath available. I love
it! 

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.

Thanks,

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#13
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
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#14

Hi Elaine,

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

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.

Dave.


#15

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
out.

Karen Christians
Director of Metalwerx


#16

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
www.LouisesLeap.com


#17

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
one.

Janet Kofoed
http://users.rcn.com/kkofoed


#18
Foredom also has a softer more flexible sheath available. I love
it! 

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

Allan Mason


#19
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.

Mark


#20

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.

Andy


#21

I think from the comments so far it’s like a lottery whether one
gets a long and useful life from any one particular brand.

So I echo R E Rourke in asking for more objective comparisons of the
available flex shaft equipment, “coming to conclusions based on some
sort of standards laid side by side and observing the results”.

I believe it is too easy to develop a single-brand monoculture which
may ignore due research of the others and may lead to less choice.

How useful would be to have the various components compared in
meaningful ways. Motors compared (min/max torque/speed specs), foot
controls compared (for sensitivity at low speed for eg), etc, down
to the flexibility/durability of the flex.

Difficult, I can see that. But I reckon the experience is here, and
it’d fit happily into this professional forum.

Brian
B r i a n A d a m a n d R u t h B a i r d
Auckland New Zealand
www.adam.co.nz


#22
How useful would be to have the various components compared in
meaningful ways. Motors compared (min/max torque/speed specs), foot
controls compared (for sensitivity at low speed for eg), etc, down
to the flexibility/durability of the flex 

When my husband and I used to ride motorbikes, we subscribed to a
couple of bike magazines. Every issue had comparisons of a fleet of
similar bikes from different manufacturers. The articles were spread
over many pages (perhaps as many as 12). Every aspect of each bike
tested, rated and compared in clear to understand tables. We also
play guitar and subscribed to guitar magazines. Again, each issue
would have a few similar new guitars from different manufacturers
compared in much the same way. There’s a pattern forming here.

Perhaps we could persuade one of the jewellery magazines to run a
comparison between the major players in the flex shaft market (or
indeed to include the minor players). There is obviously a lot of
interest in the jewellery community and the magazines are the
perfect platform to conduct and showcase such a comparison.

Helen Hill
Preston, UK


#23

Well folks, I finally got to try my shiny new Foredom flexshaft
today after my hubby manufactured a stand for it. He did take a
semicircular chunk out of the back of my bench though but I can’t
complain as he did a very neat job.

Anyway, compared to the Dremel (hubby’s Dremel on loan) that I was
using, the Foredom is what I can only describe as the Rolls Royce of
flexshafts! It’s so smooth, powerful and yet quiet. It’s an absolute
joy to use and worth every pound (or I should say dollar as it came
from Rio) I spent on it.

I christened it by polishing my wedding ring after stretching it by
two sizes (I’d not been able to wear it for a couple of months).

Anyone in the UK wanting one, I suggest you buy from the States
(special order 220V, 50Hz) as it is still much cheaper than over
here, even after shipping costs, import duty and VAT, oh and another
UK handling charge - and it arrived very quickly. A lovely lady
called Virginia personally handled my order all the way through to
dispatch and was extremely pleasant at all times - a real pleasure
to deal with.

Helen
Preston, UK


#24

Has anyone used the Promax? Variable speed foot pedal control 1/2 hp electrical motor, with hanger, dual insulated, 220-240V, 4A Includes both 1/8-Inch and a 1/4-Inch cullet handpieces, with stand Max rpm: 30,000 rpm 48-Inch flexible shaft…$161.00 instead of hovering about $300.00. Please let me know…thanks…Linda Wisconsin


#25

My flex shaft is one of a few tools in my shop that, if it broke today, I would just replace it even if I had to go into debt to do it. Luckily, that would not be the case. It is a rare piece going through my shop that is not, in some way, touched by one of my flex shaft tools. I purchased my EE over forty years ago. When I rebuilt it a couple years ago, I also bought an SR with a quick change hand piece. These are both Foredom products. I never really thought about another manufacturer because who can argue with forty years of uninterrupted service. I have lately looked at other manufacturers because I may add another flex shaft to be permanently mounted in a vice with a #30 hand piece to be used as a mini lathe. You can see this arrangement in my draw bench discussion pictures. I find that this configuration helps me deal with some arthritis and cramping problems that I have developed. I have enjoyed this discussion because it gives my a good list of flex shaft manufacturers to look at other than Foredom. Thanks! keep it going…Rob