I am just starting out in the jewelry biz (very part time) and I am
trying to figure out what equipment to purchase to begin with. One of
the things I am having trouble with is choosing a Flex Shaft system.
Up until now I have been using a Dremel with a flex shaft attachment
but it doesn’t have the power so I was looking at the Foredom units.
I would very much appreciate any advice that anyone would like to
share on the subject. If it helps I presently need it for shaping and
polishing, but wish to eventually use it for setting and other things,
so flexibility is a big plus.
Is Foredom the usual choice, or are there other manufacturers as
good? I would like the ability to use “standard” handpieces (like the
Foredom model 30)- do you have to use a Foredom flex shaft to do so,
or is ther some compatibility between brands?
Sorry for the newbie questions. I’ve been reading this group, the
Orchid archives, and several books I’ve found in the bookstores and
library, but haven’t been able to find anything on this.
Eye of the
Moon Jewelers, L.L.C.
I don’t know if this is any help, but I own a Frei and Borel
Ottoflex, 1/5th horsepower, a Lucas foot pedal and two handpieces, a
#30 and a quick release. This is a nice system for me, solid and
The higher horsepower really hangs tough at higer speeds and the
Lucas pedal gives me excellent control. The height that you hang your
flex shaft is really important. Remember to grease the shaft
regularly and replace the brushes in the motor the second it sounds
like marbles dancing up top.
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There are 2 main mfg. of flexshafts, Foredom & Pfingst. Pfingst
supplies a lot of tools to the dental industry. There are also import
Most (if not all) of the handpieces are interchangeable between
Foredom & Pfingst.
There are 2 basic types of systems of motor speed controls, one
varies the voltage to the motor with no feed back. The other system
(Foredom R series) uses a feed back circuit. The advantage of the
feedback system is almost full power at low speeds. The motors in the
no feedback system produce less than full power at slower speeds. This
can be a disadvantage in some situations.
There are also motors that have have 2 output shafts (only one of
which can be used at a time). One shaft provides the full speed range
(aprox 3000 -15000 rpm aprox). The 2nd shaft’s speed range is about
1000 - 5000 rpm. The 2nd output is great for use with hammer
The motors come in 1/10 to 1/4 hp, most of them have carbon brushes.
Bigger is usually better, but a lot depends on the use you’ll give it.
They can have either sleeve or ball bearings. The sleeve bearings need
to be lubricated, usually annually. Depending on the amount of use
they receive the brushes have to be replaced periodically. For the
part time jeweler, this period is generally in years.
I use both a Foredom ‘R’ & ‘C’ model. The ‘R’ gets the most use.
Foredom tools are sold through most jewelers supply’s. Pfingst tools
are sold through dental suppliers. Pfingst is at: 105 Snyder Rd., So.
Plainfield NJ 07080, 908-561-6400.
This is a shameless plug: Lone Star Technical Services ALSO sells
the Pfingst handpiece system. “Good Handpiece” with no apologies to
Andy Griffin. (that’s for those of you who remember)
Mike Fritz & Dale Deviney
Lone Star Technical Services
The Ultrasonic Repair guys
Our experience has shown that most jewelers are using the popular
Foredom style quick disconnect system and most jewelers seem to be
using 3/32" shank burs or bits which means they’re buying the 3/32"
versions of the flex shaft tool handpieces.
The series “H” motors and handpieces are not compatible with the
popular quick disconnect systems. The series “H’” is a good choice
for heavy duty work but just be advised that it requires the series
“H” handpieces which are not interchangeable.
Remember that it is very important to change the motor brushes when
you see sparking from inside the top of the motor or irratic
power–be certain to read the instructions that come with your
equipment and install the brushes properly–there is a right way and
a wrong way to put the brushes in. If you install them improperly
the commutator will wear wrong and cause expensive motor repairs to
be needed. A properly maintained motor will last you many years.
Foredom is of course a popular and quality brand of flex shaft tools.
Other manufacturers such as Pfingst make quality, compatible
equipment as well. Brands such as Gesswein and Rio Grande and others
are also a good choice as they are completely compatible. You
mentioned you are buying this equipment for the first time and we
hope our experience at repairing the various brands mentioned above
has been of help to you.
Please feel freel to contact us with more specific questions or you
can also ask your equipment dealer. We wish you the best of luck in
your endeavors. Regards, John Cranor, The Jewelry Equipment DR
I couldn’t agree more! I really like my Ottoflex. One of the nicest
things about it is the flexibility of the neoprene outer sheath.
Much more supple than Foredom. The Lucas Lowboy is far and beyond any
other foot pedal I’ve used. It is much more sensitive and easier on
the foot. I just bought a second one for use w/ a Foredom “S” flex
shaft which is also a very good machine. It is 1/8 hp but is now the
standard for the industry.
As far as quick release handpieces go, the Techno X is great,
although it is not a heavy duty handpiece. The grip is great and the
quick release is very handy. I use a lot of burrs and would be at sea
w/out it. For heavy grinding though, I switch to my #30. Faro makes a
quick release that I’ve heard good things about, but The Techno is
The only drawback to the Ottoflex/Rioflex is that the inner cores and
sheaths are not interchangeable w/ Foredom.
Rio markets a “Rioflex” that I believe is the same machine.
The system that Karen Christians talked about is the exact system
that I use… just add a hammer handpiece.
Happy grinding! Andy Cooperman
And one other prime source worth of mention. Buffalo Dental makes a
wonderful motor. It’s often sold relabeled by various companies. You
recognize it because it’s houseing is bright polished chrome. Rio
sells it, so does Frei and Borel, as their “ottoflex” brand. The
fordom motors and the most common out there, but not necesarily the
best. For my money, both the Pfingst and Buffalo Dental motors are
better. Personally, I like the BD. Perhaps it’s just that both my
motor at work, and my several motors in my own shop are all fordoms,
purchased before I became aware of the others… (sigh)