These factors have me wondering whether Dremel is a good
choice for a flexible-shaft tool, or if it is something a
metalworker wouldn't be caught dead using. What brand would you
recommend? I especially would like to identify the tools that
produce the least amount of noise!
I’ll just add a few personal anecdotes to this well-covered thread.
I used the little hand-held, multi-speed Dremel tools for years. In
fact about 20 years. In that time I went through about a half dozen
of them. They were cheap and, for me, incredibly useful. I found that
having a cutting/grinding tool moving at high speed had a utility
second to none. We’re talking everything from polishing stones to
shaping hammerheads. If you want to grind, cut, drill, polish, sand
or shape a variety of materials including stone, glass, ferrous and
non-ferrous metals, plastic, rubber, bone, horn and wood then these
types of tools simply cannot be beat. Admittedly I used, abused and
over-used my Dremels but I got a lot done and I learned a hell of a
lot about what to use, where, how and why.
That said, I now own a Foredom SR (reversible). It’s quieter, much
more durable, much easier to maintain, runs cooler and, because of
interchangeable handpieces, has a much wider range of "bits"
available. It has easily quadrupled the range of tasks that I was
able to handle with the old Dremels. Simply put the Dremel is the
scooter and the Foredom is the SUV: totally different league of
machine. And worth every penny!
For me the Foredom is one of those “desert island” things. I’d
probably want it with me just in case someone ran power to the
island 'cause then I’d be back in business.
A few personal thoughts:
don’t cheap out on the machine itself. Good ones are great and
cheapos often are not. The cheapos machines usually run hotter and
can get scary hot if you run them for long durations (Dremels too by
the way). Not true for the better machines. The cheapo handpieces run
too hot so you end up buying a proper Foredom handpiece. The
flex-shaft itself doesn’t last as long as a good quality one so you
end up replacing it. Brushes wear out, can you get replacements? The
foot controls on the cheapos are often pretty inferior too. If you
want cheap I’d say buy Dremels until you can afford a Foredom (or
think about what you really need before you buy a good machine.
Do you just need a straight 2000-18,000 rpm? Maybe 0-5000 rpm would
suit you better, and you’ll need that range if you’re using a hammer
handpiece. What about reversible? If you cut and grind a lot it can
make your life noticeably easier.
1/10 vs 1/8 vs 1/4 horsepower only matters if you have a habit of
doing comparatively heavy grinding and cutting (read “tool making”).
1/10 is fine for all typical jewelry making activities. 1/4 is much
better if you’re into cutting steel, doing a lot of wood sculpting,
reshaping hammers, mirror polishing your silversmithing stakes, etc.
foot controls are not all created equally. The basic and heavy
duty models are simple rheostats and have two weaknesses: poor slow
speed control (as in “not”) and they’ve got kind of a hair trigger so
they have the tendency to “jump” speeds rather readily. Fine speed
control is not their forte. Digital foot controls are more expensive
but they’re a lot more responsive. Hand speed controls (just a dial
in a box that sits on your bench) can be quite useful if your work is
best done at single, steady speeds (such as drilling). If you do
decide to go the hand control route consider getting a "dead man’s"
foot switch so you don’t have to reach for the power while the
machine is running.
if you’re like me you’ll end up spending several times the value
of your machine on handpieces, bits, burrs, cutting wheels, polishing
tips, polishing compounds, etc, etc. The machine itself will be a
relatively small part of the overall monies spent. Plan for it
because there’s a million things your machine can do nicely if you
have the right handpiece/bit/bur/whatever for the job.
don’t forget safety gear! Goggles --or better yet, a full face
shield-- are mandatory. Also recommended is a dust or particle mask
and some kind of sound protection (earplugs or the earmuff style ear
protectors). These are just part of your setup costs. A faceful of
steel shavings can really put a damper on you day --or career!-- if
you are not properly protected. And don’t think that your eye
glasses will be enough eye protection. They’ll get pitted with hot,
flying metal dust faster than you can imagine. I went through more
pairs of glasses than I did Dremel machines exactly because of this
Ok, enough! Hope some of this was useful.