Flexible-shaft tools

Martha Stewart–wait, hear me out!–uses a Dremel rotary tool. She
uses it for crafts projects, so it gets light usage (compared to,
say, cutting through the bars of a jail cell). I assume that she is
well compensated for mentioning it on her show.

During the holiday season, I see a lot of television ads for
Dremel–along with ads for The Clapper, Chia Pets, and other
products of dubious quality.

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


Hi Janet, The Dremel that is often advertised can actually do an
awful lot of work. But in the end, it’s still best for those at a
more “hobby” level. You can actually buy a mroe “heavy duty” model
of dremel that is just like the Foredom and Pfingst hanging models.
You can find this high end model of Dremel at Lee Valley Tools.

But if you’re planning on doing the whole gammut of jewellery
making, I would go with the Foredom or the Pfingst as there are mroe
accessories designed to be used with these models than the Dremel -
for example the Ray Grossman “Jump Ringer” is designed for use with
a #30 handpiece. You cannot use the Jump Ringer with the model of
Dremel that Martha Stewart is using, you’d have to find an
alternative accessory for that.

So really just look at what you do now, and what you would like to
do in the future and determine if your needs will require either the
"all purpose" Dremel or the high end Foredom or Pfingst flex shaft


Hi Janet,

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! 

If you want do do serious work with a flexshaft, Dremel isn’t the
way to go.

Probably the most popular flexshaft brand in the jewelry industry is
Foredom. There are several ‘house brands’ that are approximately the
same as Foredom. There are also some import Chinese units available
(stay away from these), the quality isn’t there. The dental industry
uses a lot of Pfingst flexshafts.

Generally speaking all the handpieces for the flexshafts will fit
all brands & the tools that go into the handpieces will also work
with all brands. The basic Foredom unit, model ‘CC’’ is an 1/8 hp (I
think). You can get models with up to 1/4 hp motor.

The motor selected is really dependent on the work that’ll be done
with the unit.


Janet, Foredom all the way! Seriously, though, there are any number
of good brands of flex-shaft out there, and Foredom is the best-known
among jewelers and metal-workers. The key, though, is the handpiece,
more so than the motor and rheostat (foot pedal or bench control).
The motors and rheostats are inexpensive to replace, but a good
handset will worm its way into your heart and you won’t want to
replace it.

So if you want to go with a less-expensive motor you can find them
at places like Harbor Freight – then spend the bucks on a really
good handpiece for it. Or, you can just go with a “package” deal of
all-Foredom parts, including the hand-piece.

I do know a few people who have Dremels. They seem to use them as
"lightweight" tools, and their battery-powered one is convenient for
taking with you to do “little” work at shows and places without
electrical hookups. But I wouldn’t personally want to use it as my
only flex-shaft for daily work.

Hope this helps,
Karen Goeller

Handcrafted and Unique Artisan Jewelry

I view Dremel tools as a popular Flex-shaft-like tool. Flex shaft
tools are better in many ways, but they are expensive and not found
in your average hardware store.

Dremel tools tend to be more portable, too. You can use your dremel
to cut nice holes in drywall, get the rust off of a shovel, etc.

From what I’ve heard, the cheap Dremel clones are not worth it.

At the high speed settings, they tend to be a little loud. Not sure
if it’s louder than a flex-shaft, however.

They do take, without complaint, all standard flex-shaft burrs.
Generally the jeweler-grade tools are both cheaper and more varried
to boot.

The single-speed ones aren’t built to last, but they are the only
ones that take a foot pedal.

They aren’t much good for a serious metalworker but they are great
for getting as many medias as possible in one’s balcony studio
without having one’s spouse make them sleep on the couch. :wink:

Ken, from SF, where we are currently trialing both summer and fall
at the same time (but do, contrary to popular belief, have seasons)

Janet Yang, If your interested in purchasing a quality flex-shaft
motor that’s made in the USA at a reasonable price, then I have
exactly what I believe your looking for. (see picture) at my site
listed below.

I have a few of these units left in my inventory and there all brand
new. Each set comes complete with everything shown in picture,
except for the motor hanger which is no longer available, (out of

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.

The cost of the above flex-shaft is $165.00 plus shipping/handling.
If your interested, please feel free to contact me at my toll-free
number: 1-(800) 332-5573

I could also give you names of a couple of orchid members that
recently purchased one of these flex-shaft machines from me, and
there very happy with there purchase.

Thank you for your time,
Richard Lucas
Lucas Dental Mfg. Co.
18 Herkimer Place
Brooklyn, NY 11216

On eBay there are benchgrinders that come with a flexible-shaft

Are these attachments any good? I already have a benchgrinder and it
has variable speed.


I don’t believe the dremel has the variable speed control that a
flexshaft has. I find it much easier to control what I am doing
with the foot pedal operated speed control. --Vicki

Best thing to do is either buy the foredom, or one of the other top
machines (frei, borel, etc) foredom:

S, is the basic 1/8 hp setup CC, basic 1/10 hp setup TX ,(1/3hp/high
torque)is top of the line TXH high torque, heavy duty, for dense
materials carving L, high torque/low speed DO NOT USE THEIR ECOMOMY
FOOT PEDAL, (or at least upgrade), the FCT or SCT is the ONLY way
to go BEST IDEA; Wasit for the machine to come up on orchid, we
have them for sale very regularly, i have bought 2 in the last 4
months, and there were many more than that, recently
DrDule1@aol.com, had many tools, try him. E-mail Address(es)

Hello, Janet!

The Foredom Model breakdown is this:

CC = 1/10 hp
DD = CC for benchtop use
S = 1/8 hp
H = 1/4 hp, needs special handpieces
TX = 1/3 hp, and reversible with special foot controls
	or inline switches.

Dan Woodard, affiliated with Indian Jewelers Supply Company. Gallup
and Albuquerque NM

I started out carving with my husband’s Dremel until I got my feet
good and wet, but my hand vibrated to numbness every time. Then did a
Snoopy Happy Dance the day my Foredom bench lathe, flex-shaft
attachment and 44T handpiece arrived. And I haven’t stopped dancing

Check with Daniel Lopacki (www.lopacki.com), where you’ll find a
huge array of Foredom products and all the fun gadgets for them you
can imagine. His prices are great, his advice is right-on and his
bead carving is extraordinary. And whether you’re a Big Fish or a
small fish (like me), he’s bound to have something to fit your needs.

Hopefully helpful, Carol

    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
    unfortunate habit.

Ok, enough! Hope some of this was useful.

Trevor F.

I’ll chime in briefly, The machine, handpiece and foot pedal offered
by Richard Lucas for $165- sounds like a great deal. The Lowboy
foot pedal is responsive and non fatigueing. The handpiece would
seem to be a Foredom #30 analog. Lucadent is a well respected
manufacturer. The one problem I’ve had with the Rioflex/ Ottoflex
1/8hp motor and shaft (made, I think, by Buffalo Dental and, I
assume, a similar motor to that offered by Richard) is the drive
flange at the tip of the shaft that slots into the handpiece. The
Foredom flange is rectangular while the Rio/Otto is a half circle.
In my experience, this 1/2 circular flange wears much more quickly
when shifting back and forth between handpieces. Is this the same
system on the Lucadent machine?

Andy Cooperman