Will a stonesetter's flexshaft cover all the bases?

Hi folks -

I was recently talking to my professor in my stone setting class
about whether he thought a “stonesetting” flexshaft would be
basically capable of doing everything a regular flexshaft does. I’ll
need to buy one eventually, and I don’t want to buy two if I can
avoid it.

I really like the stonesetting one as it’s got a much smaller
diameter grip (tiny fingers…) and weighs less so it’s not so tiring
to work with, but on average do they have the
torque/horsepower/attachment variety/whatever to do pretty much what
a regular flexshaft does? If not, do you think I could use something
else (say, dremel, drill press) to cover what it can’t handle or am
I really going to need two flexshafts?

Liz Reese

I was recently talking to my professor in my stone setting class
about whether he thought a "stonesetting" flexshaft would 

Liz, your “professor” needs to go back to school. There ain’t no
such animal as a “stonesetters flexhaft”. Setters tend to like quick
change handpieces and duplex springs, but that’s about it. I have a
precision handpiece - just a better one than usual, but it has a
jacobs chuck, and I set away to my heart’s content, and also do
general work. The power and speed of the actual motor is what’s
doing the work. Which handpiece you use is up to you, and what sort
of work you are doing. The quick change feature is nice, but I
occasionally use 1/8" tools, plus I use wire size drill bits and
standard ones, too, and I don’t want to have to stock all those in
3/32" shanks. Whichever handpiece you like should work just fine for
a very long time.

Hi John,

Before you go ripping into my professor, I referred to a
"stonesetter’s flexshaft" as such when I asked because I had seen in
Rio Grande several flexshafts which looked like what we used in
class. This was after looking at the different models of flexshafts
on Rio Grande, one of which is listed as “Foredom® L Professional
Stone - Setter System”. I filled in a lot of= what I was inferring
in my question to him to this forum; actually it was a lot simpler
conversation than that (because I’m doing this completely in
Spanish, which means questions expanding beyond the lessons are a
struggle!) and whole conversation went like this (in Spanish):

“Fernando could you use a flexshaft like this (with the thinner grip
and quick change pieces and all) to do what we do with the other
flexshafts in regular class?” Fernando: “Si”

I wasn’t really prepared for him to elaborate on why or what
equipment (my Spanish is only so good) so I went back to setting my
stones… And given that my prof. spends half his time in Peru and
the other half in Switzerland and it all works on 220, I figure I’d
get some more useful references regarding manufacturers and such
somewhere else, like here…

So far as I knew at the time, the type of flexshaft (hp, torque,
whatever) you’d use for stonesetting could be way different from
what you’d need to do other tasks. I’m asking here because I was
hoping I could get a better variety of answers from people on here
who are not specialist stone setters, or people who don’t work much
beyond basic bezel sets, but people who work with both on a fairly
regular basis. Given what I’ve been looking at are whole systems, I
had (well, have) no idea how interchangeable all these pieces are,
whether I’d get all the features I need in one system, what would be
ideal for the widest variety of jobs, and frankly, I need to have
some of these conversations in English!

So any advice on what would be ideal for someone who wants to do a
lot of fine stonesetting work on top of other various tasks would be
greatly appreciated! The only thing I’m sure of is that I want that
slimmer grip for my dinky hands, and the quick change feature is

Thanks folks!
Liz Reese

Hi John,

Liz, your "professor" needs to go back to school. There ain't no
such animal as a "stonesetters flexshaft". 

I haven’t seen one listed in any catalog lately. There used to be a
flexshaft motor made that had two places to attach the flexshaft.
One place was the usual location at the bottom of the motor. The
second was at the top of the motor. The second location came out at
a right angle to the motor.

This second attachment point usually turned at a maximum speed of
about 1/4 (2,000 rpm) the speed of the usual connection point. I
think this was generally refereed to as a ‘stone setters’ flexshaft.


He was probably referring to a hammer handpiece, and a motor with
low speed and high torque (which you should use with the hammer

There is a “Stone Setter’s” flex shaft system offered by Rio. (At
least in the 2006-07 catalog page 239.) Your instructor-- Professor–
may have been responding to that package. It is a low speed, hi
torque Foredom–the Foredom L with a quick change hand-piece and a
hammer hp. It’s been around a while and undoubtedly grew out of the
cc machines with the second low speed/hi torque gear box that some
setters liked.

Nowadays, with quality solid state foot pedals (Luca) and motors I
would wager that there is little, if any, advantage to the L machine.

Buy a quality workshorse like the SR motor, good hand-pieces and,
above all, a quality foot pedal. Another wonderful choice is the
Ottoflex which is a more powerful motor --1/5-- and is made by
Buffalo dental. I’ve had this machine for 15 years and I love it.

Take care, Andy

However…a flexshaft that does not have full torque at all speeds,
like the foredom model cc, will be too hard to use, the burr will
catch and jump out of the head and cause damage.

There is a flexshaft that is evidently designed by Foredom, for
stonesetting. “Foredom L professional stone-setter system” in the Rio
catalogue, which advertises more control without loss of power or

Richard Hart

Liz Sugermeyer.

You really don’t need the torque and sometimes the higher speed in
setting is not so drastically necessary. What you are looking for is
durability, the handle-weight, and handle manoeverability. If you are
holding any size of “thin” handle or chuck you don’t want your
fingers too wrap around so far as to dig into your palm of your hand
all of the time.

It’s not on a regular basis that SPEED is needed, as the saying goes
"SPEED KILLS!". Yes, high-speed burring it is almost condoned, and
is hardly ever used at all…


Before you go ripping into my professor, I referred to a
"stonesetter's flexshaft" as such when I asked because I had seen 

Liz also emailed me off list, too, but I’ll put it all, here. First
off, I guess you could say I “ripped” her professor, but I didn’t
mean it that way, plus there is a language issue at work. There is NO
such thing as a “stonesetter’s flexshaft” in the sense that it is not
required to use THAT flexshaft in order to do the work. Rio Grande
having something called that is called marketing, folks. Andy
Cooperman, for one, said some good things about motor types and
speeds, and that’s really the guts of the whole system. Setters tend
to like quick change handpieces simply because they change burs so
often - really a lot, sometimes. I do general work and setting and I
like the versatility of a jacob’s chuck. If you use a quick change
then all your tools have to be the collet size, usually 3/32", or
change the collet, which is a chore. One of Liz’s questions that’s
related to language: A Jacob’s chuck is that standard chuck that’s on
most drills and standard flex shafts that has the three jaws that
move in and out, and the chuck key to do it with. I could be wrong,
because I don’t deal with it so often, but I believe that all of the
major flex shafts will interchange with all of the major flex shaft
handles. Many setters have 2 flex shafts or even three - one for
burs, one for a hammer handpiece (mount one foot pedal on the side of
the bench so you push it with your knee, then you don’t get the
pedals mixed up). Everybody here will have their own preferences
about handles, which is as it should be. My point is as always - you
don’t NEED to spend $500 on a “diamond setter’s system”, though if
you want to that’s fine, too. You can set stones with a dremel, if
you want to, though it’s a pretty “wrong” tool for the job - clunky
and lot’s of inertia. The important thing is the motor - HP, speed,
torque, and even that’s not all that important, and the business end:
size, shape and quality of the bur. What’s in between is pretty much
up to what the user feels comfortable with - and Liz, yes you can
have 2 or 3 or 10 handpieces and change them as you feel the need.
They just snap on and off…

Foredom’s L series is great for low speed high torque applications
like stonesetting but I think you’ll want something with more speed
for other tasks. So if you don’t want more than one flexshaft you
might want to consider the Foredom TX. It has 500 - 15,000 rpm and
high torque throughout its speed range. It can be used like the L
motor as a stone setting machine for the low speed high torque and
it can be used in higher speed applications. The TX has a rating of
1/3 horsepower under load. Foredom rates our motors under load unlike
other motor manufacturers that rate their motors under no work load.
So under no load the TX is rated at 1/2 horsepower. The TX accepts
all the same key tip type handpieces that the other flexshaft
machines take.

I agree with Richard on this. If stone setting is your main use,
most flex shafts do not have good low end torque and control and can
jump while trying to cut seats, especially small stone seats.

I have been using a dental motor for about 15 years and prefer it to
a flex shaft for the above reasons.

These are sometimes called micro motors or by other names, a
standard dremel tool is not in this catagory.

In a nut shell the motor is in the hand piece and these units are
twist open twist close for quick change of burrs, mine is set up for
3/32" I find the low end tourque and stability to be a big advantage.
Be careful as the high end rpms can be 30K plus, and its dangerous
if you have a heavy bit in the chuck, and let it go full throtle.
Not that is has ever happened to me personally :slight_smile:

Some units have better load capabilities than others so I suggest
you do you homework if this is the direction you want to persue.



All you need is a Quick release Handpiece.

Your Professor was talking about the Hand piece (usually Slimmer
than the Jewelers # 30) like Foredom 20 or a #10 (Faro) with a quick
release. Too bad he called it a Flexshaft or was it your

You do not need to have another Flexshaft system for this unless you
are a full time stone setter. Full time Stone setters in NYC
production work usually work with 4 to 5 motors dedicated for, Drill,
Round Bur, Bearing cut, Hammer tip, Abrasives etc and save time
having to change specially if they are working with production work
using same size stones.

If you own a good motor all you need is one of these slim quick
release handpiece & it should cover your needs.

Kenneth Singh
46 Jewelry Supply.

NHK’s micro motor is a jewel of a tool. Just a satisfied user.


The Stuller hammer stone setting kit comes with a l motor which is a
high-torque/ low seed motor 5,000rpm’s. also a 18 quick change
handpc and a fct electronic-foot pedal speed control

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold

All you need is a Quick release Handpiece.

I haven’t read any posts on this topic that I would have any quarrel
with - good stuff. I will say, though, that most beginners don’t know
what they’re going to do with most of their tools and equipment - not
in the same way that I do, for instance. They are setting out into
the unknown, in the sense that maybe next year theyll be doing
enameling, which never occured to them before. In terms of flex
shafts, I’ve logged tens of thousands of hours on 5 or six of them -
they don’t last forever after all. I don’t even think much about
torque and stuff, I just buy a good one. Why? Because it’s not the
motor, it’s me - my hands, my foot on the pedal. Doing stone carving
with diamond burs you just sit there with the pedal floored all the
time, for instance. What I am saying is that for a beginner, you
could actually do just fine by going out and buying just about any
good flexshaft, and if you want some certain handpiece you could do
that, too. Setters have certain needs and desires, carvers have
different needs, goldsmiths have differrent needs, and woodcarvers
and all sorts of other craftspeople use them, too. If you know that
you have some certain thing that you need out of the tool then yes,
choose carefully. But for general work doing a wide variety of tasks,
it really doesn’t matter all that much if it’s one motor or another.
I do all sorts of work, including some setting, with mine, but real
diamond setters just sit there setting stones all day long, every
day. Their system is optimized for just that thing - meaning that’s
it’s not optimized for finishing up raw castings or carving jade.
It’s not to discount the good advise here, because it is. But the
bewildering array of choices is really not that bewildering at all -
any good one will do lots of work for years - and you can always get
any handpiece you want, as needed.

I have 2 shafts mounted-- one w/ a quick release hand piece, which
not only allows for easy bur change, but also has a slender nose
piece allowing for a pencil style grip-- and one with a hammer
handpiece mounted. I should get a 3rd for a standard Jacob’s chuck
#30… All these run off one foot pedal, via a switching system sold
by Otto Frei, about $125 or so… It makes life so much easier. Gerry
has a good point about an overextended grip on a too small handpiece.

As far as not intending to snipe at the poster’s teacher: It really
doesn’t matter if the Foredom L motor being sold as a “Setter’s
Shaft” is merely marketing hype. It seems that the teacher was
responding to the description in the catalog. Denigrating someone for
a response that appears to be wrong is foolish. We all have gaps-- or
may appear to-- in our knowledge. No need to jump out of the gate and
into some one else’s face.


You really don't need the torque and sometimes the higher speed in
setting is not so drastically necessary.

If you do not have full torque at all speeds, when you start the
burr will catch and then jump out of the head as it starts. It does
not matter which foot control you use, it is the nature of low cost
flex shafts to not be full torque at all speeds. It does not matter
how strong you are, you cannot control the burr when it catches and
then goes real fast. Especially when someone is learning to set, it
just is not conducive to self confidence to use the wrong tool and
think that it is you that is the problem rather than the right tool
but the wrong model. I used a Foredom cc model for years and ruined
hundreds of heads before I learned what the problem was.

Richard Hart

These are sometimes called micro motors or by other names, a
standard dremel tool is not in this catagory. 

I have 2 flexshafts and a micromotor, and the micromotor is the
sweetest tool for stone setting, quiet and so smooth that you cannot
feel any vibrator. I have much better control with the micromotor,
it makes cutting a seat so much easier. I work in collaboration with
another jeweler, and last x-mas I gave her one as a gift, it is so
much to my advantage to make her life easier.

Richard Hart


I enjoy the many uses of this micro-motor. It’s very portable, I can
pack it up in my little suitcase and take it into my school room. I
could have sold it many times over, quiet, easy to hold and to me,
its ‘my friend’. Apart from being lightweight, it give s me the total
freedom of not carrying the weight of the flexshaft in my hand for
long periods of time…The only weight of hand is the weight of the
handle which is 216.2 grams or 7.16 oz’s…how lighter can this get?


OK…so lets count.

Foredom :Winner with 10 mentions PLUS a Letter From Foredom’s Head
of Sales, Mike Zagielski
Rio: 4 mentions and counting
NHK: 1 mention
Buffalo Dental : 1 allusion
Stuller: honorable mention -Andy would be derelict in his position
if he didn’t at least try to get a bite of the chum
Dremel: 1 mention

albeit the poorman’s stonesetting device ( but hey it can facet an
emerald,carve stones, polish, cut, shape, drill, route, set a stone
and mill some findings with a litlte practice!and relatively little
funds to work with- and in some cases is all an individual can
afford- not to mention they are versatile machines with some very
useful, and adequate functions, and a slew of attachments, variable
speed or single speed models, and bits that make them readily
accessible 24 hours a day at many retailers when you live in the
middle of nowhere and the only resource you have may be the horrid
wal-mart 40 miles away that is open and has a 14.95 sintered diamond
cut-off wheel, or convex carbide shaping bit at 3AM!) Proxxon or
other micromotor: 2 mentions/endorsements and counting

gee kids…a bit harsh on John’s semantics there-If you didn’t get
his point…you didn’t want to…Must be everyones cycle -into summer-
that is!!! He is one of the kindest Orchideans I have ever
encountered on this forum-always ready to share a solid working
knowledge of the arts and sciences involved in metalsmithing SANS
EGO,and well tempered-as John’s own work is testament to:
stunning,precise, sometimes playful art --He never takes a ‘holier
-than-thou’ stance or inflection…the man KNOWS STONE SETTING

So prior to defending a paid teacher one should perhaps try to
discern and retain the heart of the he is putting out
there freely…

It also follows than a beginner, not even knowledeable about tools,
torque and techniques should not imply that John’s comments were
"ripping" at all…rather, as with most busy working jewelers,his
jotting off a quick stream -of-consciousness note to HELP clarify
what some paid, globe trotting teacher barely touched upon should be
met with thanks, and graciousness…

Therein is one of my personal arguments against quickie intensives or
certain “schools” of lapidary or jewelry making…For example, just
last week I was at a tailgating night at Wm. Holland Lapidary
school…and an older woman-with no intention of becoming a jeweler
per se, or even "professional wire-wrapper ", if such a thing
exists, told me " this is the 4th time I’m taking Wire 1…the first
three teachers didn’t even tell us how to straighten wire or care for
it "…this kind of instruction transcends one school, one subject and
the 4 teachers in this example…While some schools are indeed geared
to turning out “professionals”, or at least, more than hobbyists,
many teachers don’t cover the basics…like, in this case, types of
equipment appropriate to the task, what to look for in terms of
task, whether or not one piece of equipment can accomplish more than
one task- and what would they be. and how to care for any equipment
regardless of the tasks it can accomplish, beyond the manufacturers
inserts…and on and on through the basics…

Orchid helps eliminate the need for a beginner to, through trial and
error, or a rio catalogue as their only point of reference,invest a
fortune in duplicating tool purchases in hopes of finding the right
equipment for making jewelry…Many Orchideans are teachers - and
this is not a slam against any you may be presenting in
your classes. In general, MOST schools are clear cut in prerequisite
knowledge and most students have at least a basic if not working
knowledge of what they are going to a particular place to learn or
accomplish, or in some cases, just to meet a jeweler they look up to
or are infatuated with ( it has happened!!) without any regard for
the presented in the class as it is secondary to their

Again, i am driven to the keen edge that semantics seem to play in
orchid posts…which i find completely counterproductive and of which
the use is WAY out-of-context: if semantics concern you more than
the you have the option to buy books, dvd’s, cd’s,
video’s, summarizations of presentations at industry related events,
etc…Don’t log on expecting that everyone posting here has the time
to do anything more than offering their own experiences, personally
acquired and typing it with a willingness to freely
share what they have learned, most through years of experience and
trial and surprise ( as opposed to error!), without charging a fee(
Gerry comes to mind in his effusive distribution of at
no charge- on subjects from how to prepare an onglette graver to pave
setting, etc.)…Semanticity has no bearing on the context, in
general, of what one individual is sharing with another individual in
hopes of a friendly exchange of without ever considering
that an individual may have to defend what they have shared here…
format, semantics, and stylistics should not be an issue on
Orchid…neither should mention of non-native speakers of english
trying to get help or here ever be approached…diversity
exists, many languages exist, many opinions exist: if you haven’t the
intelligence to extract the essence of a non-native speaker’s
question, then the amicable exchange that is the point of the Orchid
forum, is turned into a euro-centric elitist clique…of which how
one expresses their questions is more important or weightier than the
courage to just ask to the best of one’s ability…R.E.Rourke