When it comes to flex shaft rotary tools, you can either go super cheap, or pay a bit more for some really quality tools.
Flex shaft tools are great for that extra and flexible reach for activities like woodworking and carving, jewellery making and cleaning, and general tasks that require a precision type rotary tool.
Below are some short summaries, and links to reviews for some of the more popular brands like Foredom, Dremel and SE.
This guide should really give you a good overall picture of what flex shaft tool might suit you best.
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Top Rated Flex Shaft Rotary Tools
Foredom SR Motor Series (suitable for most people)
Foredom TX Motor Series (suitable for those 10-20% of people who want extra power)
Dremel Flex Shaft Tool
[*Note – an alternative flex shaft option from Dremel is the ‘Dremel Flex Shaft Attachment’, which can be attached to a Dremel rotary tool]
The flex shaft attachment comes both by itself (and can then be attached to a compatible Dremel rotary tool), or, in a kit with a tool (like the Dremel 3000 or 4000 models) …
Attachment Only – Dremel Flex Shaft Attachment (on Amazon)
Attachment + Tool – Dremel 4000 with Flex Shaft Attachment (on Amazon), or, Dremel 3000 with Flex Shaft Attachment (on Amazon)
Flex Shaft Rotary Tools: Reviews
Foredom Flex Shaft Tools
In our opinion, Foredom have the best quality flex shaft tools on the market for the average user.
They have two main types of flex shaft tools – each of which is a different series of motor.
The Foredom SR series is good for 80% of users that want precision, and fine detail out of their flex shaft tool.
It comes in 3 common starter kits which basically have everything you need to get going:
- Woodworking kit
- Jeweller’s kit
- General Applications kit.
The vital stats in terms of performance and specs to know about the Foredom SR series is:
- 1/5 HP to 1/4 HP (1/6 HP under continuous load) > lower horsepower than the TX
- It is variable Speed – up to 18,000 RPM > higher max speed than the TX
- Comes in either a 115 as standard, OR a 230 Volts model – the 220/230 volt models come with the red label on the motor
The Foredom TX motor series is good for that other 10-20% of users.who want the extra horsepower.
They are particularly good for heavy woodworking, or heavier tasks that you need the extra horsepower for, like porting engines.
There are two basic kits:
- Woodworking kit
- General Applications kit WITHOUT a handpiece – you’ll have to buy a handpiece that suits you separately (the #30 Foredom handpiece is very popular)
The vital stats in terms of performance and specs to know about the Foredom TX series is:
- 1/3 HP (more power than the SR motor series, & Dremel flex shaft)
- Variable speed – up to 15,000 RPM
- Comes in 115 volts only
You can read reviews for the Foredom SR motor series and TX motor series in these two guides:
Dremel Flex Shaft Tools
Dremel has two options if you want a Dremel brand flex shaft tool.
You can either buy one of their regular rotary tools and buy a flex shaft attachment with it, or you can get their Dremel 9100 Fortiflex tool.
Dremel Rotary Tool with Flex Shaft Attachment
The capability of the first option depends on the rotary tool you get, but for example, you might choose a Dremel 4000 or Dremel 4300 model, and buy the flex shaft attachment for it.
This option won’t have as much power or torque as the Dremel Fortiflex though.
The benefit is though that you essentially have two tools in 1 – a normal Dremel rotary tool, and a flex shaft tool.
You can read more about the Dremel rotary tools, and flex shaft attachment in the guides below:
Dremel 9100 Fortiflex Flex Shaft Tool
We provided a review of the Dremel 9100 Fortiflex in our comparison guide with the Foredom tools here.
The Dremel 9100 Fortiflex is most similar to the Foredom SR motor series flex shaft tool range.
The advantage of the Dremel 9100 Fortiflex is that is is compatible with all Dremel accessories and most attachments. The Foredom is also compatible with most Dremel bits, but you have to check which ones before you buy.
The Fortiflex is designed for power-carving, shaping and grinding applications – essentially very comparable to the SR in that it is for precision and fine tasks like carving, woodworking etc.
Like both the Foredom flex shaft tools, the Dremel has a foot pedal to control the speed and an interchangeable hand piece.
The vital stats in terms of performance and specs are:
- Power comes in at 1/5 HP
- Variable speed – up to 23,000 RPM > higher that the SR
- Operates at 120 Volts only
When in hand, the Foredom SR feels slightly better engineered and solid than the 9100 – but the Dremel is still a great tool, particularly for wood carving.
SE Flex Shaft Tools
To be clear – if Foredom and Dremel are too expensive for you, here is your cheap option.
SE offers the SE 979FSG Flexible Shaft Grinder with a basic starter’s kit.
The SE 979FSG is a lower quality flexible shaft tool, but it maxes out at 1/4 horsepower and 22,000 RPM – which is decent performance.
As a bonus, you also get 40 accessories with the SE flex shaft kit, and the variable speed foot pedal.
Don’t expect the performance, quality or longevity of the Foredom and Dremel tools in the SE – just an inexpensive flex shaft tool for infrequent or light use.
Flex Shaft Rotary Tools: Buyer’s Guide
What Are Flex Shaft Rotary Tools Used For?
They might be used for a range of activities that involve precisions, such as carving wood, making jewelry, working with ceramics, or porting engines
16 Buyer Tips For Choosing A Flex Shaft Rotary Tool
Below, we list 16 buyer’s tips that might help you choose the right flex shaft rotary tool for you …
1) Will a flex shaft tool be better for you, or a normal Dremel tool with a flex shaft attachment?
Flex shaft tools are designed and built specifically for detail orientated tasks – like carving, engraving, grinding etc.
Dremel rotary tools are built to do many different tasks, and have much higher speeds e.g. the Dremel 4000 has a max speed of 35,000 RPM (compared to the Dremel 9100 Fortiflex at 23,000 RPM).
If you are not sure whether you want a Dremel rotary tool or a flex shaft tool, these guides might be helpful:
2) Is the flex shaft tool a hang up motor, or bench based motor model?
Most flex shaft tools are hang up motors (the motor has a hook or bale, and it hooks onto a motor stand).
But, there are also bench motor flex shaft tools available from brands like Foredom where the motor rests on the bench.
3) What has the flex shaft tool been designed for by the manufacturer?
Different flex shaft tools are designed for different tasks by different brands – but, all are designed for detail type tasks.
For example –
Foredom says their TX series motor flex shaft tools are for heavier duty tasks like power carving and engine porting.
Dremel says their 9100 Fortiflex is for power-carving, shaping and grinding applications.
4) Does the chuck need a wrench to change bits?
Most flex shaft tools have a 3 jaw chuck.
These chucks usually accept all shank sizes, but need a tool wrench to change bits over.
5) What range of sizes of bit shanks does the handpiece and chuck fit?
The product details should tell you what size bit shanks the chuck in the handpiece fits.
For example, the Dremel 9100 Fortiflex fits bit shank sizes from 0 In. to 5/32 inches.
6) Is the foot pedal plastic, or metal?
The Dremel 9100 has a plastic foot pedal.
Foredom foot pedals that control speed are mostly plastic, but they also have metal foot pedals.
7) What is the horsepower of the flex shaft motor?
The Dremel 9100 has a 1/5 horsepower motor.
The Foredom SR has a max horsepower higher than this, but the TX series is twice as powerful as both of those tool models.
8) What is the speed range, and lowest & maximum speed of the flex shaft motor?
Check the total speed range of the tool, in addition to the low end and maximum speeds.
For example, the Dremel 9100 has a speed range of 0-23,000 RPM.
The Foredom TX on the other hand has a speed range of 500 to 15,000 RPM (but more power)
9) Does the motor work in forward speed, or reverse as well?
The Foredom model flex shaft tools have both forward and reverse speed capabilities.
Benefits of running in reverse speed include:
Left handed users have more control of the cutting tool
Reverse helps to keep dust and other debris flying away from right handed users
Alternating motor direction helps to extend the life of certain abrasives
Reverse helps with accomplishing symmetrical grinding and carving techniques
Reverse makes it easier to back out stuck drill bits
Alternating motor direction makes it easier and faster to polish metals
10) What voltage does the motor come in?
Does the model just come in 115/120, or 220/230 volt as well?
The Foredom SR series is the only model we’re aware of that comes in both – the 115 volt is standard though.
11) What types of kits does the flex shaft tool come available in?
The Foredom SR series has the widest range of kits available – including general application, woodcarving and jeweler kits.
The Dremel on the other hand only has one 21 accessory kit available.
12) What accessories are included in the kit?
The Foredom models have a wider range and more accessories included in their kits.
Each kit has a different number of accessories, and different types of accessories for different tasks – so check that.
13) Is flex shaft grease included?
Flex shaft grease is to lubricate the shaft – check whether this is included.
14) Does the kit or tool come with the hand piece?
If you buy the Foredom for example from some places, it doesn’t come with he hand piece (usually when you don’t buy it in a kit).
The kits usually do come with a handpiece for the shaft and tool, but double check this.
15) Does the kit come with a hanger/stand/holder?
Most tools and kits don’t come with a hanger/stand to hang the motor on.
You can purchase the hanger separately if you want it – it does make working with hang up motor tools easier.
16) What other extras might be needed to use the flex shaft tool?
Other common extras needed might be extra accessories and hangers.
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