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Few power tools meet the definition of “multitasking” as well as the Dremel rotary tool kit. It is essentially a tool shed in a box, with all the functionality of a saw blade, a drill bit, an engraver, a sander, and much more. For many owners, the best part is that it is extremely portable; it can be brought to the work itself, not locked down in a specific location in the workshop. A handheld, motorized base provides mobility and precise control, two other positive qualities hand tools should possess.
At BestReviews, we strive to provide honest product reviews through a combination of consumer feedback, expert opinions, and independent lab testing. We never accept special review products directly from manufacturers — we purchase our test products from the same shelves as our readers, and we donate them to nonprofit organizations after our reviews have been published. If you’re looking to invest in a Dremel rotary tool kit, either for professional reasons or as a hobbyist, please check out our shopping guide below to find the best selections currently on the market.
Many common power tools, such as a circular saw, drill, or grinding wheel, would fit the broad definition of a rotary tool. A motor produces a variable rate of spin, and a specialized blade or bit performs a task, whether it be slicing through a piece of wood, boring a hole in sheet metal, or grinding down a burr. These are all considered rotary tools, but an inventor named A.J. Dremel took that concept one step further after World War II. He developed a multi-purpose tool which featured a handheld rotary motor and a variety of blades and bits. The Dremel rotary tool eliminated the need for workers to set up multiple dedicated power tools to complete complicated assignments.
A modern rotary tool kits consists of an ergonomically designed base with a variable speed electric motor, a universal attachment spindle, and a wide selection of bits and blades. Some entry level rotary tool kits may only contain a basic set of bits, while advanced kits may include hundreds of attachments and bits. Manufacturers like Dremel also offer specialized add-ons, such as a trimmer blade for pet nail grooming. New blades and bits are constantly being introduced to the marketplace.
There are plenty of specialty add-ons for Dremel rotary tools, including trimmers for pet nails and attachments for sharpening lawn mower blades.
As versatile as a rotary tool can be, it is not unusual for a hobbyist or DIYer to use it for a few specific purposes. Many people use a Dremel rotary tool to engrave names, serial numbers or other identifiers on personal possessions. Others use a polishing or grinding bit to put the finishing touches on a craft project. A length of plastic pipe may need to be trimmed down to size, or an exposed bolt cut off. There are literally hundreds of tasks that a rotary tool kit can perform, including:
Many people use a Dremel rotary tool to engrave names, serial numbers or other identifiers on personal possessions.
One of the most apparent advantages of a rotary tool is mobility. Taking the tool to the work is almost always easier than taking the work to the tool. For example, if you need to cut the ends off of nails protruding through a fence, you can easily carry the Dremel across your yard. Carrying the fence to a bench-mounted grinding wheel, of course, is impossible.
The Dremel rotary tool also offers speed over non-power tools, and a small profile that can make it easier to work in tight places. Flush trimming a wooden dowel, for example, only takes a few seconds with a quality rotary tool and saw blade bit, but would take much longer with a manual saw. A large, handheld drill may be too bulky to reach the back of a drawer, but a rotary tool with a drill bit can reach it easily.
Another advantage is less downtime between tasks. A typical woodworking project can start with a drill press, move to a bandsaw, require some routing, and finally end up on a belt sander. This requires setting up and adjusting several heavy tools, and transporting the piece from station to station. With a rotary tool kit, the piece can remain in place as the user quickly changes out the bits as necessary. Some tasks require different motor speeds, and a rotary tool has that capability as well.
Rotary tool kit owners also praise its storability. Many full-size woodworking and metalworking tools require generous amounts of real estate in a workshop, but a Dremel rotary tool kit can be stored in a cabinet or under a workbench. Power consumption can also be a concern, since full- size equipment can be expensive to operate. A Dremel rotary tool only requires household current, or a rechargeable battery, to perform its duties.
Dremel rotary tool kits can easily be stored in a cabinet or under a workbench, reducing the workshop real estate needed, without sacrificing functionality.
One rule of thumb for rotary tool kit shoppers is to buy according to need.
A deluxe version, containing hundreds of bits and attachments, may look good on the workshop shelf, but it isn’t always practical for specific crafts such as woodworking, jewelry making, or metalworking.
An entry-level kit with a minimal assortment of bits may work fine for a hobbyist, but would probably frustrate a professional repairman or DIYer.
The rotary tool itself is the real star of the show, and owners can always order additional bits and accessories when the need arises.
Some rotary tool kits only come with a few basic bits, but larger sets can include hundreds of attachments.
Ergonomic design can be an important consideration when shopping for the ideal rotary tool, particularly for a specific type of use.
If you plan to use the tool for creative projects such as carving, engraving, or printmaking, it’s important to find a rotary tool that fits the hand well. Using a larger, commercial-grade model for fine detail work can be an exercise in frustration.
Weight is another consideration when choosing an “artistic” style of rotary tool. Heavier models designed for industrial projects can cause hand fatigue over time.
On the other hand, a rotary tool designed for repair work and other projects should feature a sturdy housing and a powerful, variable speed motor. The individual bits and attachments should also be rugged enough to handle a variety of material, from the softest foam to the hardest steel or stone. Many professional users also like to clamp a rotary tool in a table vise for additional stability. Be sure to find a model that supports this type of treatment.
Portability is a key benefit of a Dremel rotary tool set. Taking the tool to the work is often easier than taking the work to the tool.
When deciding between a corded or cordless rotary tool, there are several factors to consider. The first is accessibility. A cordless model can be used in remote locations, where a standard electrical outlet is not available. Some owners may need to take a rotary tool to a worksite to finish a project without the need for other power tools.
The tradeoff, however, is overall motor speed and power. A cordless rotary tool rarely produces more than 20,000 rpm, while a corded version can reach speeds up to 37,000 rpm.
A corded rotary tool also has its positives and negatives. A corded model can operate at the same level of performance for hours at a time, unlike a cordless model with battery life and recharging issues.
However, a corded rotary tool is limited by the range of its power cord, and isn’t always easy to maneuver in tight or remote spaces. Some users purchase a special harness to suspend a corded rotary tool above the workspace. Corded models are generally more powerful than cordless models.
The variable speed motor in a Dremel rotary tool provides tremendous versatility when you’re working on a project that requires different tasks.
Some basic Dremel rotary tools have a limited number of speed options, while others can be dialed up to 37,000 rpm with the touch of a finger. For some hobbyists and occasional users, the default motor speeds of a basic model are sufficient. However, professionals or DIYers will probably want more control over motor speed as they take on more complicated projects.
We recommend looking for rotary tool models that offer more than a simple “fast/slow” speed option. Being able to dial in a precise motor speed is also a good thing, especially for advanced users. However, the temptation to set the motor speed to its maximum setting can create more problems than it solves.
Beginners should always start out slow and increase the motor speed in small increments, and research the best speed for the work being performed.
The fastest possible rotary speed isn’t always the best. Research your work and understand the optimum speed for the task being performed.
Even the most basic Dremel rotary tool kit can contain a dizzying array of unfamiliar bits, blades and accessories. These parts should be clearly identified on the packaging.
A larger assortment of bits is not necessarily better from an economic standpoint, but it does reduce the need to seek out specialized parts later.
Many Dremel kits contain a general purpose set of bits and attachments, but you can find kits with bits chosen for a specific purpose.
Dremel rotary tool kits start out around $50. For that price, you’re likely to get a two-speed tool, with few or no attachments in the kit.
The most important feature you’ll find at higher prices is the variable speed motor, allowing far more flexibility in your workshop tasks. The price also rises as the kit size grows — the more attachments, the higher the cost.
For example, in the $60 to $75 range, kits are available with around 25 bits, and for just over $100 you can find kits with 100 or more accessories.
Safety first — always wear eye protection. The rotary tool can easily send debris flying fast enough to damage an eye.
Here are some professional rotary tool tips and tricks that every new user should consider:
Invest in a diamond bit. A diamond bit won’t necessarily be included as part of an original rotary kit, but it makes a great addition to the set. It can cut and engrave glass and tile, two materials that are notoriously difficult to work with using standard bits and blades.
Watch your motor speed. There is always a temptation to turn up the rotary tool’s motor speed to the maximum in order to blaze through a project quickly. This can be a costly mistake, since many materials can be damaged easily at higher speeds, and some bits are not designed to work at 37,000 rpm.
Consider bracing the rotary tool, not the piece. Many rotary tool tasks, such as routing and engraving, involve steadying the piece and maneuvering the bit or blade. Other tasks, such as sanding or deburring, may actually be easier if the tool is held in a vise or some other type of brace.
The direction of the spin is important. When using a rotary tool to carve wood, it is generally better to move with the direction of the spin. The sawdust will be easier to control. However, metal should be carved in the opposite direction of the spin. Hot metal shrapnel will move away from the carving area.
Always use eye protection. Even the simplest tasks with a rotary tool can produce dangerous flying debris. Safety glasses or goggles should be worn at all times.
Wear gloves during longer projects. A Dremel tool motor can get extremely hot after extended use, and can get to be uncomfortable to your hand, or even burn it.
Q: I just started woodworking as a hobby. Do I really need all of those bits and blades included in a Dremel rotary tool kit?
A: You may not need all of the bits and accessories included in a high end, all-inclusive Dremel kit, but you may be surprised at how many bits are good to have on hand. Many Dremel kits are sold for general purposes, not specifically for woodworking or metalworking or repair work. You may want to consider purchasing a Dremel rotary tool designed for woodworking first, then invest in only the bits your hobby requires.
Q: Can a rotary tool actually perform as well as a full-size power tool?
A: It depends on the scope of the project. For smaller tasks with relatively soft materials, such as plastic or wood, a rotary tool with the proper bit can be a true workhorse. Sometimes a larger project, especially with challenging materials such as steel or stone, can push a rotary tool to its limits.
Q: Can I trim my dog’s nails with a Dremel rotary tool?
A: Dremel actually produces a rotary tool designed specifically for pet grooming. The nail-trimming bit is used to grind down a pet’s nails, then a separate bit smooths and files. The noise and speed of a regular Dremel’s motor may be too scary for most pets, however.
Q: I have just started my own jewelry making business. Can I use a Dremel rotary tool to drill through precious and semi-precious stones?
A: You should be able to drill through most types of jewelry-grade stones with a special diamond bit. This type of bit isn’t always included in traditional kits, however. You may also want to invest in a drill press attachment, which helps the rotary tool apply steadier pressure to the stone. Always keep the diamond bit lubricated with water while drilling, and do not allow it to overheat. The industrial diamond dust can fall off the bit as a result.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.
120-Volt Variable-Speed Rotary Tool with 50 Accessories with MultiPro Keyless Chuck