6 Best Rotary Tools for the Money (Can Anyone Beat the Dremel?)

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A good rotary tool (often referred to as a Dremel tool) is useful for a wide range of projects, from grinding and cutting to crafts and home improvement.

To get the best rotary tool for the money, you should of course be looking for something that’s ergonomically designed, but specific uses will determine the other traits that will work best for you, such as variable speeds, cordless capabilities, and more.

Very few pieces of equipment are as versatile as a rotary tool, which can cut, sand, sharpen, engrave and more. These 6 well-respected rotary tools each have special traits that make them more attractive for each user’s individual preferences.

See also: The Best Oscillating Tool for Ultimate Versatility

Tip:  If you see a couple numbers after a model number separated by a slash (ie: 2/30), this means that the tool includes 2 attachments and 30 accessories.

Our 6 Favorite Rotary Tools

 ProductRPM RangePowerAccessories
best-cordless-rotary-toolDremel 82205,000 - 33,00012V Max28
best-dremel-tool-2Dremel 43005,000 - 35,0001.8 Amps40
dremel-tool-reviewDremel 40005,000 - 35,0001.6 Amps30
dewalt-rotary-tool-reviewDeWalt DW66030,0005.0 Amps3
rtx-b-rotary-reviewBlack+Decker RTX-B12,000 - 30,0002.0 Amps5
best-cheap-rotary-toolWEN 23058,000 - 30,0001.0 Amps100

Rotary Tool Reviews

#1 – Dremel 8220-1/28 12-Volt Max Cordless Rotary Tool

best-cordless-rotary-toolNo surprise that a Dremel tops our list as the brand has an excellent reputation among woodworkers, hobbyists, DIYers, and professionals. Not only is the 8220 cordless the best Dremel tool model in our eyes, it’s the best rotary tool overall.

The life of the craft bench is this Dremel cordless rotary tool. It features a high speed (5,000 – 33,000 RPM), low torque spindle on top of a cordless lithium battery design that recharges in only one hour.

Being cordless sets in in a class by itself, because it allows you to reach into areas or use the tool for a quick side application without having to move the cord around or find a new outlet to plug into.

Dremel 8220 review accessories
Click to enlarge

The assortment of 28 accessory tools and bits that comes inside the hard plastic case make finding side applications a snap, and even more projects are possible because the Dremel 8220 will accept bits and attachments from most major manufacturers.

Being cordless is both the biggest advantage and the worst drawback, because disconnecting from a continuous power source means you only have a limited amount of time to get the job done. No matter what you need a rotary tool for, the Dremel 8220 is definitely one of the best Dremel tool options.

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#2 – Dremel 4300-5/40 Rotary Tool Kit

best-dremel-tool-2This entry by the masters of rotary tools has the most powerful motor in the Dremel line. The variable speeds (5,000 – 35,000 RPM) and electronic feedback ensure quality remains consistent, no matter the task.

A pivot light makes it easier to see when detailing or working in recesses. Meanwhile, the universal three-jaw chuck and included collet system make using any Dremel accessory a snap. Best of all, this kit comes with a wide range of said accessories (40 altogether), so you can get started right away.

Longtime owners of Dremel products will be quick to notice the larger size and power difference. The biggest improvement for many consumers is the addition of separate on/off and speed switches, making it easier to keep your preferred settings. The fact that this tool will fit all of your older Dremel attachments is just icing on the cake.

While you can always rely on Dremel for quality, this tool isn’t perfect. A few owners have reported the motor burning out. Additionally, the attachments use plastic threads, which wear down faster than metal ones.

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#3 – Dremel 4000-2/30 Rotary Tool Kit

dremel-tool-review

One of the most popular rotary tools of all time is the Dremel 4000. It’s still a great tool but the newer Dremels above are just a bit better. The spindle is variable speed and it has a maximum speed of 35,000 RPM, and that means fast, smooth precision etching or tooling.

It features the patented ergonomic Dremel design for extended use on high detail projects. The Dremel 4000-2/30 kit includes a wide assortment of tools and attachments capable of everything from cleaning and engraving to cutting or grinding.

To make things easier, the kit includes a circle cutter and edge gauge. It all comes in a hard plastic case so you can keep the accessories organized, but the kit is small enough that it can easily into a cabinet or under the desk for easy storage.

As far as the design is concerned, the only real complaint with the Dremel 4000 is that the On/Off switch tends to wear quickly, possibly due to heat generated by misuse. Keep in mind that the Dremel 4000 is not intended for industrial applications.

Operating the spindle for extended periods of time will cause this model to get extremely hot. It is designed for light to medium use, such as light precision machining, detail cleaning and buffing, and similar tasks. Attempting to use this model in the wrong way can damage it.

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#4 – DeWalt DW660 Cut-Out Rotary Tool

dewalt-rotary-tool-reviewThis 5 amp rotary tool specializes in cutting and provides 30,000 RPM for superior cutting power in a slim, easy-to-hold design. The dust-sealed turn-on/bump-off switch makes turning the tool off easier without exposing the switch to dust and debris. A 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch collet comes with the tool, as well as a drywall cutting bit.

Perhaps the best tool for cutting drywall, the DW660 also works well on wood, acrylic, and plastic. Consumers love the compatibility with Dremel accessories, and the speed allows this tool to compete with the RotoZip, Dremel tools, and other cutting tools.

Related:  Best Manual Tile Cutters for Pros and DIYers

The biggest issue with this tool is the chuck. Several users have reported their chuck locking, making it impossible to change bits. Whether DeWalt plans to address this issue is unknown.

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#5 – Black+Decker RTX-B 3-Speed Rotary Tool

rtx-b-rotary-reviewFor a little less speed (up to 30,000 RPM) and similar torque, Black & Decker’s RTX-B Rotary is one of the best Dremel tool alternatives. It has an ergonomic design as well, and a unique loading system that makes changing bits and accessories a snap.

The best feature, though, is that this unit provides even more cutting power than many Dremel tools which cost more. That extra torque means faster sharpening and cutting, and easier sanding or buffing.

Many users actually prefer a rotary tool over their bench grinder or angle grinder for more precise sharpening of tools or lawnmower blades.

The RTX-B is designed to accept all major styles of attachments, but the kit is sadly lacking in starter pieces. A narrow sample of accessories is included, but you will need to increase the variety quickly.

While the carrying bag does not diminish the tool itself, it is a big departure from a protective hard case. The best advice is to purchase a small tool box and use the removable tray for storing your small accessories.

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#6 – WEN 2305 Rotary Tool Kit w/ Flex Shaft

best-cheap-rotary-toolPacked with over 100 accessories, this is the perfect rotary drill kit for those just starting out. An onboard spindle lock makes bit changes a breeze, while the variable speed motor provides 8,000 to 30,000 RPM. A useful flex shaft is included to aid in precision and detailing work.

You’ll be hard pressed to find another rotary tool this quiet and inexpensive. The overall quality is great for the price, and users love the combination of flex shaft and variable speed control. As an added bonus, the tool is compatible with Dremel bits and accessories.

This isn’t a Dremel and while good for short jobs, it lacks the staying power and a few have reported it can overheat quickly on tougher tasks. Some users have also reported receiving their’s with a bent shaft. Neither issue is very common and may have been from defective batches.

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FAQs

Rotary tools are a staple of woodworking and hobby craft, but you might not be aware of just how useful these tools are. The following points are those often asked by those new to rotary tools.

What Are Some Common Rotary Tool Uses?

A highly versatile tool, rotary drills are used in a wide range of trades and hobbies. They excel for precision work and can perform tasks from drilling to sanding and even cutting or polishing. You can use these tools on a variety of materials, such as wood, plastic, acrylic, and drywall.

See Also:  Common Angle Grinder Uses

What Are Some Common Rotary Tool Accessories?

There is a wide range of accessories available that allow rotary tools to perform almost any task. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Buffing/Polishing Bits – By adding a touch of wax or polish to these bits before use, you can make metal surfaces shine.
  • Carbide Bits – These bits are perfect for etching and carving.
  • Carbide Metal Cutting Wheel – By adding a little cutting oil to a small metal surface, you can quickly cut through using this attachment.
  • Drill Bits – A number of fine-gauge drill bits are available and are most often used for drilling windows or wire access holes in plastic model kits.
  • Sanding Drums – While attached, these can both sand surfaces and carve bevels.
  • Sharpening Wheel – This attachment turns your rotary tool into a highly effective tool sharpener.
  • Wire Wheel – Use this attachment to remove rust from metal surfaces.

Rotary Tool vs Oscillating Tool – What’s the Difference?

While these two tools seem very similar on the surface, their functions tend to set them apart in the professional world.

  • Rotary tools employ a circular motion that makes them perfect for precision work and softer materials.
  • Oscillating tools, conversely, function through a back-and-forth movement and shine best when used for heavy-duty industrial work.

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Comments

  1. I’m trying to choose between the corded vs cordless Dremel. Do you know what I can expect for run time on the cordless?

    Reply
    • It really depends on what you’re doing. If using for continuous use like grinding/sanding, the battery might only last for about 30 minutes. But if you’re using it for off and on cutting, a charge may last for hours. The price of the cordless Dremel 8220 is dropping so the cord vs cordless decision is harder than it was a couple years ago.

      Reply
  2. My reasonably trusty old Dremel just conked out while using it to once and for all wire brush any rusted wire cutters, wrenches etc. I’ve been using that old thing for quite a few years, possibly since 2010 which speaks well for Dremel in terms of shelf life.
    Except that I don’t use it daily very often and never at the highest rpm’s. The high pitched whine was too unbearable to use at the highest speed. This likely accounts for the overall usage in terms of years.

    The day it died, (3-4 days ago) I was running it for about 30 minutes with a small wire brush at probably 80% power. All was well, and then it simply stopped. I suspected an internal heat related safety shut off, but after a ten minute break, it still wouldn’t run. The following day I again plugged it in, but into a wall outlet rather than the lame zip cord extension I was using, and it started, but when I switched it off to grab the next tool to clean it failed to run. This repeated, a couple times, so I inspected the brushes which were plenty ok, and so the variable speed switch was suspect. When I opened it all up I found a loose common wire at the point of entry at the switch. Trying to solder that resulted in the switch being damaged. The price of a switch being about $20, and if I’m replacing a switch, I priced new brushes too. $7 roughly. Under $30, but the tool itself wasn’t necessarily going to work fully another 10 years or even another hour just because I put in a new switch and brushes into an old tired motor and case.
    Waiting a few days delivery time meant the project I want to do today wait another week, which essentially is how my hand tools came to accumulate the light rust to begin with. I considered driving to HD or the likes to have one asap, but at $100 or so, knowing I won’t use it any more often in the future than I already do/did so far I wasn’t feeling like spending the kind of money I do freely when I, for instance bought any of my new cordless $100+ Makita drills, circular saws, multi-tools etc. over the past year or so.

    So I perused a series of tool review sites to determine which rotary tool that was in competition with the Dremel brand might be worth the cost and efforts. Dewalt unsurprisingly rated high, but still I was set to invest $100 give or take, so that was off my list. Black and Decker appeared second to Dremel in a couple reviews, totally surprising me, knowing that B&D is barely considered a go-to name in recent years, at least not for top quality power anything. (Though I recall reading their electric can opener is worth looking into. LOL) Craftsman, the once proud and worthy provider of good USA made lifetime guaranteed hand tools, has sunk to embarrassing depths to the point that I finally sold off my long loved but trustworthy cordless drill I used nearly daily, thru several batteries, when I made the full on Cordless leap to Makita last year. Besides, I had already used a craftsman rotary prior to buying the coveted Dremel, so I wasn’t interested in backsliding into Sears sinking bone yard of decay. Sad, aside from their horrendous blue jeans my mom used to dress me in, I really was a believer in the legacy. :o(
    So whatever, the long story cut short at this point, I chose the $21 WEN tool.
    Last night I unboxed the new WEN thing and set to work to do something my wife deemed more important than what I wanted to be doing and proceeded to utilize this sparkly new tool, and WOW, even at the full on lickety split 30K rpm, I wasn’t telling myself, “PUT IN THE EAR PLUGS YOU IDIOT!” I did put them on, but not because the shrill screech was something I feared from the get, but because it’s common sense to ALWAYS wear eye and ear protection, period. (When wire brushing, it’s also advisable to don a long sleeve shirt you don’t need to wear to church or elsewhere, because the tiny bristles are irritating enough, but while the preacher man is giving fire and brimstone sermons, tiny steel spikes only add to his fear mongering.

    This tool lacks perhaps in the extra 2K rpm’s (30,000 vs. 32,000 Dremel offers) but is that really important? I view it as valid as having my guitar amp capable of being cranked to 11, instead of the wimpy Marshal stacks that only crank to 10. I’m pretty certain it’s fully hype and wank, not a real thing.

    For $21, I won’t care if I have to buy 2-3 of these things over the course of the next 10 years. I seriously doubt that’ll be an issue, and if so, so what?

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment. Things have definitely changed in recent years with quieter rotary tools. Not quite as drastic as we now have multiple air compressor models that run at around 60 decibels (vs 90 or so) but still. The WEN is definitely not bad at all and I’m with you on certain tools that I won’t use every day. Just buy a new model if the cheap one breaks. If you have a Harbor Freight near you, it’s the perfect place for infrequently used tools that you want to own.

      Reply

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