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How To Choose The Best Rotary Tool

How To Choose The Best Rotary Tool

Specifications Summary - Rotary/Oscillating Tool

  • Oscillating for larger projects (2.5-3.5 amps)
  • Rotary for more precision (1-2 amps)
  • Variable Speed
  • Buy a kit that comes with attachments

Suggested Products - Rotary/Oscillating Tool


Rotary tool uses

If you are wondering what a multi/rotary/oscillating tool is, then just think Dremel.  You have probably heard of or seen a commercial for a Dremel.  Dremel is just a brand name for a rotary tool but these power tools are made in different varieties by several manufacturers.  These tools are extremely versatile for home maintenance, DIY projects and crafting.  These small power tools are capable of many different cutting, sanding, grinding and engraving applications.  Consider using it for cutting holes in drywall or maybe you need to cut off a screw head that has been stripped.  These are great for projects that require detailed sanding or sanding in small areas.  You can also use it to grind down some rust on that metal basketball pole in the front yard.  There are literally dozens of uses for one of these tools which is why I think it deserves a spot on the list of most useful power tools to own.

Key features of rotary tools

- Rotary vs. Oscillating -

There are two major varieties of multi tools available.  First, there is what is known as a rotary tool.  As the name implies, the head of the tool spins in a circle while performing what ever task you are using it for.  The second variety is called an oscillating tool.  The head of this tool oscillates from side to side.  Both rotary and oscillating tools can accomplish many of the same tasks.  However, the oscillating tool can probably make cutting a little faster than a rotary while a rotary tool tends to be the better choice for more precise applications.  If you plan to do any engraving or routing, then the rotary is the way to go.  Otherwise, the oscillating tool is a great choice.

- Variable Speed -

When choosing either tool, I would suggest looking at one that is variable speed to give you more control over the task you are performing.  More control generally results in a more favorable outcome and this is especially important if working on a detailed project or when using this tool for crafting.  I would not get too caught up in the rotation or oscillation speeds as they are all going to be fairly comparable.

- Amps - 

There are some variances among rotary and oscillating tools when it comes to amperage.  The rotary tools tend to range from 1.2 to 1.8 amps while oscillating tools will range from 2.3 to 3.5 amps.  Amps really just tell you how long the motor can run continuously without over heating, and does not indicate more power.  Whether you go with oscillating or rotary, do not get bogged down on whether you should get the 1.6 or 1.8 amp or the 3.3 or 3.5 amp.  There should be more focus on the type of work you plan to do with it and whether or not you need rotary versus oscillating.

I have provided some suggested products below in both the rotary and oscillating varieties to make your search easier.

Best brands for rotary tools

Like with most power tools, you will find that there may be a dozen different manufacturers making power multi tools.  It seems as though if a tool manufacturer makes one type of power tool, then that manufacturer will make most other types.  So, you tend to see the same brands popping up for all kinds of different power tools.  Some of the manufacturers cater to the professional craftsman but offer product lines geared toward homeowners and those interested in do-it-yourself projects.  Other manufacturers focus primarily on the homeowner market and try to offer a tool that is as inexpensive as they can possibly make it.  When it comes to tools, I am a strong believer in the old adage “you get what you pay for.”  I am not saying that the cheap product will not work or will break after a couple uses.  What I will say is that I would not have high expectations that the product is going to last for the long haul or survive being dropped off a ladder or put through fairly heavy use. If you are in a pinch and need something right away and you are just not ready to commit to spending the money on a big brand, then by all means get what you can.  But, I have spent the extra money on the premium brands and I have used tools of the lower end brands and I can say that I notice a difference in quality.

My favorite brands in this category (and most other power tool categories) are Dremel, DeWalt, Milwaukee, Bosch, Hitachi, Makita and Ridgid.

When it comes to rotary and oscillating tools however, I think you have to go with the brand that is most synonymous with the category: Dremel.  Dremel's primary focus is squarely on oscillating and rotary tools so in my opinion, they produce a superior product.  The tool itself was created in the U.S but is now owned by Bosch Tools in Germany.  If you were hoping to get something “Made In The USA” you are out of luck here.  While DeWalt has “Made In The USA With Global Materials” on some products, their multi tool is not one of them.

Price of rotary tools

These tools are best purchased as part of a kit that includes a bunch of accessories such as grinding tips, sanding tips and saw blades for various types of materials.  Cordless rotary tools will start as low as $80 for a nicely appointed kit with about 30 attachments.  Corded kits are about $60.

Oscillating corded tools will start at about $80 for a kit with about 7 accessories and run up to $130 for a kit with 29 accessories.  Dremel does not make a cordless oscillating tool but some other manufacturers do.  A 12 volt cordless oscillating tool with a few attachments can be under $100.  If you step up to an 18 volt version, costs will start at about $150 with no attachments.

Rotary tool attachments

There are probably hundreds of different accessories that can be used with your oscillating tool or rotary tool.  I really think there is an attachment for just about anything you can think of.  There are many different options for polishing, sanding, cutting, scraping, etching, engraving, routing, drilling, grinding, sharpening and cleaning.

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