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Picking the Right Flex Shaft Tool for Wood Carving/Power Carving

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

"HowToWoodCarve participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. HowToWoodCarve currently holds affiliation with Dremel. HowToWoodCarve currently holds affiliation with Amazon.


Choosing the right flex shaft tool can be a little overwhelming, even after a TON of research.


The purpose of this short article is to shine light upon exactly which flex shaft tool is right for you without overloading you with a ton of information,


Before we continue, keep these two questions in mind:


1) What do I plan on power carving?
2) What is my budget?
 

What is a Flex Shaft Tool?


A flex shaft tool consist of a motor, a flex shaft wire and a hand piece.

Many people from hobbyists to professionals use flex shaft tools in various situations.


While many things can be done with a flex shaft tool, this guide is written to show how a flex shaft tool relates to wood carving,


Each flex shaft tool usually falls in one of the categories below:



  1. Large Motor Flex Shaft Tools

  2. Small Motor Rotary Tools with Optional Flex Shaft Attachment

  3. Pneumatic & Micro-motors (which are not traditional flex shafts)



Large Motor Flex Shaft Tools


Large flex shaft tools have a larger motor, which in turn has more torque to "hog" through wood. These units are very powerful and can handle from small to very large projects. Find it on Amazon here.


Foredom SR Series with 1/6 hp motor.

Pros

  • External speed/foot controller

  • Consistent torque at lower speeds & higher speeds

  • Interchangeable hand-pieces

  • Has the ability to go forward or in reverse

Cons

  • More expensive

  • Usually runs at lower speeds compared to other units



Small Motor Flex Shaft Tools


Small hand-held rotary tools are the most common and widely available. A common example of this is the Dremel.


Dremel and other similar brands are marketed as "hand-held rotary" tools but almost all of them have an option for a flex shaft attachment.


These are great for smaller to medium-sized projects. Find the Dremel 4000 on Amazon here.


Dremel 4000 w/Flex Shaft Attachment

Pros

  • Easy to find

  • Budget friendly

  • Many brand's to choose from

  • Can be used as a flex shaft with the proper attachment

  • Cons

  • Can lack torque for bigger projects

  • Not necessarily made for hours of extended use


Pneumatic Carvers & Micro-Motors


Pneumatic carvers & micro-motors aren't considered to be true flex shaft's because they do not use a steel wire.


Pneumatic carvers use air to spin the carving burrs instead of a flex shaft wire.

Pneumatic carvers need an air tank and other accessories in order to operate. These may be purchased separately or in a bundle.


Micro-motors are not as fast as pneumatic carvers, but they are faster than the larger & smaller motor flex shaft and rotary tools. Micro-motors have the motor built inside the hand-piece,


Pneumatic carvers and micro-motors are great for light carving applications, precision and detail work.



Strong 202 from Tree Line USA.


Pros

  • Great for precise detailing and light carving work

  • Very quiet

  • Leaves clean cuts

Cons

  • Can be expensive depending on what you plan to do with it

  • Not as fast as an air turbine unit

  • Not recommended for heavy stock removal



400XS from SCM Systems. (Air Tank & supplies not shown)

Pros

  • EXTREMELY Fast RPM's

  • Fantastic for precise detailing & light carving

  • No drag or "hiccups" while carving

  • No hand fatigue while carving

Cons

  • Can be expensive depending on what you plan to do with it

  • Not recommended for heavy stock removal


 

RPMs: How fast does my flex shaft need to be?


RPM stands for "rotations per minute." This is how we judge the speed of the carving burr when it is spinning.


There is something that you need to understand:


Running at higher RPMs doesn't necessarily make the carving process faster, OR the tool better.

The benefit of running the flex shaft tool at a higher RPM is that it produces smoother cuts,

although, higher speeds are not effective for removing a lot of wood.


To give you a general idea, here are some standard RPMs from each category of the tools mentioned above:

  • Foredom SR series up to 18,000 RPM

  • Dremel 4000 up to 35,000 RPM

  • Strong 202 Micro Motor up to 45,000 RPM

  • Pneumatic Carver SCM 400XS up to 400,00 RPM


 


Let's go back to the two questions you asked yourself earlier:


What do I plan power carving?
What is my budget?

Small Motor Flex Shaft


For most people just starting out, the small motor rotary tool with the flex shaft attachment like the Dremel 4000 will work fine.


You can check out the Dremel 4000 on Amazon here.


If your budget is very limited, there are always cheaper options available on Amazon.


One cheaper option I recommend can be found on Amazon here.



Large Motor Flex Shaft


As your skills increase or if you just want to take on larger projects and need a little extra power, a large motor flex shaft unit like the Foredom SR series will always be a great choice,


You can pick up the Foredom Sr Series on Amazon here.



Pneumatic Carver


A pneumatic carver is a fantastic choice for fine detail work or general light carving.

They are more expensive, but they will make up for the cost, time and time again,


The pneumatic carver I recommend is System 3 from SCMS which you can find here.



Micro-Motors


Micro-motors can be very handy to have around, especially when combined with a traditional flex shaft tool. As with the pneumatic carvers, they aren't designed to remove a lot of wood but are great for light carving and detail work.


You can find the Strong 202 Micro-motor at Tree Line USA here



I hope this guide will help you make your decision on which power carving tool you need to start carving with or to expand your current collection.


To learn more about power carving please visit our associated Youtube HERE


All advice & recommendations are given unbiasedly on author's sole opinion.


HowToWoodCarve participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. HowToWoodCarve currently holds affiliation with Dremel. HowToWoodCarve currently holds affiliation with Amazon.


Which tool do you like the best? Leave a comment below and share this post on your favorite social media platform by clicking the icons below!

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Hello Matt, got the style and watched all your you tubes. Started on rather aggressive project. Need additional burrs however, your assistance on specifics of exact 3 burrs you use all the time would be of great help. The 3 in the Dimensional video. Where did you buy them? Please help.

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It's Adya again, I meant Project Idea Guide not How to Wood Carve E-Book :-) ...Can hardly wait until it is out!!!!!!!

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Matt, I am looking forward to your How to Wood Carve E-Book!!! I am new to

Facebook-Instagram but will try it out. I have been following you for awhile now and have found you to be wonderfully authentic, inspiring and down to earth. I am fairly new to carving, love it and love your approach! I am from Terrace, Canada. I am wondering if you can help as I have been trying to purchase the Inverted Cone Burr both locally and online and have not been able to. Wood you be able to locate a couple for me and send them for me to pay for??? or let me know your source?? I would greatly appreciate it :-)

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leslie_trox8080
leslie_trox8080
Mar 17, 2021

Hi! thanks for all the information in your videos and websites. I have been carving a little over a year, and feel like I still have much to learn. I have the Dremel 4300, the Dremel Flex Shaft, and the Dremel Stylo as well as a set of chisels ad files. which I've collected in hopes of doing more, and getting better. my fav to work with is my Stylo.

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Hi there, Matt. Got a Dremel 4000 for Christmas 2020 and have been binge-watching you. Where did you get the easel/turntable you use in your videos? I think it would help my back and neck. Thanks!

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