The Dremel flex shaft turns any Dremel rotary tool into a precision instrument that can handle the finest tasks. As I mentioned in my review of the Dremel 4000 rotary tool kit, I use my Dremel primarily for jewelry design and household DIY. With this flex shaft, I can do custom engraving, miniscule routing patterns and precision polishing. This tool is indispensable when I’m finishing polymer clay components or engraving picture pendants.
I’ve used Dremel rotary tools for years, but always smaller and less-powerful versions than the Dremel 4000. Because I had so many that were not variable speed and did not add a bunch of torque, I didn’t explore all of the wonderful tool options available on the market. That is, until I bought the Dremel 4000. I already had a good idea what I’d use it for, so I bought the Dremel flex shaft and drill press workstation on the same day.
Basically, the Dremel flex shaft is a piece of narrow rubber hose with a thin cable through it. It has a squared nut on one end that keeps the end of the cable from turning while securely fastening it to the head of the Dremel rotary tool. The other end has an ergonomic hand grip with a tapered shape that makes it easy to hold for any hand size. The head of the Dremel flex shaft is designed exactly like the one on the rotary tool, accommodating any collet nut and Dremel accessory.
It’s a simple design, but well-built and durable as you’d expect from the Dremel brand. The cable slips out of the square nut every now and then, but so far it’s always been while switching tools. It has never disengaged during use, and has always been easy to put back together.
When you hook up the Dremel flex shaft for the first time, expect to have to run the rotary tool for a couple of minutes before it spins reliably. Once the cable spins tight, the flex shaft delivers excellent torque for working with soft or semi-soft materials, or for surface etching metal.
As the instructions state, you do have to be careful not to bend the flex shaft too sharply while you work. I use the Dremel stand on the 220-01 workstation to hold the tool about 18” above the work surface, which keeps the flex shaft at a nice 90-degree angle or more. If it binds up – which it does for me every now and then – just stop the tool, stretch it out straight, then run the tool for a moment until the end spins freely again. This can be slightly annoying, but only happens about once every 3-4 times I use the flex shaft.
The Dremel flex shaft has become almost as indispensable to me as the Dremel rotary tool itself. I create a lot of engraved polymer clay pendants with the Dremel, and this attachment allows me to create precise lines with the right depth and angle for my needs. While I tend to use the fixed bracket on the workstation for sanding and polishing polymer clay beads, the flex shaft lets me do precise finishes on cameos or other appliqued pieces that can be easily destroyed if the sander or buffing wheel touches the wrong spot.
Ergonomic shaping on the flex shaft grip is the real clincher for me. I have tiny hands, and trying to be precise while holding the bulky Dremel 4000 is doomed to frustration and failure. Remember those extra-fat crayons you probably had as a kid? The narrowest part of the neck is just a little bit thicker than those. As a result, it’s easy to hold and maneuver with limited hand fatigue. I’ve used the flex shaft for as much as 5 hours at a stretch; even with mild hand arthritis, I wasn’t too tired to cut the right designs.
As of June 2014, I’ve been using the Dremel flex shaft for almost 5 years. It sees at least weekly use, and near-constant use in the weeks before a trade show or major shopping holiday. Overall, the flex shaft has been an awesome bargain – we paid about $30 for it, and I paid that back with the sale of the first two pendants I made with it. Yes, you can get cheaper generic flex shafts that will fit on your Dremel rotary tool, but trust in the durability of this well-known brand name. It’s been 5 years already, and the flex shaft shows every sign of continuing on for another 5 years or so at the same demanding level of use.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Dremel or their products beyond being a consumer and independent reviewer. No one involved in the design, manufacture or marketing of Dremel products has offered any compensation for this review. The views expressed here are entirely my own.