What Is a Flex Shaft Used for in Jewelry Making?
The flex shaft is a motorized machine designed to assist with drilling, cutting, carving, and polishing jewelry. The tool includes a motor, a flexible shaft that connects the hand piece to the motor, and a foot pedal to control the speed of the motor. The hand piece has a jawed chuck to hold very small attachments like drill bits, burrs, discs, and brushes. The flex shaft tools are placed in the chuck which is then tightened with a chuck key. Pressing on the foot pedal (similar to a sewing machine pedal) controls how fast the bit, burrs, discs, and brushes spin.
You can purchase the motor, the flexible shaft, the hand piece and the foot pedal all in one kit (many kits include various tool attachments too). This is the ideal way to get started. After you have the basics, you can purchase additional attachments and even different hand pieces.
Flex Shaft Options:
Foredom is one of the top manufacturers of flex shafts and flex shaft kits (motor, hand piece, foot pedal, and attachments). It is the most commonly used flex shaft among bench jewelers. The kits and the individual pieces can be purchased from their website. Amazon and Rio Grande offer Foredom flex shaft kits on their websites as well.
- Choose a motor that’s an SR motor which one of the most powerful ones which will go forward and reverse. It operates at 1/6 horsepower at 18,000 rpms and 115 volts. Foredom measures their horsepower in maximum efficiency, not in maximum output, like Dremel. If Foredom measured in max output, their flex shaft’s horsepower would be the equivalent of 1/4 horsepower. That’s a big motor.
- There are different hand pieces available for the flex shaft. The most popular and most versatile hand piece is the Foredom H.30 hand piece. It can accommodate small and large attachments to perform light or heavy work. The Foredom H.20 hand piece is also a common choice, but it uses smaller attachments than the 30 and is geared towards lighter bench work.
- The 9100 Fortiflex is Dremel’s most powerful motor. It operates at 1/5 horsepower at 23,000 rpms.
- This is the recommended hand piece to use with this model.
Various attachments for the flex shaft:
- Drill bits for drilling holes and piercing metal
- Burrs for cutting, carving, and setting gemstones
- Polishing wheels, polishing discs, brushes, and sanding drums are sometimes mounted on mandrels and then positioned in the flex shaft hand piece. They are used to polish and finish the jewelry.