The Best Rotary Tools for DIYers and Pros
Cutting, carving, grinding, or sanding: one rotary tool can do it all.
Over the years, rotary tools have become one of the most indispensable tools used by both DIYers and pros. No workbench is complete without at least one rotary tool. These amazing devices are capable of drilling, sanding, cutting, grinding, carving and even cleaning! Indeed, with the right rotary tool and attachments, you can be out in the shop sanding down your latest woodworking project one minute, and the next you can be inside polishing cutlery.
The rotary tool’s almost limitless uses beg the avid DIYer to jump into their next project with creativity and gusto. That said, be aware that some rotary tools have special strengths that make them particularly well suited for certain types of work (and perhaps less great for other types).
Whether your next project warrants a wood carving tool, a glass cutter, or the versatility of a multi-tool, you’ll find an option below to suit your needs.
- TOP PICK: Dremel 8 Volt Max Cordless Rotary Tool
- BEST FOR WOOD CARVING: Dremel Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit
- BEST FOR CRAFTING: GOXAWEE Rotary Tool Kit
- BEST FOR CUTTING: DEWALT Rotary Saw
- BEST VALUE: WEN Rotary Tool Kit
Key Shopping Considerations
The power output, or torque, of a rotary tool is determined by the motor amperes (AMP) or the battery voltage (V). The weakest output generally comes from cordless models with a battery voltage of 4V or less. These rotary tools are good for light jobs and tend to have lower max revolutions per minute (RPM), making them great for engraving.
Stronger power outputs can be seen with 12V cordless models that can reach 35,000 RPMs, or corded rotary tools with 1.8 AMP motors. These more powerful models come with heavier motors and can become cumbersome in your hands if used for long periods of time. If you don’t need the additional power for cutting or carving, an intermediate model is best.
Similar to the power output, the RPM is a good measure to reference when deciding what rotary tool is appropriate for you. Higher RPMs (35,000) are best for jobs that require a lot of force. These can include sanding, grinding, cutting, and carving, among others. However, a higher RPM can often come with a higher price tag and is not great for working with softer materials. Lower RPMs (5,000) can be used on soft materials and can also be used for gently polishing or buffing. The lower RPM allows the material to be worked on without unintentional damage. Most rotary tools now come with a variable speed setting that allows you to select the appropriate RPM for the project at hand, though lighter models will have a hard time reaching anything higher than 28,000 RPM. A weaker tool won’t be effective at working with harder materials. Before deciding, make sure that the rotary tool is able to handle the RPMs that your likely jobs require.
Corded vs. Cordless
Most power tools now feature a cordless option that can offer several benefits that the corded version does not. Cordless rotary tools are more versatile and allow the user to get into tight areas that corded tools just can’t. Their easy use makes it simple to quickly grab the rotary tool to touch up a larger project without having to search for an outlet or an extension cord.
However, corded models are still around for a reason. Cordless rotary tools tend to have lower RPMs and a lower power output. Their cordless design also means that at some point they will need to be charged. For a full day of work, that means dragging a charger around with you and finding an outlet to plug it in. If you are going to need to bring a cord and search for power outlets anyway, then the corded rotary tool is the more powerful option without the hassle of remembering to charge between uses. Consider your work style and work site to decide which is best.
Range of Accessories
The accessories for a rotary tool are many and varied in their purpose and design. Buffing or polishing bits need just a bit of wax or polish to make almost any surface shine. Carbide bits and cutting wheels can be used for etching, carving, or cutting straight through metal. Rotary tools also come with some more familiar pieces, such as drill bits and sanding drums for the more ordinary projects on your to-do list.
For the artistic hobbyist, diamond point wheels can be used to carve, etch, and engrave glass, while a more practical accessory, like a sharpening wheel or wire wheel, can be used to sharpen metals or remove rust from metal surfaces.
When considering which rotary tool kit is best for you, it may be safer to opt for a larger kit with more accessories, rather than settling for a smaller kit. You never know when you may want to grind, cut, carve, drill, or sand, or what materials you may want to experiment with once you get started.
Rotary tools kits tend to highlight their various accessories, their power output, and their RPMs, relying on the variety of the included parts to bolster their appearance. However, some models have begun to incorporate additional features, like an ergonomic grip that is more comfortable to work with, or a USB charger to replace the standard charger. While the USB charger option hasn’t caught on with the best models, it may be a feature that is great for the occasional user who isn’t looking for a professional tool.
Our Top Picks
1. TOP PICK: Dremel 8 Volt Max Cordless Rotary Tool
The Dremel delivers an impressive performance range of 5,000 to 30,000 RPM. Powered by a 8V battery, this lightweight rotary tool can be used with any rotary accessory and comes with 18 of its own. Though it can take a while for the included battery to fully charge, it’s worth it to be able to operate a rotary tool free of the inconvenience of an electrical cord.
2. BEST FOR WOOD CARVING: Dremel Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit
Working with wood can be difficult and power alone won’t see you through to the end of a carving project. The Dremel Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit drops the power to 1.2 AMPs, but keeps the versatility of being able to reach up to 32,000 RPM. The smaller motor makes the rotary tool easier to handle for careful, precise cuts, but still affords the user enough power to easily move through the wood.
3. BEST FOR CRAFTS: GOXAWEE Rotary Tool Kit
Over 100 attachments and accessories come with this handy tool, which enables you to tackle stone, glass, or metal engraving, plus a variety of other crafts, such as model-making and metalworking. With 1.3 AMPs and a variable speed between 8,000 and 30,000 RPM, the GOXAWEE puts plenty of power in the palm of your hand.
4. BEST FOR CUTTING: DEWALT Rotary Saw
The DEWALT Rotary Saw is a specialty rotary tool that can accurately and easily cutting through material. With speeds up to 30,000 RPM, the robust 5 AMP motor of the DEWALT enables the tool to cut through drywall, tiles, or even 1-1/2-inch boards of birch wood.
5. BEST VALUE: WEN Rotary Tool Kit
The WEN’s 1 AMP motor operates the rotary tool at variable speeds between 8,000 and 30,000 RPM—more than sufficient for many purposes. In addition, the WEN Rotary Tool Kit includes an accessory kit with 100 pieces, including sanding discs, polishing pads, cutting wheels and more—all at a low price point.