No workbench is complete without at least one rotary tool. These amazing devices are capable of drilling, sanding, cutting, glassworking, grinding, carving, and even cleaning. With the right attachments, they can sand woodworking projects and then just as easily polish cutlery.
While most tools are limited to specific purposes, the rotary tool’s almost limitless uses beg the avid DIYer to jump into their next project with creativity and energy. Some have particular strengths based on their power or accessory options. To help you find the best rotary tool, we performed hands-on testing with the following models. Keep reading to learn about what we found.
- BEST OVERALL: Dremel 4300-5/40 High Performance Rotary Tool Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Goxawee Rotary Tool Kit
- BEST FOR WOOD CARVING: Dremel 3000-2/28 Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit
- BEST FOR CUTTING: DeWalt DW660 Rotary Saw
- BEST CORDLESS: Milwaukee M12TM Portable and Cordless Rotary Tool Kit
Testing these rotary tools was a lot of fun. First, we took a look at the accessories and components that came with each tool and compared their quality and versatility. Then, we put them to work.
We started by cutting off pieces of scrap 10-gauge steel we had around our shop. Then, for those that came with them, we fitted each rotary tool with a polishing wheel to give the steel some shine. Next, we used the rotary tools that came with sanding drums to sand through a layer of primer on some pine. Finally, we (poorly) carved our names in the pine. For the DeWalt, we grabbed a few scraps of drywall and wood to test its cutting ability.
Based on these tests, we had a good idea of what each model could handle, allowing us to put together this list of the best rotary tools.
Photo: Tom Scalisi
Our Top Picks
To be fair, that’s a lot of information on the best rotary tools, and it might make your head spin. To help, we performed hands-on testing with the models on this list. We wanted to be sure we were suggesting some of the best rotary tools, so we put them through their paces.
When it comes to choosing a top-tier, high-quality rotary tool, the Dremel 4300 is certainly near the top of the list. This powerful corded rotary tool features a 1.8-amp motor with a speed range between 5,000 and 35,000 RPMs. This Dremel rotary tool comes with a detachable work light, a universal chuck, and several accessories including grinding and sanding wheels, cut-off wheels, carving bits, and more. All of these items store in the hard case to keep them safe and organized.
During testing, the Dremel 4300 proved to be incredibly powerful. Even when cutting through thick steel, this Dremel tool barely slowed down, meaning it was able to cut through faster than any other model. We really liked the detachable work light on the collar, and removing it and swapping it for other collars was a breeze. It’s also worth noting that this kit came with the best accessories, including Dremel’s “EZ Lock” cut-off wheels, which don’t require a tool for swapping the discs on and off. Our only complaint with this Dremel saw was that over 20,000 RPMs, there was a noticeable vibration regardless of the accessory in the chuck.
- Power: 1.8 amps
- RPMs: 5,000 to 35,000
- Power source: Corded
- Incredibly powerful tool is suitable for use on thick materials
- Clever detachable work light provides visibility while working
- Excellent accessories, including Dremel’s EZ Lock cut-off wheels
- Vibrates a bit over 20,000 RPMs; may be rough on some users’ hands
Get the Dremel 4300-5/40 rotary tool kit at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowe’s.
Whether it’s for crafting, metalworking, or woodworking projects, the Goxawee Rotary Tool Kit offers an affordable way to get to work. More than 100 attachments and accessories come with this handy tool so users can tackle stone, glass, or metal engraving, cutting, wood carving, model making, metalworking, and more. It features a 1.3-amp motor that generates speeds between 8,000 and 30,000 RPMs.
Goxawee’s Rotary Tool Kit was the big surprise in our test. It came with all of the accessories most DIYers will ever need, including cut-off wheels, grinding stones, sanding discs, and polishing wheels. It also came with a guard collar for safety as well as replacement brushes for maintenance. It ran smoothly and had enough power for most tasks, but it was noticeably underpowered compared with some other models when it came to cutting the steel.
- Power: 1.3 amps
- RPMs: 8,000 to 30,000
- Power source: Corded
- Affordably priced compared with other models
- Lots of accessories included with purchase; versatile enough for multiple projects
- Includes replacement brushes for user-friendliness
- Noticeably underpowered compared with other models
Get the Goxawee rotary tool on Amazon.
Working with wood can be difficult and it takes more than raw power for a successful project. The Dremel 3000-2/28 Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit drops the power to 1.2 amps but keeps the versatility to reach 35,000 RPM—more than enough for carving wood. 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.
When we took the Dremel 3000 in hand, the first thing we noticed was its excellent grip shape. It contoured to our hands nicely, and the rubber grip made holding on to it easy. We also liked that this Dremel kit came with plenty of accessories, including accessories for cutting and carving wood (what we feel this tool excels at). Also, the collar on this Dremel 3000 fits over the collet to act as a wrench, meaning bit changes are toolless. The only area we could see needing some improvements is that it’s slightly underpowered for heavier-duty work.
- Power: 1.2 amps
- RPMs: 35,000
- Power source: Corded
- Excellent grip shape will not cause any strain on the user
- Plenty of accessories included with purchase for a variety of projects
- Nose cap wrench has a smart design
- Could be a bit more powerful; may not be suitable for very heavy-duty tasks
Get the Dremel tool kit at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowe’s.
Accurately and easily cutting through material is the only task DeWalt focused on when designing the DW660 Rotary Saw. The 5-amp motor offers more power than most rotary tools need, but it is perfect for cutting through thick drywall, tiles, or even up to 1½ inches of birch wood. It offers 30,000 RPMs (nonadjustable) as well as toolless blade changes.
We liked that this DeWalt Rotary Saw is so powerful and heavy duty, as it truly can handle a variety of materials. We also liked the toolless blade changes, though the mechanism did jam on us once (it was probably user error). We really liked the adjustable depth of cut as it’s less likely to snag insulation or a wire behind drywall. Our only complaints are that it didn’t come with any bits, and this tool is really limited to cutting—sanding, grinding, and carving aren’t really an option.
- Power: 5 amps
- RPMs: 30,000
- Power source: Corded
- Incredibly heavy-duty construction is suitable for tough cutting tasks
- Toolless bit changes for safety and user-friendliness
- Adjustable depth gauge fro accuracy while cutting
- Didn’t come with any bits; may need to be purchased separately
- Limited to cutting; may not be as versatile as some other options
Get the DeWalt rotary tool at The Home Depot or Acme Tools.
Anyone who might prefer a portable rotary tool kit should give Milwaukee’s M12TM kit a shot. This cordless model utilizes the company’s M12 batteries to produce speeds between 5,000 and 32,000 RPMs. This Milwaukee rotary tool comes with a battery, a charger, a set of heavy-duty cut-off wheels, and a toolless chuck for easy bit changes.
Despite being a cordless rotary tool, this model had power to spare, cutting through steel quickly and easily compared with almost every other model on the list. While Milwaukee doesn’t specifically mention it, we felt this tool offered “slow starts,” which prevented the tool from jolting in our hands when we flipped it on. We also really appreciated the cordless portability. The things that disappointed us the most were that this kit didn’t come with many accessories and the plastic collar vibrated loose a few times during use, forcing us to stop and tighten it back up.
- Power: 12V
- RPMs: 32,000
- Power source: Cordless (battery and charger)
- Cordless portability could be more user-friendly than some cordless options
- Power to spare; comes with enough power for a variety of projects
- Heavy-duty cut-off wheels provide user-friendliness
- Doesn’t come with many accessories; may not be ideal for some users’ preferences
- Collar vibrated loose after use
Get the Milwaukee rotary tool on Amazon.
We’re big fans of the affordable WEN tool brand, but when we tested its 2305 Rotary Tool Kit, it failed miserably. The tool itself wasn’t terrible, though it was slightly underpowered compared with the Dremels and the Milwaukee option. It comes with a lot of accessories, but the real issue is that it was downright dangerous.
The 2305 kit doesn’t come with a guard for the cut-off wheel, and the wheels WEN supplies with the kit are very brittle and low quality. Two wheels broke during cutting, sending chunks flying everywhere. Thankfully, we were wearing safety glasses. As a result of this, we would not recommend the 2305 kit.
When looking for the best rotary tools, one should consider the power, rpm, construction, and included accessories to know whether or not a given model will suit your needs. Read on to see some more considerations to think over before buying a rotary tool.
The power output of a rotary tool is determined by the motor amperes (amp) or the battery voltage (V). The lowest 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.
Higher power outputs can be seen with 12V cordless models that can reach 35,000 RPM or corded rotary tools with 1.8-amp motors. These more powerful models come with heavier motors and can be cumbersome in hand over long periods of use. If the additional power isn’t necessary 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) are useful with soft materials and can also polish and buff.
Most rotary tools now come with a variable speed setting that allows for selecting 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 likely jobs require.
Corded vs. Cordless
Some manufacturers now produce 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 charging. For a full day of work, that means dragging a charger around and finding an outlet to plug it in.
Range of Accessories
The accessories for a rotary tool are many and varied in their purpose and design. Buffing or polishing bits need a small amount of wax or polish to make almost any surface shine. Carbide bits and cutting wheels can etch, carve, or cut 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 a to-do list.
For the artistic hobbyist, diamond point wheels can carve, etch, and engrave glass, while a more practical accessory, like a sharpening wheel or wire wheel, can sharpen metals or remove rust from metal surfaces. When considering which rotary tool kit is best, it may be safer to opt for a larger kit with more accessories, rather than settling for a smaller kit.
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 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.
Even with that background and overview of the best rotary tools, there might still be some questions spinning around. The following section aims to answer those queries, as it’s a collection of the most frequently asked questions about the best rotary tools. Be sure to check for an answer to your question below.
Q. What is the difference between a rotary tool and a Dremel?
The Dremel brand is one of the most popular and successful manufacturers of rotary tools, leading many folks to refer to all rotary tools as “dremels.” The truth is that many other manufacturers make rotary tools, and Dremel makes tools other than rotary tools.
Q. Can you use a rotary tool to cut glass?
Yes, you just need special bits or cutting wheels. Many manufacturers produce diamond-embedded cutting wheels and diamond burr bits specifically for rotary tools.
Q. Do I need a powerful rotary tool to drill holes?
It depends on the material, but the answer is generally no, most rotary tools—regardless of how powerful they are—can drill holes. A sharp, high-quality bit matters more than the rotary tool’s output. However, if your rotary tool is underpowered, it might take longer.
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