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Review of cheap flex shaft tools

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  • Review of cheap flex shaft tools

    I purchased two different cheap flex shaft tools to review how they work. My wife needed 10 tools for a jewelry class she is teaching and I wanted the tools to also work for teaching woodcarving. As some of you might remember, I'm not a fan of the Foredom because of the slow speed so I wanted to find tools that were at least 20,000 RPM and cost $100 or less. The two I found were the SE from Amazon at $73 http://www.amazon.com/SE-979FSG-Flex.../dp/B000NW4YRK and the Prodigy from Rio Grande at $99 Prodigy Flex Shaft System

    I figured that the tools wouldn't get continuous use and if they were of decent quality, they might be a good option for part time carvers on a budget. The most common weak point of cheap electric tools, such as those from Harbor Freight, is the switch. I have purchased several electric tools from Harbor Freight where the switches failed while the tool was still in good shape. Being that neither of these has a switch on the motor, it is likely that there will be fewer problems in the short run.

    The SE motor and shaft is a knockoff of the Mastercarver and the Prodigy is a knockoff of the Foredom. I compared them to each other as well as a Mastercarver and a Foredom that I own.

    The listed speed on the SE is 500-15,000, 22,000, in those exact words which didn't make much sense to me until I tried the tool. Using the foot pedal, the maximum speed is a disappointing 15,000 RPM, however when plugged in directly to an extension cord, the tool reaches 22,000 RPM. This is not a problem for me because I prefer an electronic router speed control over a foot pedal. It allows me to set the speed and unlike a foot pedal, the control allows for full torque even at very slow speeds. The SE foot pedal is all metal but the design is a bit akward to use. It looks like an old-fashioned sewing machine pedal. You could run the tool at full speed using an outlet strip for a switch if you didn't want to buy a speed control. The tool is very quiet and smooth and appears to be well made. It has ample power to hog out as well as being just fast enough for detail work. The inner shaft is heavier gauge than the Mastercarver shaft. The handpiece is a knockoff of the Foredom #30, however the hole where it snaps onto the shaft is too small to fit either the MasterCarver or Foredom. I drilled out the hole a tiny bit and it now fits all three shafts. I couldn't find any replacement shafts online but it is interchangable with Mastecarver shafts if you replace both the inner shaft and outer sheath. My overall impression was very good. As an added bonus, the tool come with a hardshell case and a whole bunch of stones, diamond bits, cutoff wheels and extra brushes.

    The Prodigy is listed at 20,000 RPM and the tool gets up to full speed using the foot pedal. The plastic foot pedal design is comfortable to use, similar to the Foredom. The motor bearings sound much rougher and louder than the SE making me wonder how long the tool will last. It has an equal amount of power as the SE and, with the exception of the motor noise, the general feel is that it is well made. It also has a #30 handpiece knockoff but it fits all four shafts out of the box. The sheath and shaft is not interchageable with a Foredom shaft. You can get replacement shafts from Rio Grande and the inner shaft is also the heavier gauge. Rio Grande also sells just the handpiece for $27. The Prodigy comes with a one year warranty.

    Conclusion: It was a hard decision because if we went with the Prodigy it would have been nice to have a comfortable and full speed foot pedal, but the roughness of the bearings, the lack of a case and accesories that my wife could use in her jewelry class, tipped the scales. We went with the SE because 15,000 RPM is fine for jewelry work and I won't be using the foot pedal for woodcarving. I still think that the Mastercarver is a superior tool and only time will tell how the tools fare but with the option of buying a Square Trade, 3 year warranty for $20 and the smoothness of the tool out of the box, I'm happy with our choice. I set up 10 jewelry stations yesterday and the students are having a blast.
    http://www.artjeweler.com


  • #2
    Re: Review of cheap flex shaft tools

    Thanks for the good info in the review, Ron.

    Claude
    My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/
    My Pinterest Page: https://www.pinterest.com/cfreaner/
    My Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/claudeswoodcarving/
    My ETSY Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

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    • #3
      Re: Review of cheap flex shaft tools

      Very helpful post. I may have to get one in the future.
      Your wife does awesome work too!
      That's a cool photo from above looking down. In the photo, the logs with the legs, are they for hammering on?
      Greg

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      • #4
        Re: Review of cheap flex shaft tools

        Outstanding Ron....I been thinking about going cheaper with the flex shaft.....this is super affordable. Let us know later when they kick the buck. smile Di

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        • #5
          Re: Review of cheap flex shaft tools

          Thanks for the review. I think it just cost me 73 bucks!
          Jim

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          • #6
            Re: Review of cheap flex shaft tools

            Originally posted by GregGerard View Post
            Very helpful post. I may have to get one in the future.
            Your wife does awesome work too!
            That's a cool photo from above looking down. In the photo, the logs with the legs, are they for hammering on?
            Yes, the logs are for hammering on to do metalsmithing and to set an engraver's vice on. A log makes a nice solid work surface that you could also use for woodcarving.

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