Intro to the Flex Shaft: What Can It Do For You? Cut, Carve, Polish, Grind…
If you’re one of those people who would look at a jeweler’s bench and say, “What does this do? What does that do?” then you’re going to love our new video workshop Intro to the Flex Shaft with Travis Ogden. You’ll feel like you’re sitting with Travis at his bench, pointing out one bur or attachment after another, asking what it does–and Travis will patiently tell you what it’s used for and show you how it works.
In the world of jewelry making and metalsmithing in particular, the flex shaft is one tool that spans the line between hand and machine. Yes, it’s an electricity-powered machine, but there’s a lot of hand work and skill involved in using a flex shaft. For some people, a flex shaft is the best of both worlds for metalsmithing. Flex shafts provide the speed and power that we enjoy from machines while also allowing for the precise, focused, detail work and craftsmanship that we achieve by hand.
Work such as what? Grinding, sanding, polishing, and other finishing tasks, plus carving, cutting, drilling, and even more techniques.
What exactly can a flex shaft do?
“The flex shaft is essential. It’s almost impossible to think about making jewelry without a flex shaft,” says Travis. This “workhorse of a machine” can take the place of sandpaper, files, buffing materials, and other metalsmithing and metal finishing supplies–even polishing and lapidary machines. In his video workshop, Travis shares the various burs, bits, mandrels, wheels, compounds, and other specialty attachments you can use with your flex shaft and demonstrates what they do. Here are some of the metalsmithing and other jewelry-making tasks you can achieve with a flex shaft and the proper attachments.
Grinding (metal, stone, and wax): trim and remove metal from metal jewelry pieces; remove more metal faster than through subtler methods like sanding; remove burs or nubs leftover from casting metal jewelry pieces and components; remove excess solder; remove metal from interior spaces like inside rings, inside carved or pierced pieces, or inside castings; remove excess stone; grind away large amounts from carving wax blocks (or remove excess wax from wax form interiors to prevent excess metal weight during casting) to create wax models used for making rubber molds for casting metal jewelry components; generally remove more material (metal, stone, or wax) faster than sanding or carving; freehand stone carving
Sanding (metal and stone): refine and smooth away file or grinding marks and metal edges in smaller increments, without removing as much metal as grinding; round off prong points and wire ends for comfortable finished jewelry (ear wires!); file, smooth, and refine dry “greenware” metal clay pieces before firing; sand cast or fabricated metal pieces from raw to a pre-polish state; further refine cut, carved, and ground stones to prepare them for polishing and finishing; freehand stone faceting
Carving (stone and wax): carve custom-shaped stones and cabochons to use in one-of-a-kind jewelry creations; carve your own agate burnishing tools to suit your custom needs; carve wax models for creating molds; carve details into wax models after the general shapes have been created; create a wax form for use as a metal clay mold or stamp
Cutting (metal, stone, and wax): cut wire coils into jump rings; cut grooves in bezel walls or notches/seats in prongs that will hold a stone’s girdle; freehand stone cutting; cut chunks or slices of stone off to work in smaller segments
Drilling and piercing (metal, stone, and wax): drill holes in metal, stone, and wax; pierce interior designs in both metal and stone (as well as wax molds) to create unique negative space, holes for bails, rivets and other cold connections, starter holes for sawing, open spaces in which to tube-set gems, etc.
Texturing (metal, stone, and wax): create textures on metal and stone (as well as wax molds for casting)
Finishing, polishing, buffing (metal, stone, and wax): create a matte, satin, polished, or high-shine mirror finish on textured or smooth metal (including metal clay) and stone; burnish fired metal clay pieces from the chalky white post-kiln stage to a stain finish or high shine; remove firescale without damaging textured or smooth surfaces; finish and refine carved wax models to remove grinding and carving marks before the models are used to make rubber molds or in castings
If you’re one of the many people I’ve seen asking what good a flex shaft is, this video is for you. If you’re one of those people who use a tumbler or a Dremel for polishing and other metalsmithing tasks, this video is for you, too. Even if you’re one of those people who has used a flex shaft before, this video is also for you, because it can show you new and better ways to use the flex shaft to achieve even better results–such as with a drill press and other specialty accessories and holders that allow you to work with both hands free.
Order Intro to the Flex Shaft with Travis Ogden to learn about all the parts of the flex shaft and maintaining them–as well as how to master the flex shaft’s uses for metalsmithing and lapidary tasks as well as all kinds of uses for jewelry making that you probably haven’t even thought of!