Finding the Right Power Tools for Jewelry Tasks

flex shaft attachments and burs

For tackling heavy-duty or repetitive tasks in the studio, power tools can save you time and money. From cutting out the first piece of metal to polishing the completed design—plus any texturing, carving, and drilling in between—power tools like a flex shaft or Dremel fit the bill.

But power tools, especially flex shafts, can be intimidating. I confess that I received one as a gift but, for about 6 years, never used it. That is until I was in a fairly advanced metalsmithng class at Bead Fest, in which flex shafts were necessary and provided. So when I reached the step in my project that required it, I just did it. And I survived!

It wasn’t nearly as complicated as I expected. The thoughtful instructor had provided blocks of wood for supports on which to work. I thought they were there to practice, ha! So I spent a few minutes drilling into the wood block, testing the foot pedal speed and my own control of the hand piece. Then I was off, exploring uncommon ways to use a flex shaft–and I haven’t looked back since.

Don’t Be Scared

I want everyone to have the opportunity to try, get comfortable with, and then benefit from possibly intimidating power tools in the jewelry studio. So I’ve compiled a few of the articles that I and others have written on the subject, to encourage you, too, to just do it!

learn to use flex shaft attachments and burs with Andy Cooperman
The flex shaft’s many accessories make it extremely versatile in the studio.

Learn More About Power Tools for Jewelry

How to Choose a Flex Shaft

In Choosing and Using a Flex Shaft by Helen Driggs, you’ll learn important factors to consider when it’s time to purchase your own first power tool or upgrade from a Dremel (which is a really handy option, too!).

“Like many people who become a metalsmith by way of another art discipline, in the early days I hand-finished my work. Then, I got a Dremel from my dad and used that for several years. The Dremel was a fantastic little tool for my older cold-connected and assembly work. But once I bought a torch and started soldering and stone setting, I knew it was time to move on to the more powerful flex shaft, so I started gathering information,” Helen writes. Read on to explore her three questions that will help you make the best choice.

jewelry tools flex shaft burs
What exactly are all those little flex-shaft doodads for? Get a detailed lesson on flex shaft accessories. Photo: Jim Lawson

Why Do You Need a Flex Shaft, Anyway?

I learned so much when I was writing Intro to the Flex Shaft: What Can It Do For You? I knew that flex shafts were used for polishing, but I had no idea what else they were suited to do.

“In the world of jewelry making and metalsmithing in particular, the flex shaft is one tool that spans the line between hand and machine,” I wrote, back then. “Yes, it’s an electricity-powered machine, but there’s a lot of hand work 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?” I wrote. And this is the impressive part: “Grinding, sanding, polishing, and other finishing tasks, plus carving, cutting, drilling, and even more techniques.” Read on to see how many ways a flex shaft can help you.

The JoolTool can even be used on its side like a benchtop buffing wheel.
The JoolTool can even be used on its side like a benchtop buffing wheel. Photo: Tammy Honaman.

5 Ways to Use a JoolTool

When I think of “girl power,” one thing that comes to mind is the JoolTool. When I first saw its creator Anie Jolie demonstrating how to use this mighty little wonder in Tucson, I was impressed with all it could do–but I also loved the idea that it was created by a woman and was a manageable size.

Tammy Honaman is also a big JoolTool fan and explains five great ways to use one. “JoolTool is my go-to for so many tasks. From burnishing fired metal clay to polishing glass, this baby really can handle it all,” Tammy writes. “It’s all about the motor, the design, the different abrasives, and the unique design of the backpad. It doesn’t hurt the cute little red guy is compact and easy to haul around from worktable to worktable. Since my studio is not quite all in one place this feature helps, a lot!”

Power Up with Power Tools for Jewelry Making

There you go–tips, techniques, and advice to help you add some juice to your jewelry studio and just do it. Good luck as you explore how power tools like flex shafts can improve your work while saving you time and money in the studio!

Tammy Jones
Web Producer and Social Media Manager