Foredom Flex Shaft Handpieces - Which one to choose ?
The name Foredom has almost become a byword for the Flex shaft tool. Professional build quality, combined with a bewildering array of accessories, handpieces, and attachments, make this the perfect tool for hobbyists and professionals the world over. But with so many options, what should you look for? Here we run down a few of the most popular accessories and handpieces, along with some vital information to help you choose…
Popular Foredom Handpieces.
Firstly, we need to address the terminology. Foredom, Flex shaft, Pendant drill, Pendant motor are all different terms for the same thing. Here, accessories refer to the small burs, drills, discs, etc. that you insert into the handpiece and rotate.
Whatever you call it, the Foredom flex shaft consists of several parts. A high-power electric motor is suspended above the workbench. Hence the name pendant motor, as it hangs free like a pendant. Connected to the motor is a long flexible shaft (flex – shaft). Inside the flexible shaft, a long spring rotates and transmits the power from the motor to the handpiece, which like a small drill holds the accessories which rotate in a small chuck. Typically, the speed of the motor is controlled by a foot pedal. In normal use, you hold the handpiece in your hand with the motor suspended above, whilst controlling the speed with the foot pedal.
The arrangement of the hanging motor and the flexible shaft means the handpiece can be small and light, as opposed to holding a heavy power tool in your hand. The separation between the handpiece and the motor also reduces heat and vibration. The result is extreme precision at your fingertips allowing you to drill, carve and engrave with microscopic precision, but backed up by immense power from the high torque Foredom motor.
Foredom offers several models of the motor including several specialist versions, Such as the TX with higher power and speed. But for most users, the SR is a perfect choice. Just remember to purchase a model suitable for your own country's voltage.
Foredom SR Motor
(note 110V and 240V versions are available)
Typically, the Flex shaft comes with a foot control pedal, which gives an incredible amount of control over the speed, whilst leaving your hands free to work. This is one of the huge advantages of the Flex shaft. The standard Foredom foot pedal is lightweight, but tough ABS. Foredom also offers a heavy-duty metal pedal. Another alternative is a desktop variable speed controller. This can be used in conjunction with a foot pedal to reduce the speed of the Flex shaft or maintain it at a fixed speed. This is a popular combination for engraving operations.
Foredom Standard Foot pedal, Metal foot pedal and benchtop speed controller
A very important consideration is the attachment method. There are two connector designs for attaching the various handpieces to the flex shaft. Foredom makes two options; The “Slip joint” and the "Key tip" with most of their handpieces available in either option. Foredom also supply adapters. So it is mostly just a matter of personal taste.
Lower Slip Joint (trigger type) Shaft - Handpiece
This type of attachment uses a spring ball bearing at the end of the handpiece which simply “snaps” on and off the end of the shaft, rather like a socket wrench. The end of the shaft has a small Key, which slots into the handpiece. hence the name.
also known as European, the end of the flexible shaft has a spring catch, this is inserted onto the end of the handpiece, and the trigger clicks into a notch on the handpiece. To swap handpieces simply press the trigger and slide the handpiece off the flex shaft. This gives a rather secure connection, but it does have the trigger, which may interfere with your movement.
Many of the handpieces are available with a Duplex spring attached. This acts as strain relief on the flexible shaft. For the smaller handpieces where you may want finer control for setting or engraving, the duplex spring can make a big difference to the feel of the handpiece and greatly increases its maneuverability. Alternatively, you can get a duplex spring extensions, (either the key tip or slip joint) which you can add to your existing Foredom handpieces.
Two Foredom Hammer action handpieces. The top is the standard model
The lower on has the duplex spring. You can see how it allows an almost 90 degree bend.
With so many different handpieces, what are they all for, and which one should you chose? Let's take a look at the most popular and what the considerations are.Accessory size.
A vital consideration in choosing a handpiece is the size of the accessories you want to use with it. By accessories I mean the burs, drills, sanding discs, and the 1,001 little accessories you can use with it. Be aware that they come in a variety of different shaft diameters. Many of the accessories you will see for Dremel and similar rotary tools, typically use shafts of 3.2m diameter. Whereas professional accessories from Jewelry tool suppliers will typically be mounted on a 3/32" (2.3mm) for use with the quick-change handpieces. You must be aware of these two common sizes when buying accessories.
Important to note the two different shank sizes.
The brush on the left is a Dremel type 3.2mm Shank for small rotary tools.
The one on the right is a 2.3mm shank, ideal for quick change handpieces.
Foredom H30 Handpiece. (Chuck)
This is probably the most versatile of all the handpieces and is often supplied as standard with the Foredom kits. It is very robust, all metal construction, and features a small 3 jaw chuck and chuck key like a small drill. The chuck is what makes it versatile as it can accommodate 2.3mm accessories as well as the 3.2mm style accessories. You can also use a wide range of small drills. If you are upgrading from a small rotary tool, then this chuck will allow you to continue using your old accessories. The straight cylindrical body also makes it compatible with a whole array of stands, clamps, and other Foredom accessories, allowing you to use the handpiece as a mini bench polisher or grinder. Foredom also offers a precision stand that turns the H30 into a miniature drill press.
We also highly recommend the H30 Handpiece Grip, it gives extra comfort, grip, and also protects the handpiece.
The Pepetools Jump Ring maker was designed for this H30 handpiece. Top tip: - get an additional handpiece and dedicate it just for the Jump Ring Maker. You can keep it set up, with the saw and cover attached. Just snap on and off whenever you need it.
The Pepetools Jump Ring Maker 2,
designed for use with the Foredom flex shaft and H30 handpiece.
Foredom H20 Handpiece (Quick Change)
Another popular option often supplied as standard is the H20. This is one of the “quick change” handpieces featuring a lever on the side. Flip the lever round insert the accessory and flip the lever back to lock in place and use. Typically, these quick-change handpieces are designed for the Professional 2.3mm accessories. They offer a very fast change of accessories without the need for any tools or chuck key. But you are usually restricted to one size. If for example, you want to use drills, then you can use “shank drills” which are made on 2.3mm shanks, but with varying drill ends. The H20 is a smaller handpiece and features a grip at the tip so it can be held in a variety of ways including a pencil type grip. This makes it ideal for small delicate jobs like engraving. The fast change is preferred by many jewelers who are constantly swapping accessories as they work on a piece.
Foredom H15 Hammer Action Handpiece
This very special handpiece offers a unique feature. It does not rotate like all the others. This handpiece “reciprocates” the tip moves rapidly in and out, creating a hammering action. Available with a wide range of screw-in tips, it is an invaluable tool for stone setting as it makes quick and easy work pushing bezels over cabochons. 3rd party tips can also be purchased for hammering textures. This fantastic tool offers the power of the Foredom motor, with delicate control. The foot pedal allows you to vary the speed and a rotating collar on the handpiece allows you to modify the stroke length.
Above. Various Anvil points for the Foredom Hammer action handpieces.
Tip: - We highly recommend the option with the Duplex spring, as this offers an amazing amount of flexibility and ease of use for very fine delicate setting jobs
Foredom H15D Hammer action handpiece with Duplex spring.
Check out the LPF Graver adapter, made by Pepetools. This screws into the end of the H15 handpiece and allows you to use small gravers. A great addition to your Foredom and the perfect introduction to power engraving without the expense of the high-end pneumatic systems. Click the image to find out more.
The Lion Punch Forge Adapter, for the Foredom H15 hammer action handpiece.
H44T Collet Handpiece (Standard Size)
There may be times when you don’t need to constantly change the accessory, or when you need an extra firm grip. In this case, consider the “Collet” handpieces. These feature tiny collets (jaws) inside the tip which are clamped onto the accessory by screwing down a nut with a spanner. Each collet can only accommodate one diameter of accessory. Whilst different collets are available, changing collets and different accessories can be more time consuming than the quick change or chuck types. But they offer a very solid grip and also the opportunity to use larger accessories. One of the most popular is the H44T above.
H28 Collet Handpiece (small)
The H28 is a a smaller version of the collet type. This is just ½“ diameter with a tapered end and flared out tip. It is designed to be used with a pencil grip and is perfect for small engraving and rotary carving work.
Tip: - add a snap on duplex spring for optimum flexibility.
Pepetools special offers.
Pepetools offer several great kits. Combining specially chosen accessories, in a complete ready to go solution. These kits also offer great value over buying all the components separately.
K230 Jewelers Kit.
The jewelers' Kit gives you everything you need in one ready to go package at a special price. It includes the powerful SR motor, foot pedal, and the H30 chuck handpiece along with a selection of accessories for polishing, sanding, and grinding. Complete with an accessory stand. Simply hang it up, plug in and go. It comes packaged in a full colour box and makes a superb gift idea !
Click the image above to get great deal.
Tip: _ depending on the placement of your bench. You may wish to get the optional Foredom stand. This clamps to your bench and is adjustable, allowing you to set the Flex shaft at the correct height, to have your handpiece at bench level with free movement.
Foredom & Pepetools Jump Ring Maker Kit.
Pepetools have also teamed up with Foredom to offer you a very special deal, combining the Foredom SR with The Pepetools jump ring maker. For fast and effortless cutting of jump rings.
The Pepetools Jump Ring Maker combined with the Foredom SR Flex shaft, foot control and H30 Handpiece.
Pepetools also offer a huge range of specially selected accessories, and supplies including radial discs and great value polishing kits.
Click below to see the range.
As your work expands you can add extra handpieces and accessories to enhance your work and to accomplish new tasks. Check out Pepetools for a special selection of the latest Foredom Flex shafts and accessories as well as additional Jewellery tools from the Foredom and Pepetools ranges.
by Dave Wilson
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