A flex shaft (or Dremel) rotary tool is one of the most indispensable metalsmithing tools in the jewelry studio. We use flex shafts for sanding, polishing, cutting and drilling. They shave time off in the studio so we can move on to other projects. I love our flex shafts but the attachments can get complicated, especially for a beginning jeweler. I've broken down the cleaning and polishing attachments that we use here in our studio. I've included the charts that we have hanging in our studio. Feel free to print them to hang up in your studio if you would like.
1.) Misc. Attachments for Cleaning & Finishing
The attachments in this category vary from cleaning to finishing. Use polishing compounds only on the wheels and felt bobs marked in the chart below.
The horse and goat hair wheels really do an amazing job at cleaning. I start with the stiff brush and work my way down to the soft brush with a compound on it. They do tend to occasionally leave little hairs on your jewelry pieces, but those are easily removed. The wheels will last for months.
To achieve a nice brushed finish, the two crimped brass and steel wheels are the ones to use. Just make sure the brass wheel is used with yellow metals and the steel wheel is used for white metals such as sterling silver findings.
The flexible satin wheel will leave a beautiful satin finish on all of your jewelry pieces. The sharp bristles on this wheel tend to break off so I highly recommend using an apron and long sleeves while working with it.
Felt bobs are super soft and the perfect polishing attachment tool to achieve a mirror finish. If you use more than one compound on your pieces, separate the felt bobs. We have Ziplock bags in our studio for the compounds. Each bag has one compound in it with the felt bobs used with that compound added to it. That way we don't mix up the compounds and felt bobs.
2.) 3M Radial Bristle Disks
3M Radial Bristle Disks have a multitude of uses from sanding away fire scale down to fine polishing. Think of these disks as a sandpaper set, from coarse to fine. You need 3-5 disks for every mandrel so I suggest having one mandrel for each disk type to save yourself from having to change them every time you change grits. Be sure when you mount them on the mandrel that all the bristles are facing the same way and they're all turning toward the right when looking at the top of the mandrel. Follow the chart below from top to bottom to achieve a mirror finish. If you haven't used these, they are sure to become your favorite flex shaft attachment. You do not use compounds with these disks.
Note: Do not keep the disks on just one spot on your jewelry, you'd be surprised how quickly they can remove material!
These charts are a general list of miscellaneous attachments and what each one can do. To print, click on the right-hand button on your mouse and choose to save image as, save it to your desktop and then you can print it. The charts are 8.5x11in. Scroll further down to see a printable infographic, as well.
A flex shaft is a large investment and a valuable tool in a jewelry studio. Keep it in tip-top shape with a regular maintenance schedule. In the video below I walk you through a complete flex shaft maintenance breakdown.
Got questions? Email our studio coordinator Erica Stice at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you. Sorry, studio support is not available by phone. Emails only please.