The Best Dremel Kits for Beginners

The Best Dremel Kits for Beginners

Our pick

Dremel 3000 2/28

This Dremel model is comfortable and easy enough to control for detailed craft and hobby projects but is also powerful enough to use on most home repairs.

Unlike many of the tools we tested with similarly powerful motors, the Dremel 3000 doesn’t suffer from excessive vibration. That, along with its smaller size, makes it easier to control while working on projects that require precision. It comes with a set of standard bits that make it easy to get started right away, and because it’s compatible with Dremel’s wide variety of attachments, no matter what sort of project you want to use it for, you should be able to find the right bit to tackle it.

Upgrade pick

Dremel 4000 3/34

With a fast, powerful motor, the Dremel 4000 is ideal for home repair projects. It is a bit larger and heavier than our main pick, so it isn’t as ideal for detailing or for use over long stretches.

If you are looking for more of a power tool for home repair, the Dremel 4000 3/34 is the way to go. The harder the material you’re working with, the higher the speed you want. The 4000’s motor maxes out at a higher speed than the 3000’s, turning tasks like cutting drywall, shearing bolts, or sharpening tools into shorter projects. As you’d expect for a more powerful unit, it’s a bit bulky, and therefore less comfortable to hold for longer projects than our main pick. If you do want to do fine detail work, you can pay a bit extra for a flex-shaft attachment.

Budget pick

Wen 2305

The Wen 2305 is not as smooth, quiet, and precise as the higher-end models we tested, but it’s reliable and impressive for its low price.

If you are interested in testing out the capabilities of a rotary tool but aren’t ready to make a big investment, we recommend starting with the Wen 2305. The Wen was a steady performer in our engraving and polishing tests, and we think it will give newcomers a sense of what the rotary tool is capable of. It is not as comfortable or as precise an instrument as the Dremel 3000, but you can’t beat the value Wen offers.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

As a craft editor for over 15 years I have used rotary tools on various projects, including DIY furniture, Christmas ornaments, and jewelry. I am also a ceramicist and regularly use them to shape, grind, and remove excess glaze from finished pieces, and to shape and sand models for casting. More recently I have used them to set porcelain pieces into silver and gold ring and pendant castings.

I also interviewed several experts who use rotary tools on a daily basis, including Celina Muire (woodworker), Jamie Locke (glass and wood engraver), Tim Delger (designer/maker), Nancy L.T. Hamilton (jeweler/ instructor), and Dremel brand manager John Hauter.

Who should buy a rotary (Dremel) tool

A video of a person engraving flowers onto a drinking glass with a dremel.

Video: Caroline Enos

If you are someone who likes to tackle small projects around the house, or who sees craft ideas and thinks, “I could make that,” then a rotary tool might be just the thing for you. A rotary tool’s versatility is what makes it such a valuable addition to any garage workshop, craft room, or office. Most models come with a selection of about 20 bits that let you tackle a multitude of tasks like cutting, drilling, sanding, engraving, and polishing, to name just a few. These tools won’t replace their larger counterparts for big jobs, but they can prove indispensable for quick tasks and for getting into spaces that are hard to reach with larger power tools. Their size also makes them a bit less intimidating for users.

A rotary tool’s versatility makes it a valuable addition to any garage workshop, craft room, or office.

In addition to basic repairs around the house, rotary tools are useful for craft endeavors like wood carving, jewelry making, glass engraving, and more. Once you have the basic tool it’s the bits and attachments that really expand your capabilities. A rotary tool is especially valuable when workspace is at a premium because it can do the work of several bulkier tools. Celina Muire, a woodworker from Austin, Texas, told me that she uses her Dremel to do everything from predrilling holes and sanding to cutting nails from recycled palettes. A Wirecutter editor uses his Dremel for tasks ranging from cutting bolts to length to cleaning out an espresso machine boiler. The more you use the tool the more uses you will find for it.

How we picked

To narrow the field, we looked at editorial and user reviews, and interviewed five experts who use rotary tools daily. Though Dremel is the best known brand of rotary tool—to the extent that most people refer to any rotary tool as a “Dremel” or “Dremel-like” tool—we found plenty of models available from other manufacturers. The price range is quite wide, with basic tools starting around $20 and high-end models and deluxe kits topping out at $150.

Most rotary tools come with a set of bits, similar to a drill-bit kit, with attachments for tasks such as cutting, sanding, drilling, and polishing. But there are plenty of others. The tools are usually offered with various kits of bits at different prices; however, simply choosing the lowest-priced kit isn’t always the best idea and may end up costing you more in the long run if you discover that you want to expand your tool’s capabilities, because the bits and attachments included in these kits can cost more than twice as much to buy individually. We factored in the usefulness of the included accessories when evaluating each kit.

Bits attach to the drill using either a collet (a metal collar with prongs) and collet nut (which tightens over the collet), or a universal chuck, like you’d find on a power drill. Collets come standard with most kits and are the preferred method for certain tasks like routing (hollowing). They come in different sizes, and can be switched out to accommodate bits of different diameters. A universal chuck is usually quicker to use, and you don’t need to switch it out depending on the bit you want to use. The drawback is that a chuck doesn’t grip the bits as securely as the collet system.

In addition to bits, a variety of attachments are available to make tasks easier. Some of the more useful attachments for most beginners are the safety shield (which helps keep debris and sparks contained when cutting or grinding) and the flex shaft (a 36-inch long flexible cord with a thin tip). You grip the flex shaft like a pencil, letting you work more accurately on detailed tasks like engraving and jewelry making. Flex shafts were available for all the models we tested, either included in the kit or as add-ons.

Besides accessories, power was the most important thing to most of the experts we interviewed. Rotary tools rely on speed and not torque for their power. The lack of torque gives the user more control, allowing for more precision, John Hauter of Dremel explained to me. Most of the tools available are in the range of 5,000 to 30,000 rpm, with some offering speeds as high as 35,000 rpm. But most people need only 28,000 to 30,000 rpm for craft or home repair projects.

Rotary tools come in cordless and corded models, but we recommend corded for most people. A majority of the experts we interviewed favored corded models because they are less powerful and require down time for recharging. Still, a cordless tool can be convenient if you’re out of reach of an outlet, so we didn’t rule them out, and if you do prefer a cordless tool, we do have a pick below.

Weight, vibration, and ergonomic design are three factors particularly important for detailed work and projects that require prolonged use. Some of the lower-cost models we tested were twice as heavy (3 to 3½ pounds vs. 1 to 2 pounds) as pricier models, and had negative user reviews regarding excessive vibration, which can make tasks like engraving and carving a challenge.

We decided to set a price cap at $100 for people buying their first Dremel tool because most models costing more tend to be professional-grade products or base models sold with a deluxe assortment of attachments that would be overkill for beginners.

We only considered models with variable speed settings. They offer more versatility than single-speed tools.

Using the above criteria, we selected nine tools for testing: five corded and four cordless models.

How we tested

We devised several tests to evaluate each tool’s power, detailing ability, comfort, and handling.

  • Glass engraving: We used a diamond engraving bit to trace a design taped to the inside of a glass. After outlining the design we used a silicone carbide grinding bit to fill it in. We evaluated a tool’s power by its ability to carve into a hard surface, and its precision by its grip, handling, and the ability to control vibration while creating the design. We also took into account how easy it was to change bits, because this project required us to use bits of different diameters.
  • Nail cutting: We hammered ¼-inch-thick steel nails into a piece of wood and then used each tool to cut them off as close to the wood as possible. This test judged the tool’s power and ability to cut through metal, the ease with which we could maneuver the tool to cut, and the ability to control it at a high speed.
  • Polishing: This test was less about power and more about control. We polished silver spoons and removed rust from and sharpened a set of old garden tools to judge how each handled during a longer duration task and its effectiveness for cleaning and polishing.

In addition to these formal tests I also used each of the tools for several hours on different ceramic and jewelry projects, like sanding inconsistencies and excess glaze on the surface of my ceramic pieces after firing. When making the jewelry, I used the tool to grind down castings and to do fine sanding and polishing of rings and pendants.

The best for beginners: Dremel 3000

The dremel 3000 set next to its carrying case and dremel heads on a wooden board.

Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick

Dremel 3000 2/28

This Dremel model is comfortable and easy enough to control for detailed craft and hobby projects but is also powerful enough to use on most home repairs.

The Dremel 3000 has the best combination of power, comfort, handling, and price that we found, and it comes with the standard bits most people will need to get started right away. It is lightweight and comfortable to hold thanks to its ergonomic design and soft rubber grip.

The 3000 has a 1.2-amp motor that goes up to 32,000 rpm. Though not as powerful as the speedier Dremel 4000 and Dremel 8220, the 3000 held its own in our test shearing off nails we’d driven into wood. It easily cut through the nails, and because of its smaller size, it was easier to control and maintain a consistent pressure. This consistency also helped to reduce the “skipping” that occurred with several of the models we tried. We’d be happy using it on anything from cutting drywall to removing rust, sharpening garden tools, and removing grout.

Video of the Dremel 3000 being used to sheer the head of a nail off the board it is attached to.

Video: Caroline Enos

The 3000 is slightly thinner, shorter, and lighter than the Dremel 4000 and Dremel 8220, which makes it easier to maneuver and more comfortable to hold. Its smaller scale helps it perform better on detailing projects, and makes it less taxing to hold for longer tasks. The 4000 has more power, but for most people the 3,000 rpm difference will be negligible, and most would be willing to sacrifice a bit of power for a tool that is much better at handling detailing work.

The Dremel 3000 has relatively low vibration and is still easy to control at its maximum speed.

In fact, the Proxxon Micromot 50/E was the only corded tool that handled better than the 3000 for detailing, but it costs nearly twice as much. There is also value in the 3000’s versatility: It performs well on both craft and power-tool applications. Other hobby models, such as the Dremel 8050, for example, are good for detailing well but didn’t cut through metal as effectively.

Unlike the cheaper Wen and cordless Genesis models we looked at, the 3000 has relatively low vibration and is still easy to control at its maximum speed. In our tests, it was easy to maintain consistent contact with the glass, enabling us to finish the engraving faster than we could with the Dremel 4000 and Dremel 8220 and several cordless models.

The Dremel 3000 is compatible with all of Dremel’s attachments and accessories, it has a twist cap that makes changing and tightening bits easier than on most of the tools we tested, and its motor brushes can be easily replaced, extending the life of the tool. Dremel is the only maker of the models we tested that includes both multiple bits and attachments with its rotary tools. I change bits quite frequently while working, so one of my favorite Dremel attachments is the universal chuck. It replaces the need to change collets and it tightens like a traditional drill chuck, making changing bits quick and easy. (We recommend the 2/28 kit because it includes a good set of bits for beginners looking to get started right away. But there are other combinations of bits to choose from.)

Dremel-branded tools come with a two-year warranty, with a US service center that processes needed repairs. Its website has always-available live chat with a customer service rep, and a troubleshooting guide.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

One slight drawback to the 3000 is its limited control over speed. It has five set speeds ranging from 5,000 to 32,000 rpm. The speed settings are numbered 1 through 5, but you’ll have to look in the manual to translate those to rpm ranges. The Dremel 4000, 8220, and both Proxxon models we tested have either a dial or a slide that allows finer-grained, continuous control over speed.

Upgrade pick: Dremel 4000

The dremel 4000 set next to its carrying case and dremel heads on top of a wooden background.

Photo: Caroline Enos

Upgrade pick

Dremel 4000 3/34

With a fast, powerful motor, the Dremel 4000 is ideal for home repair projects. It is a bit larger and heavier than our main pick, so it isn’t as ideal for detailing or for use over long stretches.

If you plan to do mostly projects around the house that require power, we recommend spending a bit more to get the Dremel 4000. With a 1.6-amp motor that goes to 35,000 rpm, it was the most powerful corded rotary tool we tested. Where the Dremel 3000 (1.2 amps, 32,000 rpm) feels like a good middle ground between a power tool and a hobby tool, the 4000 really feels like a power tool. When faced with cutting hardwoods or metals, this is the tool I’d grab.

Where the Dremel 3000 feels like a good middle ground between a power and hobby tool, the 4000 really feels like a power tool.

It performed well in all of our tests, but was the fastest at shearing off nails. You can feel the extra force in the motor, though without the excessive vibration you might expect. And even with the added power, it was relatively easy to control. The 4000 did not perform as well on the engraving test as our main pick or the Proxxon Micromot 50/E because it is a bit heavier and larger, making it less comfortable to hold and more difficult to maneuver. It ended up making the detail project take a bit longer. It still worked well, and given the lack of vibration, I was able to etch effectively. But it was less comfortable, and that led to the detailing being slightly less precise.

If you must have the extra power but also want the flexibility of use for more detailed work, we recommend getting a base model like the 4000 2/30 and purchasing the flex-shaft attachment for around $20. We repeated the engraving test with the 4000 using the flex shaft, and finished about two minutes faster, with a much clearer finished design than we could get using the base tool itself. (We still prefer the 3000 for most people, however, because it handles just as well on fine detail work without needing the flex-shaft attachment, making it more versatile for less money.)

The dremel 4000 inside of its carrying case, along with dremel heads and other accessories.

Photo: Caroline Enos

I have used the 4000 for a few years now for sanding, grinding and polishing ceramic, and setting jewelry. Besides the extra power, I prefer its speed-adjustment dial—it gives you a lot of flexibility and makes selecting the specific speed you want easy. Like our main pick, the Dremel 4000 is compatible with all Dremel bits and attachments, the wide variety of which means you can expand the tool’s capabilities significantly. You can also replace the motor brushes to make the tool last longer.

Budget pick: Wen 2305

The Wen 2305 sitting next to dremel heads and other accessories on top of a wooden board.

Photo: Michael Hession

Budget pick

Wen 2305

The Wen 2305 is not as smooth, quiet, and precise as the higher-end models we tested, but it’s reliable and impressive for its low price.

If you don’t want to spend much on a tool you think you’ll use only occasionally, or if you aren’t sure a rotary tool is for you, the Wen 2305 is a solid, inexpensive choice that is good for basic tasks. Though not the best in any of our tests, it performed adequately, and its included kit of 80 bits was larger than those of any of the pricier models we tested. The Wen is surprisingly lightweight for a budget-priced tool, and for about half the price of our main pick, its 1.0-amp motor has a variable-speed adjustment (8,0000 to 30,000 rpm). In our tests, it provided enough power to cut through metal and hardwoods.

The Wen 2305 is not a precision instrument, and the collet and bit connections weren’t as tight as those of our main pick or either Proxxon model we tested. There’s also quite a bit of vibration during use, making it somewhat harder to control. However, the Wen comes with a flex-shaft attachment—a separate purchase with our main and upgrade picks—which allows you to work on small-scale and detailed projects that are difficult to do without the attachment.

The Wen 2305 with the flex-shaft attachment on top of a wooden board.

The Wen comes with a flex-shaft attachment and a larger set of bits than any of the pricier kits we tested. Photo: Caroline Enos

We used the Wen with the included flex shaft for our engraving test. It performed the test quickly and was easy to handle. It also cut down on the amount of vibration, and the tool did a nice job engraving the design. The downside was that in a relatively short time it became hot; a few minutes more and I would have had to stop and let it cool down before continuing. I encountered this problem only while using the flex shaft—I used the Wen for several other tasks without the flex shaft, some over 30 minutes, and did not have the overheating issue, so I don’t think it is a consistent problem with the tool itself.

Two engraved flowers, shown side by side to display the quality of their different engravings.

Our test engraving results using the Wen 2305 (left) and the Dremel 8050 (right). Photo: Michael Hession

If you stay around 15,000 to 20,000 rpm the Wen gives off less vibration and actually performs better; we cut nails easily at that speed. However, if you select speeds much higher than that, the vibrations increase, making the Wen harder to handle.

The Wen has only two collet sizes—⅛ inch and 3/32 inch—compared with the Dremel’s four, and it isn’t compatible with Dremel collets, which does limit the variety of bits that you can use with the tool. On the plus side, Wen does sell replacement collets and collet nuts, so the tool is not useless if you lose or break them. You can also replace the motor brushes—rare for lower-cost models—which can extend the life of the tool significantly.

Wen’s warranty isn’t as generous as Dremel’s; it offers just one year of coverage and you must have a purchase receipt to validate the warranty. Repairs are farmed out to local, third-party service centers.

What about cordless?

The cordless dremel 8220 sitting on a wooden board with its carrying case and drill head attachments.

Photo: Michael Hession

Also great

Dremel 8220 1/28

The Dremel 8220 has the convenience of a cordless tool with the power of a corded model, but you’ll have to remember to charge the battery before use.

We don’t think a cordless rotary tool is the best choice for most because they tend to be less powerful than their corded counterparts, and you have to remember to charge them before use. However, if you know you’ll be working some distance from an outlet and want a cordless model, the Dremel 8220 was the only cordless whose performance and speed were on a par with the corded models we tested. Combined with its portability and its detachable, quick-charging battery, it’s the best option if you need the freedom of cordless.

The Dremel 8220 and our upgrade pick, the corded Dremel 4000, were almost identical performers in the cutting test in terms of power, speed, and handling. Both had enough force and power to easily cut through the nails. Unlike all of the other cordless tools we tested, the 8220 did not shut down when taxed, even after multiple test cuts.

Unlike all of the other cordless tools we tested, the Dremel 8220 did not shut down when taxed, even after multiple test cuts.

It is almost identical in scale and weight to the Dremel 4000, but slightly easier to handle while engraving. It was not, however, as easy to maneuver as our main pick, the lighter and more ergonomically designed Dremel 3000.

The portability of this tool is a decided advantage over corded models, especially when working outdoors or anywhere with limited access to electricity. It is also easy to maneuver into small spaces that would be difficult for larger tools, and you don’t have to make sure that the cord is out of the way while working.

A close up of the dremel 8220 battery, removed from the motor sitting on top of a wooden board.

The 8220 uses a sliding scale, not a dial, for speed adjustment, which makes selecting a specific speed easier and more precise. Photo: Michael Hession

The 8220 comes with a high-performance, detachable lithium-ion battery, which has a recharge time of one hour, much faster than the three hours needed to recharge another Dremel cordless we tested, the 8050. The ability to detach the battery eliminates down time—an advantage over the Genesis cordless and the Dremel 8050. You can buy an additional battery or grab the deluxe kit that comes with two (for the same price as the kit plus an extra battery), so you can charge one battery while the other is in use. The Hitachi was the only cordless model tested that had a longer battery life than the 8220, but it did not match the 8220 in performance or handling.

Another standout feature is the 8220’s speed adjustment, the best of all the tools we tested. It uses a sliding scale instead of a dial, which makes adjustment easier and more precise. That comes in handy for certain types of craft projects.

Cordless tools tend to be more expensive than comparable corded units. The Dremel 8220 is pricier than our main pick, but on a par with our upgrade pick. Another downside to cordless tools in general is that you can’t replace the motor brushes, so they may not last as long as any of our corded picks.

Like our main and upgrade picks, the 8220 is covered by Dremel’s two-year warranty. The company has a US-based service center for repairs, and a Web-based live-chat service that’s available 24/7.

The competition

The Craftsman rotary tool is almost identical to the Dremel 3000 in both looks and performance. It is also compatible with all of Dremel’s attachments, bits, and accessories. The only differences that we noticed were the color (the Craftsman is all black) and the price tag. The Craftsman costs between $5 and $10 more than the 3000 depending on the kit. We suspect that Dremel manufactures both tools but have not been able to confirm it through either company. If the 3000 is out of stock or if you prefer a black to Dremel’s gray, we would not hesitate to buy the Craftsman instead.

I was initially a bit skeptical of the Proxxon Micromot 50/E because it was the only tool we tested that plugs into a transformer instead of directly into an outlet. Instead of making it awkward to work with, the benefits of extra cords far outweigh that inconvenience. You do need be careful not to pull too hard and knock it over, but the transformer makes for a much lighter tool with very little vibration and lets you to work safely on wet applications.

The Micromot was by far the smoothest and quietest of all the tools tested. It gave us the best result in the engraving test and made for the quickest completion of any of the tools that didn’t use the flex-shaft attachment. It is also the thinnest and lightest of all of the tools we tested, making it easy to grip like a pen and comfortable and easy to handle. Not coincidentally, it is also among the most expensive tools we looked at. Its top speed is 20,000 rpm, but that didn’t seem to affect its ability in the cutting test. It took a bit longer to cut through but it was one of the easier units to control. This is a good tool for people looking for a true precision instrument. It comes with six sizes of three slit-hardened steel collets—most other models come with either two or four collets with four slits and made of a flimsier metal. This Proxxon’s collets ensured the tightest bit connection of all the tools we tested.

The Micromot 50/E is sold alone; to get the transformer and bit set together with the tool, it’s sold as the Proxxon Model Building and Engraving set. The small included kit has high-quality bits but no attachments. For the price it would be more appealing if it came with a more comprehensive kit like Dremel offers.

Similar to the Micromot, the Proxxon FBS 115/E also has extremely low vibration and runs extremely quiet compared with the other models we tested. It is a not as light or as easy to handle as the Micromot because it does not use the transformer and plugs directly into the wall. It comes with a keyless chuck, which makes changing bits a little easier, though it is still compatible with Proxxon collets. Like the Micromot, the 115/E caps off at 20,000 rpm and comes with a limited selection of bits for the price.

The Dremel Micro 8050 is the most lightweight of all the cordless tools tested. With a variable speed range of 5,000 to 28,000 rpm, it was one of the best performers in our engraving test. It is really comfortable to hold and is great for intricate work. As a bonus, it has an LED built into the nose cap, which was great for seeing detailed work. Unfortunately, the 8050 did not perform well in the cutting test: Even at 28,000 rpm it lacked the strength to cut through the nail, shutting down twice before finally cutting through. Its battery runs for about 45 minutes and is not detachable, so it needs to charge on the stand. This makes longer tasks impractical, as it takes three hours to fully charge.

By far the worst performer was the Genesis Pistol Grip Cordless. Based on customer reviews I had high hopes for this tool as a budget cordless option. The noise it makes—it sounded like mice running around in the motor—was almost enough to disqualify it outright. But during the engraving test I found it difficult to make consistent contact with the glass because the tool’s pistol grip was awkward and hard to control, and there was a lot of vibration. As a result, the Genesis produced the worst-looking glasses. The cutting test was equally unsuccessful: With a max of 18,000 rpm, the Genesis shut down three times before finally cutting through a nail.

The Hitachi GP10DL Cordless performed well in all of our tests and had the longest battery life of the cordless tools. It is actually a few ounces lighter than the cordless we recommend, the Dremel 8220, but not as easy to handle because of the battery’s heft. It uses the a 12-volt lithium-ion battery common to Hitachi’s other cordless power tools, and the weight distribution ends up being a little awkward for engraving and sanding. The tool also got quite hot rather quickly during the engraving test. If you already have Hitachi cordless tools and you are looking to add a rotary tool for shorter, less detail-oriented tasks, this might be a good option for you, but for the same price you could go with our much more comfortable and versatile main pick from Dremel.


Published at Mon, 05 Jun 2017 22:02:49 +0000

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