*Update: This article has been updated for 2021*
With the seemingly thousands of options available for rotary tool users, it can be a little overwhelming when it comes to hunting down the perfect option for your job at hand. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of my personal recommendations for the best rotary tool accessories in 2021. The list includes my most used, and favourite accessories, as well as a few novelties that you might not have even known existed!
I’ve had a little Ozito rotary tool for a while now.
While I don’t have any complaints with the tool itself, in fact, I’ve actually been quite surprised by it, the accessories that it came with were a little lacking in quality. Which is why I found myself quickly upgrading them to aftermarket ones shortly after buying the tool itself.
Wait, is this a Dremel ad?
The short answer is no: I’m not sponsored by Dremel in any way shape or form, I just appreciate an accessory that doesn’t fall apart in two seconds flat.
But, be forewarned, you are going to see a lot of Dremel accessories in this list. Trust me, I have tried cheaping out and buying the large packs of other accessories – but in the end, it really didn’t save me any money considering the longevity or quality of the accessories I ended up with.
I will usually only purchase Dremel accessories now unless there is a very good deal on another brand that I would like to try. In my experience, there isn’t anything I have come across in the rotary tool accessory range that compares to the quality of Dremel. If you’re reading this and are one of the lucky ones who has found a good, cheap accessory on Amazon, please let me know, I’m all about saving the moolah!
Before we begin
If this is your first time using a rotary tool and it didn’t come with a kit of accessories, I do recommend that you get your hands on an el cheapo set like this one to begin with:
(I know, I know, I just said that I don’t buy off-brand anymore, but bear with me) For one, buying a large set of various accessories will allow you to determine what you use most (kind of like with router bits), and it will give you a standard that you can measure against the much, much better-quality accessories that you will later get.
When I originally purchased my Ozito it came with over one-hundred accessories. I quickly was able to determine what I needed better quality on, and what I didn’t use enough to justify the upgrade.
Use it properly
And one last thing before I hop right into the list, I know it seems like common sense, but please only use rotary tools in the way they were intended. This includes making sure you are using the right running speeds and materials for the job at hand! Many of these accessories will only work well if you use them in the ways that they were designed to be used. If you run a high-quality bit at the wrong speed into the wrong material and it bends or melts, that’s more of a reflection on the user than the accessory itself.
Here’s a handy list from Dremel itself that shows the correct running speeds for various bits and materials:
In general, if you see smoke and burning, your speed is too high, and if you feel the bit slowing it could be that you are putting too much pressure on the tool – if you lessen your pressure and it’s still struggling it’s a good indication that your speed is too slow.
USE YOUR PPE!
Okay, one more last thing and another bit of common sense that deserves to be mentioned, rotary tools spin at really high speeds, and have a tendency to occasionally fling things at equally high speeds, remember your safety glasses. Similarly, rotary tools kick up some really fine dust and particles, so using a mask is a must as well!
With that, let’s get to it!
Generally speaking, rotary tool bits can be organised into a few categories
- Material Removal and Shaping
- Grinding and Polishing
Best for cutting metal:
Most rotary tools come with resin “cutting wheels” – if you’ve ever used one of these you know that they don’t last long – often shattering mid-project, or grinding down into nothing after one or two cuts. I’m happy to say that I will never again be going back to that relationship, because I’ve found something much better.
The best in this category is the:
Dremel Fiberglass Reinforced cutting wheel
If you’re wondering why I didn’t pick the ultra-super-duper-heavy-duty premium metal cutting wheel from Dremel well…
Fiberglass reinforced cutting wheels, such as the above, do last longer and cut better than the resin cutting disks, and they also come in packs. The pack including twenty fiberglass cutting wheels is only slightly more expensive than the single premium metal version from Dremel. While the premium metal version doesn’t have the same tendency to expand or fall apart, and Dremel advertises that it has 20x the cutting life as their fiberglass counterparts, I just didn’t find that to be the case. In fact, I found that the cutting abrasive on the wheel didn’t last as long as I needed it to in order to justify the increase in price.
The cutting speed on the fiberglass version is great and I really can’t see myself getting more cuts out of the premium cutting disk than 12 of these – which is why it gets my vote!
Best for cutting wood:
PROMMON 5 Pcs Ti-coated Saw Blades
This is actually a new addition to my list as of 2021!
Previously, I was using Dremel’s Carbide cutting wheel for small internal cut-outs of thin wood, etc. Then I saw these and though, “What the heck, break your rule just this once.” And I was pleasantly surprised! When I ordered, I was worried that the large mandrel may be too soft based on the few negative reviews that were there – I haven’t had an issue, but it’s something to keep in mind when you are first turning it on. Felt a bit like defusing a bomb when I first fired her up, not knowing what would happen!
I love this cutting wheel for slicing through small trim pieces or making internal cut outs in my projects (it’s come in great use for my caravan remodel!) As a bonus, it can also be used for fibreglass, laminate, and plastics. They aren’t going to last you through a multitude of heavy projects, but they definitely did the job for me, since the majority of the time I will be reaching for something with a bit more heft if I’m going to be cutting wood.
Best for cutting stone and glass:
Dremel 545 Diamond Wheel
Diamond cutting wheels are the way to go when you want to be cutting ultra-hard materials. I’ve tried several different brands of these types of wheels and often found the diamond abrasive to wear away very, very quickly and/or the wheel would overheat and bend the mandrel before I could complete a job. The biggest difference that I’ve found with this Dremel bit is that the diamond abrasive lasts significantly longer.
I’ve used this bit on the porcelain tiles that I needed to shorten to install a new sink fixture and it worked fantastically. I’ve also used it, before I had a grinder, to cut away at some concrete that had shifted and was blocking the door of my shed from opening, AND, I’ve used it to cut through some carbon fibre tubing for a lightweight frame construction. It has really exceeded my expectations in all of these applications, but I suppose that my expectations were rather low after using the other non-branded diamond wheels.
It’s certainly saved me a lot of headaches, that’s for sure!
Okay, so, if you’ve ever ordered Rotary tool accessories before, you’ll be familiar with the insane packs of sanding drums and barrels that come with an incredible 500 some pieces for 11 dollars and 23 cents or something.
I’m here to tell you not to do it. Just don’t do it. As someone who has wasted a whole lot of time changing out sanding pads that last all of two seconds (touch it to the wood for 1.5 seconds and the abrasive pad suddenly becomes as smooth as a sheet of paper) – I am begging you to learn from my mistake. There is very little on this earth that I find more annoying than having to change out an accessory a million times on a single project. Especially when the process of changing them out gets longer and longer as the drum mandrel heats and expands and the sandpaper barrels no longer fit (can you tell I am a woman who has been slighted by the multi-packs of sanding drums? Hell hath no fury!)
If you have found a kit of sanding drums that actually works – please enlighten me, I would love to try it!
Until then, I’m sticking with these:
Oh, and, they serve a multipurpose too! My dog, Taco hates to have her nails clipped. And I really do mean hates having her nails clipped. Put these suckers on a low speed, give her nails a little sandy-sand, and it’s not nearly an ordeal as the clippers! (As a note, this really only works for us with the Flexshaft attachment, Taco doesn’t like the tool itself near her.) 😉
Atoplee 10 Pcs Tungsten Steel Burs
If you do any power carving or simply need to remove and shape material quickly and accurately, there is nothing like a good bur or rasp used in a rotary tool. Lower the speed and you’ll have a delicate carving tool, up the speed (but not too much!) and you have a lean, mean, material removing machine.
I’m about to do something you haven’t seen yet and declare the best value accessory in this category to be one that is not Dremel. *round of applause*
I’ve used these burs on both metal and wood and have had good results. If you do really small detail carving, these aren’t for you, as they are on the large side – but I’m really happy with the results on larger carvings and material removal for the price. I’ve used them numerous times, haven’t noticed any dulling in the blades yet, and they haven’t overheated on me. (Just make sure you use the correct speed!)
I don’t know why they mention diamond in the title (probably because they want to trick people), but it’s pretty easy to tell even from the picture that these are not diamond bits. That bit of sneaky advertising aside, I have found these bits to work well for me.
Okay, Okay, Okay – I love a good engraving bit! It’s just so cool to see something delicate and accurate come out of something spinning at 25,000 rpm.
You’re going to be pretty hard pressed to do any engraving while holding your rotary tool in hand though. Which is why you’re going to need, at the very least a Flexshaft attachment, and preferably with a pencil or comfort grip. My Ozito rotary tool came with a flexshaft attachment, which is part of the reason I found the kit such great value. It’s still going strong, but if it ever falls apart, I have used the Dremel comfort grip attachment at a trade show, and it is amazing. Comfortable and well balanced, it really does feel like holding a large pen. It’ll be the first thing I reach for off the store shelf when the time comes.
As for engraving bits – for glass, stone and really anything substantially harder than wood that you want to imbue with some fine detail engraving, diamond is the way to go. As with the diamond cutting disks, I found many of the cheaper engraving sets would quickly wear out the diamond abrasive. If engraving is something you do a lot of, invest in the specific diamond bur Dremel bits that you will use often. They last much longer, (the first, thin pointed bit that I bought a year and a half ago is still going!) and will pay you back tenfold both in enjoyment and cost when you don’t have to go out and buy more after every other project. For the ones that you don’t use as often, cheaper steel engraving bits are fine!
This is the best value kit, in my opinion, as it includes a diamond wheel point bit, a diamond carving bit, four engraving bits, and four grinding bits. As I’m writing this the kit is also 30% off, another bonus!!
I’ll be honest here. I don’t use my grinding bits very much. Occasionally, if I have a substantially dull edge on something that I don’t really care for much, I might run it over the grinding bits on my Dremel – I have done this for my garden clippers, and it worked fairly well. And, I have even tried to sharpen my 1970’s lawn mower blades as well (which probably would have worked if the blades weren’t so entirely shortened from years of people running small rocks and pebbles through them.) In terms of their other use, etching or engraving, I do use them a bit more.
There are several different types of grinding bits with various profiles and grits. Unfortunately, if you are buying cheap knock offs, it can get pretty difficult to determine exactly what grits or types of grinding stones you are getting – the colours, while a good determinate of the type of stone in known brands, don’t always match with the imported knock offs, and sometimes, I’ve even found that the stones in these knockoffs are specifically coloured in order to look
like the types of stones from say… Dremel for example.
In general though, the most popular type of grinding bit is aluminium oxide which most of the time comes in white, pink, red, brown, and grey colours. The darker grey and brown colours are the big boys around town – and they do most of the work in terms of material removal and rough re-shaping. The lighter colours – white obviously being the lightest – are typically the ones used for the sharpening itself. They will wear quicker, but create a better, more refined edge.
Silicone Carbide is the other type that is commonly seen, though less commonly than aluminium oxide. It is typically green in colour and is harder than aluminium oxide, which makes it better for etching and engraving things like ceramic and glass while the aluminium oxide is better for softer metals.
To be fully honest with you, I’m still using the original grinding stones from my Ozito set, so I can’t recommend other ones in good faith. I do trust Dremel, but given how long I’ve used the Ozito ones for, I might have been convinced to give an offbrand of the grinding bits a try, but after a thorough check on Amazon and a reference to Fakespot (my go to for detecting fake amazon reviews), I really didn’t find one that I would be comfortable potentially wasting money on when the grinding bits from Dremel are actually fairly cheap. So… I’ll be ordering this when my current ones finally wear out:
I never really cared or used the polishing wheels for my rotary tool until the day I did…. And now I can’t stop using them!
They are the greatest thing I have found for my antique tool restorations and I recently used them extensively for my Acorn hand plane restoration mentioned above.
Wool/felt polishing wheels are my favourite, and the quality is pretty varied. I hate to sound like a woodpecker here, but I’ve ordered three different kits with 50-100 pieces in them, all three of them failed to function. To use the polishing accessories, the felt piece is basically twisted onto a mandrel that has a screw-shaped protrusion. The cheap felt polishing accessories all failed to stay on that screw within a few seconds to a half-minute of use – this is at low speeds and with low pressure. I’m pretty certain they are all made by the same brand and are just sold from different accounts. So, look, you can get 100 pieces and use all of them for a combined average of ten minutes – or you can just get the tried and tested Dremel ones and expect them to work much longer. It’s up to you, really. I use this kit:
You will notice the difference in quality the minute you pull the felt polishing bits out of the package. They don’t shed a lot of stray strands of material, they tend to hold their shape and attach securely, and I find I can get several uses out of them. In fact, I think I got through five-tool restorations on my last conical-shaped polishing tip.
Included in the above kit are also some wire brushes, which I haven’t spoken about but are absolutely amazing at getting rid of gunk on antique tools. When I used the wire brushes in my Ozito kit I felt like I was getting kit with shrapnel from all sides it was shedding them at such a speed. I was picking tiny wires out of my clothes for the rest of the afternoon. Hate to repeat myself, but dremel is the way to go if you want to be making it through any metal detectors anytime soon.
When the felt tips need replaced the 422 and the 429 from Dremel are my go to.
Garden sharpening kit:
If you aren’t keen on sharpening by hand, and you also don’t want to mess with the learning curve of bench grinders, the garden sharpening kit from Dremel is a pretty cool little attachment. The attachment holds the grinding stone at the perfect angle to the blade in order to achieve a sharp, even bevel while requiring minimal effort from the user. If you already have a grinding wheel, this isn’t much use to you, but if you don’t, this thing is a much cheaper way to accurately sharpen some tools!
If you find sharpening your gardening tools to be a process that is particularly crappy/one that you literally never do, this wouldn’t be a bad idea to try out. I will say, that the first time you use a truly sharp pair of garden snips is something of a eureka moment!
I’ll also point out that the chainsaw sharpening attachment is a huge time saver over the conventional files.
What are your favourite rotary tool accessories?
And there you have it! The rotary tool is one my favourite, most versatile tools and I’m sure that over the next years I’ll find even more fantastic accessories for the tool that will transform it into an even handier little guy to have around.
Do you have a favourite rotary accessory that isn’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!