Rotary tools are perfect for many household tasks, including repairs and maintenance, crafting, and hobbies; there are even attachments designed for use on your pets’ or your own nails. When choosing a rotary tool, you'll find both corded and cordless options; most DIYers prefer a cordless tool, which can go anywhere it's needed, but corded rotary tools often have a little more power. Thomas Hawkins, handyman, master electrician, and owner of Electrician Apprentice HQ, expands further, advising, “The corded versus cordless debate depends upon the project. If working in a tight area where you don't need a lot of power but need versatility, go cordless. But if you're not restricted in your movements and especially need extra power, go corded. It all boils down to what you're trying to accomplish.”
We evaluated rotary tools based on reliability, ease of use, available attachments, durability, and overall performance.
Here are the best rotary tools for a wide range of applications.
Dremel 3000 Variable-Speed Rotary Tool with Flex Shaft
Smooth, powerful performance
Includes large selection of attachments
Compatible with a wide range of Dremel bits and attachments
Little instruction for included attachments
Since they invented the high-speed rotary tool in 1934, Dremel has been crafting high-quality tools that can be used on a wide range of projects. The Dremel 3000 is one of the best rotary tools ever created by the brand and comes with a flex shaft and 25 pieces that allow you to do just about anything.
The Dremel 3000 lets you grind, sand, and cut with a variable speed ranging from 5,000 to 32,000 rpm. The hand-held, plug-in rotary tool is made with cool-running ball bearings for smooth and quiet functionality. This tool works with every Dremel attachment and this set includes 25 of them. To attach the polishing or beveling attachments, you only need to use the EZ twist nose cap for quick transitions—which makes it perfect for a complex project. There are many attachments included in this set, with the exception of drill bits, although most Dremel drill bits will fit the 3000.
The Flex Shaft attachment only furthers the versatility of the Dremel 3000. This piece gives the user a new level of precision that is ideal for small crafts and intricate carving. The Dremel 3000 is our top pick for rotary tools because it works well, lasts long, and can do just about everything.
Price at time of publish: $75
Power Source: Corded | Power Output: 1.2 amps | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 32,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
WEN 2305 Rotary Tool Kit with Flex Shaft
Includes flex shaft and large accessory kit
Very reasonable price
Some complaints of unbalanced spin
The WEN 2305 Rotary Tool Kit might not have the catchiest name, nor is it the option with the highest power, but the price tag will definitely catch your attention. This model is a massively popular product that features a low price—with or without the flex shaft.
The WEN 2305 is versatile and durable with a variable speed from 8,000 to 30,000 rpm. This toolkit features 100 individual pieces including polishing pads, sanding discs, and drill bits. Bits can be changed easily via the onboard spindle lock and the bits in this kit can be used for drilling, grinding, shaping, cutting, sanding, and polishing. If you decide to go with the kit that includes a flex shaft, it allows for more precise rotary tool work. DIYers and crafters will love this budget-friendly option for its versatility, lightweight design, and included accessories. Plus, this corded rotary tool features a one-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $20
Power Source: Corded | Power Output: 1 amp | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 30,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Hardell Mini Rotary Tool Kit
Very light and portable
Includes large selection of accessories
Few complaints about battery life
Most rotary tools require a thick cord to cut, grind, or sand, but the Hardell rotary tool is completely cordless and not much larger than a pen. The tool uses a 3.7V Li-ion battery that can be charged with a USB cable and last up to 200 minutes. This tool only weighs 5 ounces and is a little less than 7 inches in length, so it can easily be carried or stored.
The small rotary tool is specifically designed for smaller projects, such as engraving glass, sharpening metal, drilling small holes, or carving soft wood. You can even use it to grind down your own or your pet's toenails. It is not, however, designed for larger, heavier tasks, such as drilling or grinding hard materials. The Hardell rotary tool has five convenient speeds ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 rpm. This allows for precise control no matter what job you are tackling.
The convenient cordless device comes equipped with 55 accessories, which include seven different collet sizes, so you can use the tool with accessories from most other brands. You'll also get a variety of attachments for sanding, grinding, drilling, and polishing, as well as a plastic storage case. There's even a built-in LED light to reduce pesky shadows and blind spots on your work area.
Price at time of publish: $30
Power Source: Battery | Power Output: 3.7 volts | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 15,000 | Variable Speed: No
Best for Cutting
DEWALT DW660 5-Amp Rotary Tool
Uses spiral drill bits
Cuts through many different materials
Drywall, wood, stone, metal, tile—the DEWALT DW660 Rotary Tool can do it all. With a 5.0-amp, 30,000 rpm motor, the DW660 is the strongest rotary tool available and is perfectly designed for difficult cutwork.
This rotary tool is often used by electricians, plumbers, and other tradespeople who need to cut through different materials quickly, and as a bonus, the thin and compact size is ideal for prolonged use. The tool has very little vibration or sound, so you won't have that buzzed hand feeling either.
The DEWALT DW660 uses spiral drill bits, like a standard power drill, to seamlessly punch through difficult materials. This rotary tool uses a simple mechanism for changing accessories and comes with both 1/4- and 1/8-inch collets. The power tool only comes with one bit, but can easily use a wide range for reliable cutting. The DW660 has a one-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $70
Power Source: Corded | Power Output: 5 amps | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 30,000 | Variable Speed: No
WEN 23190 Steady-Grip Rotary Tool with 190-Piece Accessory Kit
Large included accessory set
Very reasonable price
Some complaints about carrying case quality
Many rotary tools are sold in sets, but few boast the combination of accessories and an affordable price tag that the WEN 23190 Steady-Grip Rotary Tool with 190-Piece Accessory Kit does. This inexpensive option provides a quality power tool, 190 various accessories, and a carrying case for all of it.
This set features four collets in different sizes, which is uncommon. You'll also get a flex shaft and an auxiliary "Steady Grip" handle for precision work. Other accessories in the kit include a wide range of attachments for grinding, polishing, cutting, and drilling. There's even a small container of polishing paste. Each accessory or attachment has a specific use that broadens the possibilities of what you can do with this WEN rotary tool.
The rotary tool itself boasts a significant speed range, with variable speeds from 8,000 to 35,000 rpm. It's 1.3-amp motor provides plenty of power as well. Accessories are switched out easily with a spindle lock system.
Price at time of publish: $34
Power Source: Corded | Power Output: 1.3 amps | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 35,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Milwaukee 2460-20 M12 12-Volt Rotary Tool
Light and portable
Few complaints of tool overheating
Compact and lightweight, the Milwaukee 2460-20 M12 is an excellent choice for those who don't want a cumbersome cord attached to their tool. Perfectly designed for tradespeople on-the-go, or anyone who wants to keep a versatile tool in the truck, the rotary tool can do just about anything that more expensive or bulky models can, and do it well.
This Milwaukee tool delivers significant power despite being cordless. The lithium-ion battery, called REDLITHIUM by Milwaukee, powers the 12-volt motor and allows users to sand, grind, and cut without issue. The rotary tool has variable speeds ranging from 5,000 to 32,000 rpm.
The entire tool only weighs 1.3 pounds and is just under 10 inches in length for optimal maneuverability and effortless carrying. It's compatible with a wide range of accessories, and it has special exhaust ports that help prevent overheating when grinding or cutting. Note that this model does not include the battery.
Price at time of publish: $134
Power Source: Battery | Power Output: 12 volts | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 32,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Best for Crafting
Hi-Spec Variable-Speed Rotary Tool Kit
Easy to use
Includes large accessory kit
Not the most powerful performance
The Hi-Spec Rotary Tool is a great option for crafting because it gets the job done and is user-friendly. Even a first-time rotary tool user will feel comfortable drilling, polishing, or sanding because of the intuitive design and included accessory guide (which gives you instructions on what each gadget can be used for). If you need to change the bit, the onboard lock system allows for quick and easy changes, and the universal collet system means that most accessories on the market will fit this tool as well.
The corded tool has a 160-watt motor and variable speeds ranging from 8,000 to 35,000 rpm. The motor is specifically designed to reduce vibration and that buzzed-hand sensation without reducing effectiveness. The kit includes 121 items in total with grinding stones, sanding pads, felt wheel, mandrels, and much more. The number and variety of accessories make this tool perfect for crafters working with a lot of materials. All accessories can easily be stored in the carrying case.
Price at time of publish: $33
Power Source: Corded | Power Output: 1.4 amps | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 35,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Best for Household Tasks
Dremel Lite 7760-N/10 Rotary Tool
Includes several attachments
Compatible with most Dremel attachments
Some complaints about battery life
Many people appreciate the versatility of a rotary tool for simple tasks around the home, such as grinding down a pet’s toenails, smoothing a rough edge on a piece of furniture, or working on various hobbies and crafts. For those people, the Dremel Lite 7760-N/10 is the perfect tool. Super-easy to use, versatile enough for most of the tasks a crafter, hobbyist, or handyperson is likely to ask of it, and reasonably priced to boot: what’s not to like?
The Dremel Lite works with most Dremel attachments and accessories, but you’ll get several useful attachments with this tool, including an engraving cutter, 60-grit sanding band, ⅜-inch grinding stone attachment, a small and medium felt wheel for polishing, and a nylon bristle attachment for cleaning and buffing.
The rotary tool has four variable speeds, a twist nose-cap for easy attachment changes, and a battery life indicator. It runs on a 4-volt Li-Ion battery and includes a USB charging cord as well as a plug for charging the device off one of your home’s electrical outlets.
Price at time of publish: $64
Power Source: Battery | Power Output: 2 amps | Max. Rotations Per Minute: 25,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
If you want a rotary tool that has the utmost versatility, works with an astounding array of attachments and comes with 25 of them, has plenty of speed and control, and is suited to a very wide range of uses around the house, garage, or crafting room, then you want the Dremel 3000. But if all you need is a simple rotary tool for lightweight sanding, engraving, polishing, hobbies, or even grinding down your own or your pet's nails, the Hardell Mini Cordless Rotary Tool is an excellent choice.
What to Look for in a Rotary Tool
There are two types of rotary tools: those powered by batteries and those powered by your home’s AC current.
Corded rotary tools have more power than their cordless counterparts, as a general rule, but the tradeoff is that you’ll be tethered to the nearest electrical outlet. While the majority of rotary tools sold today are cordless, it’s still worth considering a corded tool if you expect to use it for lengthy sessions or for heavy cutting, grinding, or drilling.
Cordless rotary tools are the most popular option, as they free the user to work wherever desired. While typically cordless tools have a little less power and aren’t quite as fast as corded options, today’s models are very close.
The typical light-duty corded rotary tool has a 1.8-amp motor, but you’ll find stronger models with 2-amp to 5-amps of power. If you use your rotary tool frequently for heavy work around your home or garage, it’s worth paying a little more for a more powerful motor, but if you only need the tool for lightweight work, 1.8 amps should be sufficient.
Cordless rotary tools normally run off lithium-ion batteries. Those designed for lightweight tasks generally have 4-volt batteries, but if you need more power, you’ll be happier with an 8-volt or even a 12-volt tool.
Rotations per Minute
Most rotary tools today have a variable speed control, letting you tailor the rotations-per-minute to your needs. As a general rule, the lowest setting is around 5,000 rpm, and the highest setting is anywhere between 25,000 to 35,000 rpm. If you only use your rotary tool for lightweight tasks, such as buffing or polishing, you won’t need the utmost in rotations per minute, but if you plan on using your tool for cutting, carving, grinding, or sanding, particularly of hard materials, you’ll be happiest with a tool that hits the highest speeds.
What are rotary tools used for?
A rotary tool may well be the most versatile tool in your toolkit for detailed work or small tasks. Basically a motor with a spinning tip that can accept a wide range of attachments, rotary tools—some people refer to them as Dremels, although that’s a brand name—have a huge range of uses on many types of materials, including wood, drywall, metal, plastic, stone, glass, and even your own or your pet’s nails. Depending on the attachment, you can use a rotary tool to:
Are drills and rotary tools the same thing?
While both a drill and a rotary tool—whether corded or cordless—have fast-spinning tips that hold some sort of attachment, they are not the same thing. It’s true that both can be used to drill holes and drive screws—although a drill is better for that purpose—but as a general rule, rotary tools are much more versatile, thanks to their vast range of attachments that can be used not only for drilling, but also for cutting, polishing, sanding, and many other tasks.
But one of the biggest differences in these two tools is in the type of power they produce. Rotary tools are all about speed; it’s standard for these tools to have 5,000 to 35,000 rpm, depending on the brand. Drills, on the other hand, are far slower, but have far more torque than a rotary tool. Torque is the force of the spin. So while a rotary tool is well suited to more delicate, precise tasks, a drill is the better choice for tasks that require a little more “muscle” to accomplish.
If you enjoy fixing things around your home or taking on a variety of DIY projects, it is well worth your while to own both a drill and a rotary tool.
How important is speed when shopping for a rotary tool?
The speed of a rotary tool is measured in rotations per minute (rpms), and refers to how quickly the tool can spin an attachment. Most rotary tools have either set speed settings—two or three is common, although some have as many as six speeds—or a variable speed control that lets you choose the exact speed desired. Typically, a rotary tool has a speed range of around 5,000 rpms up to 35,000 rpms.
As a general rule, you’ll want to use a slower speed when working on delicate materials or materials that could melt, such as plastic. You’ll also want to use a slow speed for polishing, buffing, or any task that involves an attachment with a brush. Higher speeds are best for tasks that involve cutting or sanding. But always keep in mind that no matter the task, you should start off slowly and gradually turn up the speed. This allows you to maintain the best control of the rotary tool.
What are the most useful attachments for a rotary tool?
You’ll find a dizzying array of rotary tool attachments, but many of them are quite specialized. The most useful attachments are those that work well for the tasks you are likely to encounter. For example, if you never plan on drilling a hole in glass, there’s no need to buy an attachment specifically designed for that purpose. For the typical DIYer just starting out, the most general and therefore likely to be useful attachments include:
- Drum sander
- Sanding disc
- General-purpose cutting wheel
- Metal-cutting wheel
- Engraving tip
- Grinding stone
- Polishing wheel
- Drilling bit
Once you have the basics, you can add more specialized attachments as the need arises.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of rotary tools, evaluating each for basic features, extras, and customer feedback, as well as advice from Thomas Hawkins, handyman, master electrician, and owner of Electrician Apprentice HQ.