The Flex Shaft: A jewelry-making tool I can't live without!

The Flex Shaft: A jewelry-making tool I can't live without!

by Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Do you have a flex shaft? A flex what?

When I first heard the words "flex shaft" I didn't know what it was or what it related to. Given the excitement in the people using those words though, I knew I needed to investigate. Turns out, a flex shaft is an adapter designed to connect to a motorized drill. The flex shaft makes use of the drill's motor, allowing for drilling, sanding, polishing, among other tasks, with the ease of holding a pen-like device rather than all of the weight of the drill itself. Of course, I had to have one.

Soon after discovering this wonderful tool and discussing it with my Dad, he gifted a rotary tool with flex shaft attachment to me for Christmas. (Doesn't every girl's father give her tools for Christmas?) The drill was powerful enough to polish the polymer designs I was making as well as could handle general household tasks, not to mention many other things I didn't realize I would ever do. It's one of those gifts that would've been best to open at the end of the day as I was totally distracted and just wanting to jump into the studio; I dug deep, celebrated the holiday with our family and saved opening the box and setting up the drill until I had some time to myself. Once I got the drill set up and turned it on, I was hooked! I started polishing things around the house, tightening screws in door handles, fixing things that needed fixing (kind of) and oh, yeah, sanding and polishing polymer.

Life was good. Enter: jewelry fabrication 101

Making my way from one medium to another (as I clearly do not sit still for long), I found the path into the metals arena. The first metalsmithing workshop I attended was with Revere Academy at Wildacres (an amazing retreat center near Ashville, North Carolina) hosted by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths. Here, I had some wonderful hands-on experience with soldering, sawing, and polishing metal and tools (taking off the sharp edges often found on pliers and other jewelry-making tools when first out of their packaging).

Soon after this workshop, I not only switched to focusing more on metalsmithing but I also switched from the rotary tool to my "Foredom®." The Foredom flex shaft is also considered a "motorized drill" but is only used with a flex shaft attachment, and has the benefits of more power and a variable-speed foot control. The foot control revolutionized the way I worked as some days I can be all thumbs. Having the convenience of starting and stopping a drill with my foot helped in ways I could not have anticipated. (READ: I can be a clutz!)

The Foredom flex shaft has become "THE" tool in my studio and is my constant companion, always at the ready, connected to my workbench at my right hand. No matter what I create on that workbench, whether a design in polymer, metal clay, metal fabrication or glass, I have a need to incorporate my Foredom. The Foredom flex shaft along with the JoolTool™, and the Foredom bench lathe are my three amigos and combined save me a lot of handwork and hand fatigue, not to mention take my work to a level I could never achieve by hand.

Tip: Foredom also makes a flexade attachment that works with the motors of either a Foredom bench late or JoolTool, doubling the use of these tools.

The rotary tool still sees the light of day and certainly has its place, especially since I have multiple workspaces. The saying "the right tool for the right job" couldn't ring more true, and should probably be posted on my wall as a constant reminder. What a laugh, you should see me trying to drill a hole in a door (so I can attach a handle) while holding the Foredom motor, the flexshaft and managing the foot pedal it is not a pretty sight. Funny but not pretty!

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