What Is a Rotary Tool: An Overview

what is a rotary tool

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A rotary tool is a compact and small tool that tackles various DIY tasks. It comes with a motor that activates the rotary motion, spinning different tools at a certain speed. Plus, you can easily use a rotary tool in different applications such as carving, cutting, engraving, etching, grinding, and drilling various components. It is one of the most flexible, powerful, and convenient power tools.

While rotary tools are available in different shapes and sizes, they all function under the same principle. In this post, we are going to give you an insight into what is a rotary tool. Let’s dive in.

Rotary Tools – The Basics

So, what is a rotary tool? As the name hints, a rotary tool has a motor that makes other parts start rotating.

Moreover, rotary tools come with a spindle that holds various attachments used in cutting, engraving, sharpening, drilling, carving, and polishing different items. Examples of such attachments include sanding bits, grinding wheels, and cutting wheels.

Furthermore, a rotary tool is quite flexible, making it easier for you to work on different materials. Examples of such materials include metal, glass, and wood. For instance, a rotary tool can carve out different wooden furniture. It can also cut through a plastic surface to shape a plastic item. Plus, this tool might be quite handy in a tile cutting project.

Once the rotary tool is connected to a power source, the motor will transfer power to the spindle. After that, the spindle spins at a very high speed, making it easier for you to complete a project.

Apart from that, the RPM might differ from one rotary tool to another.

Different Types of Rotary Tools


A corded rotary tool packs a power cord, which conducts electricity straight from the power source to the motor or main unit. If you want to turn on a corded rotary tool and use it, you have to plug it into a power source first. Apart from that, most corded rotary tools have a high RPM and are quite powerful because they tap power directly from the source. However, many corded rotary tools may not be portable as other cordless versions. Such tools might make it hard for you to work on accessories far away from the power source.

In such an instance, an extension cord should be used to increase the distance that you can cover while using a corded rotary tool.


Unlike corded rotary tools, cordless rotary tools do not have long electrical cords. They are powered by various types of batteries, making it easier for you to move from one section to another as you are your rotary tool. Due to their flexibility and portability, such tools make it easier for you to work on outdoor DIY projects.

Some of the batteries that are used to power cordless rotary tools can be recharged once the power drains.

Cordless rotary tools are not as powerful as corded rotary tools and are suitable for light and medium-intensive projects. Apart from that, power might drain off from the battery after a certain period, interfering with your workflow.



It is the part that comes into contact with various surfaces, producing different results. For instance, a bit can clean, sand, cut, and drill multiple surfaces.

A drill bit has to be connected to the rotary tool to function effectively. There is a wide array of different bits that can be used to work on different items.

Bits have a long and circular end, which is called the shank. It is the part that gets connected to the rotary tool. Not to mention, the tip of a drill bit may have a distinct shape based on its functionality. For example, some tips are designed for drywall, metals, and wood surfaces.


A chuck comes with jaws that can be moved easily to secure the bit to the rotary tool. The jaws can also keep the bit in one secure position.

Furthermore, chucks are designed to secure bits with different diameters. Due to this, rotary tools might feature chucks that have different sizes to accommodate different projects.


A motor receives electric energy and then changes it to mechanical energy while using a rotary tool. In most models, the motor may be fitted on the central part of the rotary drill. Also, motors have different performances, depending on the amount of power that they can handle.

Spindle Lock Button

A spindle lock button is a safety feature, which minimizes the risk of injuries while you are inserting the bit into the rotary tool. It has a lock mechanism that prevents the chuck from moving in certain instances, making it easier for you to insert or remove a bit from the collet of the rotary tool.

Variable Speed Control Dial

Different tasks should be tackled at different speed ranges based on the intensity of the activity. Due to this, various rotary tools come with a variable speed control dial for tweaking the overall RPM.

For instance, if you are working on a metallic surface, you can use a high RPM to get superb results. On the other hand, if you are working with a delicate material like wood, you can adjust the speed to a low RPM and use your rotary tool.

Moreover, other rotary tools may feature additional parts, which show you the RPM of the rotary device.

Different Types of Bits That Can Be Used on a Rotary Tool

Drill bits

Drill bit set

As the name hints, drill bits can puncture holes on different surfaces. Also, such bits are manufactured from different types of materials so that they can drill holes in other surfaces and materials. For instance, diamond bits are quite effective in puncturing holes through hard surfaces. Due to their strength, diamond bits can perforate concrete structures. Diamond bits also make it easier for you to work on tiles.

Apart from that, carbide bits are good for drilling different hard surfaces such as metal surfaces. While carbide bits might become blunt and dull due to excessive wear and tear, they can be quickly restored to their previous state. On the other hand, soft bits are accurate and precise in puncturing holes in plastic and wood without degrading the material.

The size, shape, and design of a tip may be different, depending on the designated purpose.

Cutting Wheel

Cutting wheels are made from different discs, which have edges that cut through various materials such as wood, metal, or plastic. However, the edges of cutting discs have different sharpness, depending on their purpose and functionality.

Furthermore, a rotary cutting wheel rotates at a very high speed while cutting different types of accessories. Plus, this rotary wheel is mainly used to make a wide range of cuts on plastic, metal, and wooden furniture at different speeds.

Cutting Bit

A cutting bit is another rotary attachment, which is quite efficient in making various types of cuts on different items.

Sanding Drums

Since this drum is covered with a layer of sandpaper, it can smoothen out surfaces with an irregular appearance. Apart from that, a sanding disc can scrape off layers of paint from different surfaces. Sanding discs are also effective in getting rid of corrosion or rust from multiple metal surfaces.

However, sanding discs are exposed to too much friction energy and can wear off after a certain period.

Grinding Disc/Grinder

Made from an abrasive stone that has a coarse surface, a grinding attachment disc/ grinder can sharpen the edge of multiple items. Plus, most grinders are flexible and can sharpen a wide variety of blades found in power tools.

Besides that, a grinding disc/grinder makes it easier for you to shape materials such as glass, metals, and ceramic.

Polishing Pad Attachment

Polishing pads are made of a soft and delicate material that can clean different surfaces and improve the appearance of such surfaces. Such pads are also effective in waxing different surfaces.

Bristle Wire Brush

While brushes might be manufactured from different types of bristles, they can wash multiple surfaces. Such brushes can get rid of the dirt that might be stuck in tight spots.

While some rotary tools might come with a fully equipped kit with different types of bits, others may come with only a few. Due to this, you have to look for the proper attachment while working on various accessories and check what each kit comes with before you buy.

Important Features


The power rating of this multi-purpose tool might affect the overall performance of the whole device. For instance, rotary tools with a high power rating can tackle a wide range of heavy tasks. On the other hand, a rotary tool with a low power rating is ideal for light tasks only.

The power rating of rotary tools is given in amperes and volts. An effective rotary tool should be powered by at least 5 volts and 2 amperes. Rotary tools designed to handle heavy tasks have a power rating of about 11 volts to 13 volts.


The speed of a rotary tool can be determined through the RPM ratings (rotations per minute). While some rotary tools may only have one RPM, most rotary tools come with variable speed options for changing the RPM. The variable speed options can help you choose the right RPM based on the surface you are working on and the type of attachment tool you may use.

Add a Rotary Tool to Your Collection

So, what is a rotary tool? Knowing about it is the first step to making the most of your tool. With the right types of bits and attachments, you can work on a lot of home improvement projects. Not to mention, some rotary tools might offer you different attachments and bits to extend the basic functionalities. Such attachments are effective in carving, cutting, polishing, and sharpening tons of items. A rotary tool can also make it easier for you to fix different things.

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