View Full Version : Power Carving Tools

Jon McElwain
11-03-2009, 5:11 PM
So, I've been turning bowls and hollow forms for a while and have begun carving them to add that next level of creativity, challenge, detail, etc. The traditional carving I have been doing has been fun, but I think I'd like to add power carving to the mix. I've looked at some of the power carvers/grinders by Proxxon, Arbortech, Foredom, Weecher, Dremel, NSK Presto, King Arther, Living Art, etc.etc.etc... Anyway, I'm leaning towards a 2" mini grinder for quick stock removal, and some sort of small flexible shaft or air powered carving tool for piercings and fine details. There are a lot of choices out there. So, 3 questions;

1)What's your favorite mini grinder (around 2")?

2)What's your favorite 1/8" collet or smaller power carver?

3) Do you prefer air (dental style), or electric motor for the power carver?

Thanks for your input!!

(I posted this on the turners forum as well)

Chuck Nickerson
11-04-2009, 12:26 PM
My reply is shaped by a modest amount of experience, but a significant amount of research before purchase. Also keep in mind that I am not known as frugal: when I can afford a better tool, that's what I buy.

1. Favorite mini-grinder: Arbortech. This was based on feedback from professional turners/carvers like Mike Lee and Bin Pho.

2. Favorite 1/8" collet grinder: Foredom. One of the two above started with Dremel, and needed five of six to keep up. He said there were two reasons. A - shaft/collet runout meant once he got a bit aligned, he didn't want to switch it out. B - after 15 - 20 minutes of work, a unit would be too hot to hold, so he had to rotate between units to keep working.

3. Dental drill style units fill a slightly different need. Since they spin faster, 300k rpm vs 25k rpm, they take smaller bites and are suited for more brittle material.

Hope some of this helps,

Jon McElwain
11-04-2009, 7:31 PM
Thanks for the reply! I have heard several people say they like the Arbortech the best. I'll take a closer look at the Foredom. I have a Dremel, and have the same over heating problem. Also, it is a little too bulky, so I'd like to try the motor unit with flexible shaft type tools.

Faust M. Ruggiero
11-04-2009, 9:55 PM
I've always carved with chisels. I never thought I would want a power driven tool. However, I built a very large table with a rope carving around the entire perimeter, some 30 feet. Rope carving requires a lot of work with "V" tools to define the "twists". I bought a Foredom Rotary tool and replaced the hand piece with a Flexcut recriprocating hand piece. The one I bought uses the SK gouges that cost about $10 to $12 each. The motor unit has to be 1/3 hp and works best with a speed control that is a dial as versus a foot switch since you want to maintain steady rpms.
I was pleasantly surprised at how useful the tool proved to be and how many hours it saved from what would have been a lot of chisel and mallet work. Additionally, it provided control over my ability to move the tool along a radius while maintaining depth and direction.
Though I have not used the rotary hand piece, I do have the one that I chose when I bought the motor unit. Because I like to move the tools with my fingers, I would have found a tool like the Arbortech too cumbersome for my needs. However, if I were working on a larger scale sculpture, the Arbortech would probably be the better choice.

Jon McElwain
11-04-2009, 10:21 PM
Thanks! The Foredom with the interchangeable hand pieces looks great! I'm with you, I like using hand tools, but sometimes you really just need to get the project done in a timely manner.

Faust M. Ruggiero
11-05-2009, 6:51 AM
If you decide to go that way, I recommend you research the chisels available for the Foredom reciprocating hand piece as compared to the Flexcut hand piece. Flexcut offers two different systems of chisels. One system fits the Foredom hand piece but the system with the greater variety of shapes and sizes works only with the Flexcut hand piece or with an adapter on the Foredom.

randall rosenthal
11-06-2009, 12:15 PM
i use everything including routers and chainsaws. one thing i have abandoned however is flex shaft. i had six of em. way too much trouble. there are a host of decent choices of hand pieces with the motor in them , even cordless. just way easier to use. i use air on occasion and even have a "real" dental hand piece........the ninety degree small head fits lots of places no other power tool would. i consider dremels throwaway tools. i love em but they last maybe six months. i've been through about 25. woodcraft has a very small electricwhich is great for small detail.