If you do a fair amount of small-scale detail work—from fine woodworking to metal finishing to glass cutting—you will need, sooner or later, a rotary tool.

Rotary tools can do just about anything, from engraving to polishing to cutting to drilling to sanding. I know one guy that uses his rotary tool to trim his Great Dane’s nails—his wife hates it when Fido (not the dog’s real name, which has been changed to protect the innocent canine)(and the husband) scratches up the hardwood floors. I don’t have a Great Dane, thankfully, but I’ve used my rotary tool to sharpen knives and hatchets; to cut plastic and aluminum sheet; to do fine carving in wood; to cut out drywall holes for electrical outlets; to cut grooves for wiring in studs; to slice through PVC and electrical conduit; to wire-brush surface rust away; and clean the crevices of greasy engine blocks. There are probably a thousand uses for these little tools that I haven’t thought of yet.

What could be handier?

So from my experience, here’s what constitutes a good rotary tool:

  • It fits your hand nicely
  • It does the job with plenty of power and speed
  • It has at least 3 different speed settings
  • It accepts all the zillions of rotary tool accessories
  • It allows easy, quick accessory changes
  • And it doesn’t cost a fortune.

Sound reasonable? The Black & Decker RTX-B checks all of those boxes. It retails in the $50 range, but you can usually find it on Amazon for $30. It comes with five accessory tools, but you’ll undoubtedly want and/or need more. If you do, just about any tool retailer will sell ‘em to you, from one at a time to a large carrying case with every imaginable little saw, sander and smoother. It seems like there is no end to the number of useful rotary tool accessories out there. In fact, you’ll likely spend much more on accessories than on the tool itself.

Downsides? The little Flip-Lock™ spindle mechanism, which keeps the collet from spinning when you remove and insert a tool in the business end, seems a pretty flimsy—and several users have reported breakage. Parts availability may be problematic, too. But the worst part of this tool is its tendency to heat up with extended use.

For me, that’s not a problem—I just wear gloves or switch the tool off to let it rest a while when it gets hot. But if you plan to use a rotary tool in a pretty continuous way, for long periods at a time, I’d suggest one of the flexible-shaft rotary tools. Plenty of manufacturers make them, some even with convenient foot controls, and holding the end of the shaft won’t give you the hot hand this tool will.

Summary

The Black & Decker RTX-B Rotary Tool gets a good Contractors.com rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars, recommended. This tool works hard, has 3 speeds and doesn’t quit.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Pros

  • Rugged, reliable
  • Ergonomic rubberized grip
  • Wrenchless collet
  • Plenty of power

Cons

  • Gets hot with heavy use
  • Flimsy collet lock
  • Not repairable