Hand-Held Rotary Tools

Written by shane grey
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Hand-Held Rotary Tools
A cutting disc attached to the hand-held rotary tool. (rotary tool image by CraterValley Photo from Fotolia.com)

Hand-held rotary tools appear in both the hobbyist’s jewellery making kit and the aerospace manufacturer’s tool chest. The rapidly spinning, sharpened blades and abrasive stones attached to these tools cut and shape metal as easily as they grind stone. Even better, these tools are lightweight, portable and easy to use. Hand-held rotary tools prove useful for projects that range from auto repair to home improvement. Become familiar with the types of hand-held rotary tools and choose the right tool for your project.

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The drill is a metal rod and its sharpened edges coil around its circumference until arriving at a sharpened tip. Drills attach to hand-held rotary tools for the purpose of boring holes through metal, plastic, wood, stone and masonry. Drills are available in varying lengths and diameter according to their application—a small drill bores holes for jewellery, while a large one create access holes for electrical wires. The material from which a drill is made determines the type of material it can cut. Inexpensive steel drills bore through soft metals, while more expensive, hardened drills cut through hard metals like titanium.

Cutting Blade

The cutting blade of a hand-held rotary tool, also called a disc, cuts through metal, wood, plastics and masonry. Sharpened teeth surround the circumference of a wood cutting disc, while mineral-grit surrounds the circumference of a stonecutting disc. Hand-held rotary tool cutting blades are available in a variety of diameters, allowing workers to cut through materials of varying thickness.


Rasps perform the same function as hand-held files; their sharpened points or scales abrade and remove material with constant rubbing. A rasp appears as a cylindrical or conical piece of metal covered in sharp or abrasive points and scales. While rotating, the rasp is pushed against a metal, wood or plastic surface to shave away, shape and remove material. Cylindrical rasps are used to clear or clean out recently bored holes, while a conical rasp fits well into corners and nooks.


A reamer cleans out and increases the accuracy of pre-drilled holes. Like drills, reamers are metal rods surrounded by sharpened, coiling edges or flutes. Reamers are manufactured to bore holes to a much greater degree of accuracy than the average drill. To prevent dulling and an accompanying decrease in accuracy, reamers are used to remove small portions of material following bulk removal with a standard drill. The manufacturing industry, machinists and metalworkers rely on reamers to create holes of near perfect diameter.

Engraving Point

An engraving point resembles a sharpened lead pencil--a cylindrical shaft tapering to a sharp tip at its end. The engraving point's tip is coated with an abrasive mineral grit, such as carbide or diamond. As suggested by the tool's name, its primary purpose is to engrave markings across a surface. Engraving points create ornamental or identifying marks on wood, plastic, metal and stone.

Buffing Wheel

The buffing wheel lightly abrades, cleans and polishes wood, metal and stone surfaces. Buffing wheels typically appear as solid discs of rigid cloth. The rapidly spinning disc quickly spreads and rubs polishing compounds, such as wax and cream. A variation of the buffing wheel, the flap wheel, features a series of cloth flaps surrounding the circumference of a rigid centre disc. The spinning flaps slap, abrade and smooth surfaces.

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