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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > Buying Guides > Choosing Rotary Tools

Choosing Rotary Tools

Rotary tools are extremely versatile handheld tools, well-suited to many do-it-yourself and professional applications. Since these tools are so versatile, choosing the right one for your project can be a little confusing. Use our guide to sort it all out. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.


Rotary tools can be divided into two types - Cut Out Tools and Basic Rotary Tools. The biggest difference between the two is the size of their motors. Cut out tools usually have larger motors.


Cut Out Tool, Rotary Tool

Cut out tools are available in both cordless and corded versions. Cordless tools can be more convenient. The corded versions are slightly more powerful than cordless.

  •   • Corded cut out tools have motors ranging from four to five amps. The powerful motors allow the tool to quickly cut through most building materials without bogging down.
  •   • Corded rotary tools have motors around one amp. Rotary tools don't cut as quickly as cut out tools, but the smaller motors give the user greater control.

A Few Things You Can Do With Rotary Tools

Rotary tools are so versatile it wouldn't be possible to list all their functions. But, to give you an idea of the wide range of tasks these tools can perform, we've compiled a short list.

  •   • Cutting holes in wallboard
  •   • Removing grout
  •   • Deburring metal
  •   • Cutting fiberglass
  •   • Sanding in tight spots
  •   • Cutting the heads off stripped screws
  •   • Shaping metal
  •   • Cutting ceramic tile
  •   • Stripping old paint and varnish from woodwork
  •   • Removing window pane glazing
  •   • Cutting wood
  •   • Sharpening tools
  •   • Cutting plumbing pipe
  •   • Cutting nails
  •   • Cutting marble
  •   • Etching
  •   • Engraving
  •   • Polishing metal
  •   • Shaping and cutting in arts and crafts projects
  •   • Grinding


What is it that makes rotary tools so versatile? The answer is simple— the vast array of attachments available for them. Here's a sampling of the things you can expect to find.

Cut Out Tools

Circle Cutter, Grinder, Sander Attachment, Guided Bits

Cut out tools don't have quite as many attachments as basic rotary tools, but those powerful motors make the most of each attachment available.

  •   • Circle Cutter - allows the operator to cut perfect circles in almost any building material.
  •   • Grinder, Cut Off, Sander and Polisher Attachment - allows the operator to grind, cut sand or polish a wide variety of materials.
  •   • Guided Bits - allow the operator to cut wallboard around electrical boxes without damaging the box.

Basic Rotary Tools

Router Attachment, Router Table, Drill Press, Flexible Shaft, Bits

Basic rotary tools have been around since the 1930's, so there's been plenty of time for manufacturers to develop and refine attachments for these tools.

  •   • Router Attachment - allows the operator to use the tool for freehand routing.
  •   • Router Table - allows the operator to use the tool as a table-mounted router.
  •   • Drill Press - converts the tool into a mini-drill press.
  •   • Flexible Shaft - allow the operator to hold the tool like a pencil for greater control.
  •   • Chain Saw Sharpener - holds the tool at the perfect angle for sharpening chain saws.
  •   • Bits - designed for routing, engraving, metal cutting,etching, tile cutting, metal shaping, polishing and much more.

So Which One Do I Choose?

If you do mostly heavy work with hard materials, then you're probably better off with the more powerful cut out tool. However, if you do small jobs or crafts, the more versatile basic rotary tool would probably be your first choice. In the final analysis, both are extraordinary tools and you may want to have one of each.


Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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