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I'm fairly new to the DIY scene, so to say that my working knowledge of any power tool is minimal is an understatement!

I'm currently embarking on a DIY project that requires cutting acrylic boards, pvc pipes, and various other items. I've been shopping around for rotary tools but I've come across varying types with different rpms/speeds/etc, and I'm seeing a lot of negative reviews about the lack of power in the tool. I'm wondering what's the minimum rpm necessary to cut through 0.4mm acrylic board? What about wood?

Also, I'd like to invest in a rotary tool that is durable without breaking the bank. (Feel free to recommend any other tools, if a rotary tool is wrong for the job)

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Mototool or Rotozip scale here? I use them both, plus bigger things for bigger projects. Often with acrylic, your'e better off cutting by hand, that gives no melted edges: google.com/… –  Wayfaring Stranger Apr 24 at 11:50
    
Two things might help here - "rotary tool" is a very vague classification - Dremel fits, Foredom fits if you want to buy a better but much more expensive (once - over time, might be cheaper) version of that type, Rotozip mentioned by @WayfaringStranger also fits, they are very different types of tool. Then there is "what you actually want to do" - either type of rotary tool (not to mention other rotary tools like drills, saws, lathes, routers, milling machines) may or may not be the best choice for a particular type of job. A coping saw is a dandy hand-powered tool that cuts many things. –  Ecnerwal Apr 24 at 13:26
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Yes, "right tool for the job" is a key phrase here. For example, I would never try cutting PVC pipe with a rotary power tool. It would take longer than other options, and be nearly impossible to get a flat, straight cut. I would use a pipe cutting tool, hacksaw or straight saw in a mitre box, or a (power) mitre or chop saw, depending on what's handy, the size and thickness of pipe, and how many cuts I have to make. –  gregmac Apr 25 at 22:24
    
@gregmac You can get a nice straight cut on even large diameter (4"+) pipe if you build a jig to hold the tool and pipe. I've done this when my 10" cut off saw is too awkward for the job. You're right though, freehand cutting of PVC comes out pretty haphazard with rotary tool. –  Wayfaring Stranger Apr 26 at 1:44
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Agreed. There are legitimate uses for a Dremel-style tool... but don't buy one based on the advertising, buy it when it really is the right tool for the purpose. It doesn't sound like you've got an application that calls for one. –  keshlam Jul 24 at 4:13

2 Answers 2

To cut 0.4mm acrylic board I recommend a utility knife. What you do is draw a line for the cut, rest a straight edge on the line, then "draw" a line down the straight edge with the utility knife while putting only slight pressure down. You repeat this a few times until you have created a groove in the acrylic. Then you can begin pressing the knife down harder, and repeating until you cut through it.

To cut PVC pipe you can buy a cheap tool at Home Depot, Lowes, etc. that is quick and does an excellent job. The Kobalt 1/8-in to 1-1/8-in Copper Tube Cutter is an example.

As for a rotary tool, in my experience they are not very useful. The bits typically break easily, and dull quickly. The go-to tool for odd cuts for me is the Sonicrafter. There are a lot of other oscillating tools too. This tool makes cuts you just cannot make with any other tool.

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There are purposes for rotary tools, but you haven't listed any good ones in your question. A hacksaw or pipe saw is what you use for PVC pipe, for example - a rotary tool just isn't suited for that task. Too, an XActo saw (the manual razor saw) is a beautiful tool for cutting smaller pieces of wood, while a larger machine is called for if you need to cut larger pieces of wood. Rotary tools nearly always run far too fast for cutting any type of thermoplastic - the plastic melts instead of cutting.

Rotary tools do very well at small-scale carving, though - I know an artist who uses small rotary tools to do magnificent work in fine detail. They work well for deburring small parts, grinding the heads off mangled screws, cutting hypodermic tubing, and polishing smallish surfaces. They can be used as a router for miniature furniture, with appropriate jigging. That's mostly the limit of their usefulness, though.

If you still believe you want a rotary tool because you have some work to do that fits within those bounds... you could get by with a Dremel tool provided you really baby it; they burn out very easily. If you want more power or don't want to baby the tool so much, I'll unabashedly recommend a Black & Decker RTX - nearly twice the power as a Dremel, and while I've burned up several Dremels, I have yet to make my RTX hiccup. If you want a more industrial tool and can pay for it, move the motor outside the handpiece and go with a Foredom or Foredom-style tool. If you need to go even more industrial, look to pneumatic high-speed tools - they require a healthy air compressor, though.

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