Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review of the Chicago Electric Cordless Rotary Tool at Harbor Freight.

As a new hobby, I started making rustic wooden flags. After looking at a few instructional videos on how to make them, I noticed that the flags looks much better when the Union stars were cut out, rather than painted. Though most of the videos varied in how the flag was created, there was one tool that I see being used in every one of them, a rotary tool.   

A rotary tool is something that can be used for wood carving, sanding, cutting, drilling etc.  Even though there are many different brand rotary tools on the market, Dremel was by far the most used in the videos I watched.
I decided to take a run up to the Home Depot to look at a few of their models, and was in sticker shock. Now I own a few Dremel tools, but the bare bones, basic Dremel rotary tool was $40. The $40 Dremel was a bare bones tool that came with no bits, no case, nothing. Even with the kits that cost $100 did not give you the Flex Shaft Attachment (which cost another $25).
Now, if I was a professional wood sculpture, I would say that an investment of this kind may be worth it, but there had to be a better alternative to the high prices that I was seeing for this tool.
Next I decided to take a drive up to my local Harbor Freight store just to see if they even carried a rotary tool. After looking around a bit, I found one that was made by Chicago Electric. Everything I needed (the tips, the hard case, the flexible writing wand, sanding wheels, cutting disks came included for the low price of $29.00.
Before I walked up to the register, I decided to check out some reviews for it online. The reviews were really mixed as some said it worked great, and other said the complete opposite. As a tool reviewer, I figured this would be a great item to put to the test just to see if it really was a tool worth buying or not.


The first thing I liked right away was that the Chicago Electric Rotary Tool comes in a hard case. It’s not the most rugged case I ever owned, but it does a good job keeping the tool safe. Inside the case came another clear plastic box that contained a few bits, some sanding tips, cutting disks a small wrench to loosen/tighten the collet, and even an extra collet. The main reason that I decided to get this kit was it even came with the flexible writing wand!   

The Tips:

Even though I was excited to see that this came with many different tips, I will say that they are not all that great. The carving tips dull out very quickly, and the same goes for the sand paper. The cutting disks that come with the case also break very easy. My recommendation would be to buy a cheap Dremel carving kit. There is a great little starting case at Lowe’s for around $11.00 that even includes the 105, and 106 tips for fine carving.

Flexible Writing Wand:

The flexible wand is a huge plus in my book when it comes to carving as it really allows you to use the tool like a pen rather than a large, cumbersome tool that gets in the way. When I first tried to put the tip into the collet, it was very tight. Once of the major down falls with the entire tool is that you need to actually take the collet off first, insert the tip, the put the collet back on. I really wish they would have made the collet a bit larger than what they did, but once you get the tip in, it stays put. That being said, the wand does work very well once attached.


As for build of the tool, it feels pretty solid in the hands. It made of hard plastic and can handle some abuse, but I would not drop this to many times and it will probably not hold up very well.
Speed Control: The Chicago Electric Rotary Tool comes with ten different sped settings (0 – 10). When I am carving out the stars on the flag, I keep the speed setting around 2 or three, but it does clean cutting at full throttle. It’s also very easy to control using the adjustment knob, and it stays at the selected setting even with some vibration.  


One of the biggest issues with this tool is the battery and battery charger. It take a 9.6V battery, but not sure if you can purchase a replacement. I also found the battery charger to be cheaply made, and hard to get the battery to seat right. It also will not shut off automatically once charged, so watch for that. Some reviews also mentioned the battery would drain after only five minutes of use, but I have yet to encounter that problem. I have been able to carve on medium speed for around 30 minutes without needed to recharge.  


Another issue that some reviewers had mentioned was that the rotary tool would overheat to the point you could not handle it. They also stated that it started getting hot to the touch within the first five minutes of use. I have not had any of these issues either, but I will update this post if I do.


1.       Built somewhat solid and will take some abuse.
2.       Light weight 0.43lbs
3.       Comes with the flex shaft and hard case
4.       Strong motor (500 – 25000 RPM)
5.       10 different speed settings
6.       Standard 1/8 collet size (takes Dremel bits)


1.       Shaft mounted LED light did not work
2.       Collet is a bit tight and makes bit changes tough
3.       Replacement battery is hard to find
4.       Battery charger feels cheap and does not shut off automatically

Is It Worth The Money?

If you were to ask me whether or not the Chicago Electric Rotary Tool was worth the money, I would say absolutely. I do recommend that you toss the cheap bits into the trash, and buy some Dremel bits instead as they will work in this tool.
I really like how this comes with a hard case and wand as they both do a good job. I will say that the bits are a bit hard to get in and out, but that’s not a big deal. Though this may not be the best fit for a pro, I will say that this will work perfectly for the beginner carver, the diy’er and/or someone that just does woodworking for a hobby.


1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Dewalt Tools Announces It's All New 2.0 Tough System Storage System, And Yeah... They Are Avaliable Today!

DEWALT® Revitalizes Its  TOWSON, MD (August 18, 2020) – DEWALT®, the leading manufacturer of power tools, hand tools, accessories and storag...