14 Ways to Use a Rotary Tool That Will Have People Buzzing

These brilliant ideas may just inspire a renaissance of rotary tool use in your shop and beyond. Honestly, there isn’t much this humble tool can’t do.

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Grinder Gripper workshop tip

Make a Tiny Benchtop Grinder

Here’s a neat way to free up your hands when using a rotary tool for sharpening and other delicate jobs. Screw an angle bracket to a board and attach the rotary tool to the bracket with a couple of radiator hose clamps. Don’t tighten them too much or you’ll damage the tool housing. The board lets you clamp the tool either vertically or horizontally.

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Family Handyman

Fix a Dishwasher Rack

Has your dishwasher rack seen better days? You can repair it yourself. Load a wire brush into a rotary tool and zip off the old rust and vinyl. Keep brushing until you get to fresh metal.

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sharpen chain saw

Sharpen a Chain Saw

You can save time and energy by using a rotary tool to sharpen the cutters of your chain saw. The specialty chain sharpener shown comes with three grinding wheels in popular diameters and a guide that quickly screws onto the rotary tool to control the cutting depth and angle (it also comes with a stone and guide for sharpening lawn mower blades). Be sure to wear safety glasses while using it.

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rotary tool cutting faucet

Cut Through Tough Situations

When kitchen or bathroom faucet repairs go bad, they can be a nightmare. Professional plumbers have a secret weapon: the do-it-all rotary tool. You can slice down the side of a stuck faucet cap with a cutting wheel. Don’t worry about cutting the plastic seal (you’ll be replacing that). But avoid cutting into the brass threads.

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Family Handyman

Customize a Tool Case

Getting tools back into those molded plastic cases makes a Rubik’s cube seem simple. Here are two solutions.

  1. Lose the cases completely and shelve the tool if it generally stays in the shop. This will free up a ton of space.
  2. If you can’t part with the case, cut out the interior molding. Use either a spiral cutting bit in a rotary tool or a jigsaw. Be sure to leave the lip intact so the case will stay closed and latched. Loosely store the tool and all its accessories in the now cavernous space.
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Family Handyman

Cut Curves in Tile

To cut curves in tile, use a rotary tool equipped with a tile-cutting bit. Set the cutting depth of the bit at 1/4 in. and make the first pass. Make more passes, setting the bit 1/4 in. deeper each time until you’ve cut completely through.

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Family Handyman

Remove Cinch Clamps on PEX Supply Pipe

A rotary tool fitted with a cutoff blade works great for cutting either type of PEX connector. After you remove the crimp ring or cinch clamp and pull the PEX supply from the fitting, cut off the end of the tubing to get a fresh section for the new connection. If you damage the fitting with the rotary tool, replace the fitting rather than risk a leak.

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Embellish with a Rotary Tool

Carve Pumpkins

You can embellish pumpkins in no time with a rotary tool. The small grinding attachment works well for removing just the first layer of the pumpkin skin. This allows light to shine through, but not nearly as much as a full on hole through the pumpkin. It’s easy to follow a pattern with the tool, too.

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Family Handyman

Fix a Door Latch

Shave off the inside of the strike plate with a rotary tool and a metal-cutting carbide bit. Remove a small amount and test the latch by closing the door. Continue removing metal until the door latch catches.

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Mini sanding drum cleaner
Family Handyman

Clean a Mini Sanding Drum with an Eraser

When your rotary tool’s sanding drum gets clogged, refresh the surface with a rubber pencil eraser. Run the tool at low speed and press the eraser into the clogged drum to rub out the chips and gunk.

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Family Handyman

Grill Upgrades

Replace faulty gas grill igniters with battery-powered electronic ignition. You can install the inexpensive electronic igniter (about $20) in an hour with basic tools. See the step-by-step for this project.

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Remove Stripped Screws

Try this tip for extracting screws with stripped heads. Mount a cut-off wheel in a rotary tool and grind the wheel against a piece of scrap metal to reduce the circumference. Make it small enough to cut into the screwhead without slicing into the wood surrounding the screw. Now grind a slot in the screwhead at an angle to the original slot, insert your screwdriver and gingerly unscrew that battered fastener.

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Family Handyman

Last Resort for Some Repairs

If all else fails when trying to remove a sink drain basket, chuck a metal cutoff wheel into a rotary tool and cut the locknut. Cut until you reach the cardboard ring above the nut. Don’t cut into the sink. If the nut still doesn’t spin, fit your chisel into the cut area and smack it with a hammer to crack it open. Wear eye protection.

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A Place for Every Bit

This rotary-bit organizer may just inspire a renaissance of rotary tool use in your shop. Friction-fit a piece of 3/4-in. plastic foam in a snap-lid plastic food container. Then poke holes in the plastic foam with an awl to hold shafted bits, and slice crevices with a utility knife to hold cutoff discs. Using a spade bit at high speed, drill sockets for larger bits and tube-shape containers.