Motor speed controller

I. Have a small electric motor <1/2 hp- that operates as on/off(1 speed).  I’d like to make this variable speed.  A search has shown that there are several “fan speed” controllers out there.  Will any of these work for me?  What’s so specific about a fan motor vs a pump or power tool motor?

I originally wanted to experiment using a rheostat, but someone said it would be damaged by the motor.  Is it really that hard to add an inline controller/dial to a small motor?

Thanks so much for your time and insights

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