Tool review: Oscillating Multi-Tools
They saw, sand, scrape, and more. Is it time to add one to your tool box?
You've seen the TV infomercials where these tools tackle a variety of DIY jobs: scraping adhesive, breaking out tile grout, cutting through pipes, bolts, and drywall. We tested 10 multi-tools and found that, at times, nothing else works as well or as fast.
Whether corded or cordless, an oscillating multi-tool vibrates a blade or other attachment back and forth in a narrow arc (3-4°) at up to 21,000 strokes per minute. Because of the tool's short range of blade motion, small front-end profile, and blades that extend past the snout of the tool, it reaches into tight spots other tools can't. A multi-tool also works well for flush cutting because the stepped profile of many blades and other attachments allows the attachment to rest flat on a surface.
For woodworkers, we found the detail-sanding heads, at right, the most useful attachments. They sand small project parts and fit in tight quarters--but don't plan on smoothing a large panel with a multi-tool.
With a wood-cutting blade installed, you can make plunge cuts in the middle of a panel (top right photo) to create a cord pass-through in a desktop or cabinet back; trim plugs or splines nearly flush to a surface; and cut away sections of baseboard to install built-in cabinets. For such tasks, the aggressive teeth of the wood-specific blades cut slightly quicker than the combination wood- and metal-cutting blades, but left rougher surfaces. So we prefer the cleaner cuts, ease of control, and smoother cut edges left by the combination blades. The trade-off: burning if you get impatient and push the blade too quickly.
We were surprised to find that even when a blade jammed in a tight spot, no motor ever bogged down; instead, the oscillating motion transferred to the tool body, vibrating the operator's arm.