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Tool review: Oscillating Multi-Tools

They saw, sand, scrape, and more. Is it time to add one to your tool box?

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Oscillating Multi-Tools

Oscillating Multi-Tools

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.

Sanding drawer box
Enlarge Image
A triangular sanding head reaches
into corners like those on this narrow
drawer. Soft edges prevent marring
adjacent surfaces.
How they work

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.

Uses in the woodshop

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.

Continued on page 2:  What to look for


Comments (5)
Gmcromp wrote:

I agree on the Harbor Freight Multi-tool, I have had mine for a year and it has performed very well. I can buy four of them before I get to the price of the cheapest one of these. Not always the case with HF tools, but this one seems fine to me. HF does make some junk but this doesn't appear to be one of them. i have cut tile, wood, and plastic without a problem. I can't get past the price of some of these, i can buy four of the HF tools and still have money in my pocket from your cheapest pick.

7/12/2012 06:24:41 PM Report Abuse
mmcconoughey wrote:

I bought the Harbor Freight version hoping it would work OK. It works far better than that. It has been one of my most useful tools, and cuts much faster than I had anticipated. Not all HF tools are great, but many offer better performance for the buck than name brand tools.

6/15/2012 10:55:29 AM Report Abuse
Danwoodman wrote:

I've been using the $20.00 one from Harbor Freight for several years now at it works fantastic. Don't see the need to spend the big bucks on a Fein. Although the Chicago or Harbor Freight blades don't seem to hold up very well so I found some on Amazon that were less expensive and held up much longer.

1/26/2012 09:46:33 AM Report Abuse
tenpenny3315200 wrote:

I have to agree with your choice of the Fein. Mine is the older type with bolt. Bought this many years ago and as a general contractor carpenter have put this tool thru much abuse and use. I have replaced the bolt a few times but not the allen wrench. It has been a great tool for me.

8/17/2011 10:04:46 PM Report Abuse

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