How to choose an oscillating multi-tool
An oscillating multi-tool is a power hand tool that at first glance looks like a cut-off grinder, but instead of rotating, as with a cut-off grinder, the multi tool’s blade swings through a narrow arc. Here is how to choose an oscillating multi-tool.
The advantage of a multi-tool is that it can provide a very precise, controlled cut in places and on surfaces other tools can’t handle.
A multi-tool can be corded or cordless. Choose an oscillating multi-tool based on how and how much you think you’ll use it. A cordless tool may only have enough power to last 10-20 minutes between charges. Plus with a corded multi-tool you get a more-powerful motor.
A multi-tool produces up to 21,000 strokes per minute. That’s so fast, you can’t feel the oscillations, though you can hear them.
A side benefit to the multi-cutter is that while it zaps through saw cuts on wood, plastic pipe, tile grout and so on, it is very safe to handle. Even if fingers come in contact with the running blade, chances are they won’t be hurt.
Part of the selection process when it comes to choose an oscillating multi-tool is finding a brand that has the attachments you need and as many attachments as you might use later.
Attachments connect to the head with a bolt that has a cap screw to clamp the tool. Some multi-tools have a tool-less clamping arrangement like a lever, or the attachments are slotted so they can be exchanged without completely removing the clamping bolt.
Because the drive has a series of lugs that engage with the working tool, the attachment can be turned to a more convenient angle to get into a tight space or improve visibility to the cut.
The drives on multi-tools are not universal, so attachments for one brand may not work with a different brand.
However, there are adapters available, so if one brand has an exceptional saw, sander or grinder attachment, you may be able to get the appropriate adapter and use it.
One type of saw blade is rounded, with straight sides to give a plunge cut with a straight edge into a corner. Others are flat about an inch or so wide. And still others have a wider extension at the cutting edge. Experience will show which blade suits your application.
Whichever blade you use, one of the best uses for a multi-tool is undercutting door jambs when putting in flooring or tile. Because the saw blade is offset, simply lay it on top of a piece of scrap board or tile to make the undercut cleanly and accurately.
Sanding attachments are generally three-sided, with bulging sides and a relatively pointed tip. This makes it possible to sand into a corner on small, finicky jobs. The better tools have some form of buffer around the sander surface to protect the surface at right angles to the sanding.
—By Steve Sturgess, stevesturgess.com