One of the most interesting tools currently on the market is what’s known generically as an "oscillating tool." The first, and for a long time the only, one on the market was the Fein MultiMaster. As its patent expired, other companies have introduced competing tools with different pros, cons and prices.

A tool for all reasons

So what exactly is an oscillating tool, and how does it differ from other cutting and sanding tools on the market? As the name implies, these tools utilize cutting attachments that oscillate rapidly from side to side, as opposed to rotating like a circular saw, or moving out and back like a jig saw or reciprocating saw. It’s this oscillation that sets the tool apart. And while it won’t replace your circular saw or your favorite pad sander, it’s a unique tool that’s extremely handy for a number of do-it-yourself projects all around the house.

One of the most interesting tools currently on the market is what’s known generically as an "oscillating tool." The first, and for a long time the only one on the market, was the Fein MultiMaster. As its patent expired, other companies have introduced competing tools with different pros, cons and prices.

A tool for all reasons

So what exactly is an oscillating tool, and how does it differ from other cutting and sanding tools on the market? As the name implies, these tools utilize cutting attachments that oscillate rapidly from side to side, as opposed to rotating like a circular saw, or moving out and back like a jig saw or reciprocating saw. It’s this oscillation that sets the tool apart. And while it won’t replace your circular saw or your favorite pad sander, it’s a unique tool that’s extremely handy for a number of do-it-yourself projects all around the house.

The tool itself looks something like an angle grinder, long and roughly cylindrical. The screw fitting for connecting attachments turns down at 90 degrees at one end, and the on/off switch is located on top of the handle. Both corded and cordless versions are available.

There are three basic types of attachments used with an oscillating tool: cutting, sanding and scraping. With one of the different types of cutting blades attached, the oscillating tool can undertake a number of different cutting jobs that would be difficult if not impossible for most other types of saws. The blades can be mounted at any of several different offsets in relation to the handle, to suit whatever cutting task you have.

With a cutting blade installed, you can undercut door casings and jambs for fitting flooring. You can cut out a section of baseboard right in the middle, without having to remove it from the wall. Slip the thin blade between a molding and the wall and cut off the nails. Make accurate plunge or pocket cuts without predrilling, and without danger of damaging the surfaces behind the cutout. You can cut off pipes, nails, dowels and other materials anywhere, even flush with a surface. The cutting uses go on and on, and best of all, you can make any of these cuts without damaging the adjacent surfaces.

Change attachments, and you have a sander that can reach right into the tightest corners. The sanding pads are triangular, and have a hook and loop surface for quick and easy sanding pad changes. Add diamond paper, and you can grind off thinset mortar and cement. Switch to a grout blade for easy and fast removal of grout without damaging the tiles, even in corners. Then change to a rigid scraper blade for removing paint or flooring, or a flexible blade for scraping up soft materials such as caulk and adhesive.

Dremel Multi-Max

One of the new oscillating tools now on the market is from Dremel, called the Multi-Max (Model 6300-01, $99.99). As with all of the great Dremel tools, the Multi-Max is powerful and easy to operate. This is a corded tool, with a nice rubberized handle for a comfortable, non-slip grip. It has a speed dial that’s located on the back of the tool, allowing you to adjust it from 10,000 to 21,000 oscillations per minute. …CONTINUED

The accessories attach with a simple hex screw and washer assembly. Dremel’s blades have a notch at one end, which allows you to change blades without completely removing the screw assembly.

The complete Dremel Multi-Max kit includes the tool, a flexible scraping blade, a 3/4-inch flush-cutting wood blade, a 3-inch blade for cutting wood or drywall, a sanding pad, and three sanding sheets in different grits, all in a fitted plastic case. Other accessories that are available for the Multi-Max include sandpaper for paint removal, diamond paper, 3/4-inch flush-cutting blade for metal, 3/8-inch flush-cutting blade for wood, a rigid scraper blade, and blades for grout removal.

Bosch 12-volt Max Multi-X (Model PS50-2B, $218)

The Bosch Multi-X is a professional grade cordless tool, giving you lots of power with the convenience of cordless operation. The 12-volt lithium ion batteries are compact and lightweight, and are interchangeable with other Bosch 12-volt tools. With a tool length of under 11 inches and a weight of just over two pounds, the Bosch is light and easy to work with. The rounded handle is very comfortable, and the rubber overmolding gives you a tight, non-slip grip. Even the nose of the tool is encased in rubber, to prevent marring or other damage to adjacent materials while cutting.

The Bosch has speed adjustments from 5,000 to 20,000 oscillations per minute, so you have a lot of control for different materials. There is also a "fuel gauge" on the side of the tool, which tells you the battery’s charge condition.

The blades and other accessories attach with a simple hex screw and washer combination. Indexing pins on the head allow you to attach the blades at a variety of angles within a range of 240 degrees.

The complete PS50-2B Carpenter Kit includes the tool, two 12-volt lithium ion batteries, a 30-minute charger, a sanding plate, an assortment of sandpaper, one 1 5/8-inch plunge cutting blade, three 3/8-inch plunge cutting blades, one flush-cutting blade, and an adaptor plate that allows accessories from other manufacturers to be used with the Bosch Multi-X. Everything comes in a fitted plastic case, and there’s another, smaller case inside that holds all the blades and accessories. As with the Dremel, Bosch has a variety of optional attachments available.

More Information

You can learn more about these innovative and incredibly handy tools at the Bosch Web site, www.boschtools.com, and at the Dremel Web site, www.dremel.com.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.

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