If you’ve never used one before, you’re in for a treat. The oscillating tool is one of those bits of kit that will make you wonder how you ever got by without one. Being able to cut by pushing into a piece of wood, metal or plastic is almost impossible with a traditional saw.
Believe me, when you’ve got an oscillating tool in your tool box you start asking yourself if you can fix something with this tool first before using any of your other power tools, and usually “why on earth didn’t I get one of these “go-to tools” years ago?”
The truth is oscillating tools haven’t been around that long in the UK, maybe 10 years or so. They in fact derive from a power tool designed and developed by the Fein manufacturing company in the US to remove plaster casts from hospital patients!
Now that all the patents have run out, all major power tool brands offer a range of oscillating multi tools. They’ve developed into a very versatile, sophisticated and pretty much essential piece of equipment for both professionals and DIYers.
How Oscillating Multi Tools Work
The oscillating multi tool’s unique selling point is in its name – it’s ability to oscillate. When you hold the body of the tool and switch it on, the head of the tool moves from side to side in a narrow arc at a very rapid rate. The oscillation rate (which can be over 20,000 opm), is usually controlled using a speed dial or a variable speed trigger.
The maximum oscillation angle ranges narrowly between 2 to 4 degrees across most major brands. When using the oscillating multi tool for making cuts, a larger oscillating angle results in faster more aggressive cutting, while a smaller angle ensures a slower cut and allows for greater control and less vibration.
While on the subject of sawing, another great feature of a multi cutter tool is the almost complete lack of kickback you get. This is due to this power tool’s oscillating motion. Conventional power saws deploy rotational movement, and it is this that can induce dangerous kickback.
Corded Versus Cordless Multi Tools
Battery powered tools have changed the lives of tradespeople and DIYers. You can work wherever you want, and you don’t need to trail cables or even be near a power source. Cordless multi tools are ideal. Compared with heavy-duty power tools like circular saws, there’s not much difference in performance between corded and battery-powered multi tools.
If you compare two of the best multi tools I’ve tested out – the DeWalt DCS355N-XJ and DWE315KT – they’re almost identical. Both DeWalt multi tools put out the same excellent range of oscillations per minute (opm). They also have a similar weight and grip shape.
Really, it’s down to your own personal preference. Cordless models are great if you’re working up a ladder, but if you do most of your work indoors you just don’t need one. If you’ve already bought into a major brand of battery-powered tools, just get a “bare” multi tool and save a few quid.
Types of Multi Cutters
Where the metal meets the workpiece- the huge array of oscillating multi tool blades and cutters you can fit to your multi tool is what makes it the power tool you’ll reach for more than any other.
The standard scraper blade is something that comes with all the best multi tools I’ve used in the past. made from strong steel and with a sharp blade on the front, you can use it to scrape off grout, old adhesive, thick paint or anything else that’s stuck on and you want it gone.
Next up are cutting blades- there are tons of different types of cutting blade available but the one that changed the way I work the most is the straight cutting blade. It lets you plunge cuts directly into the workpiece like a chisel, but without using much effort at all, and they’re available in a whole host of widths.
You can get oscillating multi tool blades that cut soft materials like wood and plastic, up to high-performance titanium or carbide-tipped multi cutters that can cut through metal such as hard screws that need trimming off. Another handy-shaped cutting blade is rounder, letting you cut a straight line in any direction.
Most of the cutting blades you get are offset, which is ideal for flush cutting close to the floor – a task that is not impossible without an oscillating tool, but certainly takes more time and skill to do neatly.
Other multi cutters for specific DIY projects include grout removal, insulation cutters, rasps, and box cutters.
Sanding right into corners is a difficult task at the best of times and is extremely tiring when you have lots of them to do in one go. The hook and loop sanding pad you can attach to the front of the oscillating tool are ideal for these situations. You’re not going to use the tool to sand down a whole floor, but when you need to get into a tight spot, the multi tool is unbeatable.
Like with the cutting blades, there are plenty of different types of sanding pad to choose from in a range of sizes to suit your DIY project. You can get large sanding pads that are suitable for sanding and levelling larger areas, “delta” shaped pads for getting into corners and up against edges and different profile sanding pads for specific jobs.
This is a bit of advice that can apply to life in general- “buy cheap, buy twice”. Now, I’m not saying you must go out and buy the most expensive professional-level multi tool to carry out home DIY tasks. But investing in quality blades and sanding pads will make all the difference. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake myself in the past.
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