Multi-Tool Delivers Power and Performance
If you haven’t yet bought an oscillating multi-tool, what are you waiting for? It’s arguably the most versatile power tool ever produced, and has already won over an entire legion of woodworkers, remodeling contractors and do-it-yourselfers.
What is an oscillating tool?
An oscillating tool is a compact, portable power tool that accepts a wide range of interchangeable blades, which can be use to sand, cut, scrape, grind and polish. The blade vibrates—or oscillates—back and forth at very high speed, making the tool much easier and safer to use than a circular saw, reciprocating saw, or even a jigsaw. It’ll slice through virtually any building material, including wood, metal, drywall, cement, mortar, plastic, and fiberglass. And, a multi-tool will work in places other power tools wouldn’t dare go, including narrow spaces, tight corners, and awkward angles.
Oscillating multi-tools might all look alike, but power, performance and durability vary widely. Here are some important features to look for when shopping for a multi-tool:
- Powerful, variable-speed motor ranging between 3.5 and 4 amps, and running at 11,000 to 20,000 OPM (oscillations per minute).
- Easy no-tool blade-change mechanism that accepts accessories from any manufacturer.
- Vibration-dampening design with tapered, easy-grip body.
- Extra-long power cord—10 ft. or longer—to prevent hang-ups and snags, or in many cases, the need for an extension cord.
At this point you’re probably asking, “Okay I’m convinced, the multi-tool is a wonderful tool, but what can I actually do with one?” Glad you asked. Here are 10 jobs made easier with a multi-tool:
1. Trim Door Casings—When installing a new floor, it’s often necessary to trim door casings and jambs to accommodate the new flooring. The multi-tool is ideal for this job: Take a piece of new flooring and place it upside down on the subfloor next to the casing. Attach a flush-cutting wood blade, hold the blade flat against the flooring piece and plunge-cut through the casing. Remove the severed piece of wood and the new flooring will slide right beneath the casing. (See Wood Plunge Cut Blades)
2. Sand Wood Smooth—Every multi-tool manufacturer offers a wide array of sanding attachments, which can be used to smooth wood, wood fillers, and clear topcoat finishes. These accessories accept hook-and-loop abrasives, making it easy to change sandpaper. (See Sanding Pads and Sanding Sheets)
3. Cut Plumbing Pipes—When fitted with the appropriate blade, the multi-tool will quickly cut through copper, plastic, even old galvanized metal pipes. And because the tool is compact and the blade adjusts to various angles, you can work in very tight spaces, including inside of cabinets, behind walls, in ceilings and under floors. (See blades that cut various materials)
4. Remove Old Paint—Attach a steel scraper blade to quickly remove loose, blistered paint. Then switch to a sanding pad to sand down to bare wood or shiny metal. (See Flexible Scraper Blade)
5. Salvage Room Moldings—Prying off wood moldings without damaging them is virtually impossible—unless you use a multi-tool. Install a fine-tooth metal-cutting blade and cleanly slice through multiple coats of dried paint, old caulking, and even finishing nails. (See Wood & Nail Plunge Cut Blade)
6. Grind Out Grout—Attach a carbide-grit grout-removal blade and use it to grind grout from the joints between floor tiles and wall tiles. And because the blade oscillates back and forth, and doesn’t spin, grout dust doesn’t get spewed throughout the house. (See Carbide Saw Blade)
7. Cut Drywall Openings—The multi-tool provides a quick, easy and extremely accurate way to cut holes in drywall or plaster walls and ceilings. Mark the outline onto the surface, and use a wood- or metal-cutting blade to plunge right through the surface, making sure not to cut into any pipes or wires buried behind. (See Standard End Cut Blade)
8. Grind Away Mortar— The multi-tool provides a quick, easy way to remove hardened cement-based mortar from a subfloor. Install a triangular-shaped carbide-grit rasp and use it to grind away mortar, cement, and even rock-hard adhesives. The super-coarse rasp pulverizes the rock-hard mortar to dust in mere seconds. And because the rasp is triangular shaped, it easily fits into tight corners. (See Triangular Carbide Grit Rasp)
9. Remove Old Caulk—Next time you need to remove old, hardened caulk, put down the putty knife and reach for the multi-tool. Install on a sharpened steel scraper blade and use it to slice through the hardest, most-stubborn caulk. Use this method to scrape caulk from around tubs, sinks, counters, backsplashes, and windows and doors. (See Rigid Scraper Blade)
10. Scrape Up Adhesives—The high-speed oscillating action of the multi-tool is ideally suited for scraping up high-strength flooring mastics and adhesives used to adhere vinyl and carpeting. Attach a steel scraper blade to the tool, then lift one corner of the flooring. Slip the blade beneath and scrape away the adhesive as you simultaneously pull up on the floor covering. If there’s any residual adhesive left behind, grind it off with a carbide-grit rasp. (See Serrated Slicer & Scraper)
Fun Fact: The oscillating multi-tool was invented in the 1960s to provide a fast, safe way to remove plaster casts from broken limbs. The first woodworking version didn’t appear until the mid-1990s.