Most power tools are designed for one job unique to itself; table saws are used for cutting pieces of lumber, drills are used for making holes in things, and so on. But oscillating tools are a little different. Also known as multi-tools, oscillating tools are tailor-made for many tasks that require finesse, especially in tight spaces.
Oscillating tools are ideal for remodeling activities such as removing caulk and grout or making fine cuts in drywall. Need to trim material to fit cabinets around your workbench or new flooring into an existing space? That multi-tool will suddenly be your new best friend and doubly so with old houses that are looking for some upgrades. Any do-it-yourselfer should have one of the oscillating tools on our list below.
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1. Fein 350QSL MultiMaster Oscillating Multi-ToolPros:
- Less vibration and noise than other oscillating tools
- Powerful 350 Watt motor
- Designed for professionals and homeowners alike
- The average homeowner probably won't need a tool of this quality but it's so awesome
- Tool only works with proprietary blades
- It ain't cheap
Matt Gibson Bought This Fein Oscillating Multi-Tool
There are oscillating tools and there are oscillating tools. The Fein MultiMaster 350QSL will most likely be the last oscillating multitool you’ll ever have the pleasure to own. This isn’t a cheap (in price and build) knockoff from a discount hardware store. Fein created the oscillating tool way back in 1967 so they have some experience with making quality power tools with staying power.
The 350 in 350SQL means a 350 Watt motor with high copper content and an independent tool housing that provides more power, less vibration, and less noise than any other tool in its class. It weighs less than four pounds and features a soft grip making it easy to use all day without considerable fatigue.
This oscillating tool will stand up to whatever you need it for whether you’re a contractor or weekend do-it-yourselfer. The tool chuck is a proprietary design called “StarLock”; the blades and attachments change out effortlessly in less than three seconds with a simple snap. The connection is nice and tight with no wobble. When you’re ready to change out a blade, just lift the tool head level.
The multitool housing sports four flexible damping elements that are independent of the motor; this design provides 70 percent less vibration and 50 percent less than the last version. The 350SQL MultiMaster starts soft because of the balanced armature and ball bearings that won’t shake your arms off. This multitool is corded and features a sixteen-foot, industrial-quality power cable to give you plenty of room to move around and work.
The Fein 350QSL MultiMaster kit comes with a soft nylon bag, a universal blade, a triangular sanding pad, and three sheets each of 80, 120, and 180-grit sandpaper. Don’t make the mistake I did at first and get the $20 tool from the cheap hardware store. Spending the money on this amazingly versatile oscillating tool is completely worth it and, especially if you’re Jill or Joe Do-It-Yourselfer, you’ll never have to buy another one again. It’s that awesome.
2. Dremel MM50-01 Multi-Max Oscillating Tool KitPros:
- Changing out attachments is ridiculously easy
- Blades are strong and sharp
- Vibration control is excellent
- It's a bit heavy
- Blade doesn't seat square when attached; it's offset to the left
- Power cord only measures seven feet
The Dremel MM50-01 Multi-Max Oscillating Tool Kit is built with ergonomics, practicality, and usefulness in mind. If you’re going to get a corded oscillating tool, this is the one that I would choose as a do-it-yourselfer.
It has a compact metal front that allows the user to get into tight, hard-to-reach spaces so you can leap those hurdles while you’re working. The vibration is kept especially low as well. The body of this oscillating tool is angled that delivers optimized control and performance. Forget about scraping your knuckles any more when working on floor material. And that MM50 designation stands for a 5 Amp motor that provides the highest power in its class.
The kit includes 30 accessories and a carry bag so you can get started right away. Dremel has a reputation for making amazingly good rotary tools and now that street cred is being transferred to oscillating tools. For the price, the power, and the plain great design of this multi-tool, this is the one to seriously consider picking up.
3. DeWalt DCS356D1 20V MAX XR Oscillating Multi-Tool KitPros:
- Brushless motor delivers up to 57% more run time than brushed
- Universal accessory adapter for use with most oscillating tool accessory brands
- Includes 20V 2Ah battery and charger
- Belt clip hole isn't threaded making it useless
- Included carry bag won't stay open when unzipped
- 2Ah battery doesn't last more than 15 minutes of constant use
DeWalt makes some killer cordless power tools and this oscillating tool is no exception. The DeWalt DCS356D1 20V MAX XR Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit includes so much stuff: one brushless three-speed oscillating tool, 28 (!) popular cutting and sanding attachments, two wood cutting blades, a universal accessory adapter, one 2.0Ah battery, charger, and handy tool bag. The brushless motor will last up to 57% longer than a similar brushed tool.
Attachments can be changed out quickly and easily with the patented quick-change accessory system and the universal accessory adapter makes the oscillating tool compatible with most third-party accessories. The trigger provides variable speeds for some great speed and application control. On top of that, this multi-tool features a three-speed selection switch to keep up with whatever job you’re on at the moment.
It has an incredibly useful tool guide system so you can customize the depth or height for accurate repeated cuts. Finally, the bright LED light definitely helps in dark places like installing base molding in closets.
This oscillating tool will operate using any of the 20V batteries in the DeWalt family. The included 2.0Ah battery will only last around 15 minutes during constant use like sanding. I’d recommend picking up a 5.0Ah version to keep your runtime going if you don’t already have one or two.
4. Milwaukee 2626-20 M18 Cordless Oscillating ToolPros:
- M18 batteries feature technology that allows for power drop when tool overheats
- Solid, durable, and long-lasting
- Works with competing brand attachments
- Battery and charger are not included
- Changing the blades requires a screwdriver
- It would be awesome if this tool stood up on its battery base
The Milwaukee 2626-20 M18 Cordless Oscillating Tool is fantastic on its own but if you already have some other M18 Fuel cordless power tools (they make a fabulous cordless string trimmer) and you own some batteries, it’s even better. This tool can cut, grout, and sand, and those are just the jobs that can be done with the included attachments.
You can attach many other accessories to this tool, both from Milwaukee and from competing brands that produce multi-tools. With 12 different speed options, there is enough speed adjustability that you can handle intense cutting jobs and delicate polishing jobs within seconds of each other.
This oscillating tool is very comfortable to hold because of the rubber-covered handle. There are other amenities as well including LED lighting, a fuel gauge, and something called Redlink technology. This allows the battery to sense when the tool is about to overheat and will deliver less power to compensate until cool again.
The Milwaukee 2626-20 M18 Cordless Oscillating Tool doesn’t come with a battery and charger, unfortunately. If you have batteries already, that’s great but if not you’ll have to pick up some of your own like this two-pack of 5.0Ah batteries and multi-voltage battery charger.
5. Craftsman V20 Cordless Oscillating Tool KitPros:
- Includes tool, battery, charger, storage bag, and multiple accessories
- Features speeds from 8,000 to 18,000 vibrations per minute
- The tool-free attachment change system is truly tool-free and easy
- Blade must be removed to fit tool in bag
- Slight loss of power over the corded variety
- Variable speed dial isn't as convenient as a variable speed trigger
Craftsman’s cordless power tools don’t get as much notice as the DeWalts or Milwaukees of the world, but they’re definitely worthy of your workbench. Their oscillating tool is part of the V20 line of tools and it has some really good features you should look at. And when I say look, I mean it. This tool is beautiful but it’s not just for looks.
First off, the overmolded rubber handle looks like it came from the Batcave. It’s contoured and comfortable to make for a solid grip. The LED work light is mounted immediately at the front of the tool head for maximum visibility. And the included V20 battery was designed so that when it’s slapped into the handle, the tool can stand up straight on the base when set down.
Changing out the attachments is an incredibly easy proposition; just hold down the chunky release lever, swap the first blade with another one, and release the lever. This multi-tool can work with other blades from other manufacturers as well. Speed is controlled with the variable dial on the lower handle. That’s unfortunate that it wasn’t built into the trigger but a case could be made for solid speed settings without having to worry about how much you mash down the trigger.
The kit includes the CMCE500 oscillating tool, 20V MAX 2.0Ah lithium-ion battery and charger, a sanding attachment, two pieces of 240-grit sandpaper, three pieces of 100-grit sandpaper, a wood blade, two pieces of 80-grit sandpaper, a bi-metal blade, and a scraper blade. The 2.0Ah battery isn’t going to last for hours but I like that at least it’s included with the kit.
6. Kimo 20V Cordless Oscillating Multi-ToolPros:
- Easy blade change feature
- Fast (and included!) charger and 2.0Ah battery
- Perfect for people who only need an oscillating tool every so often
- Not as powerful as a name brand but not by much
- Best for smaller jobs; not for contractors
- No variable speed trigger
Let’s say you’re just looking to use an oscillating tool from time to time. You’d like the convenience of a cordless model but don’t want to break your tool budget. If that’s the boat you’re sailing then consider the Kimo 20V Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool. Kimo makes some inexpensive tools of fair quality, like their cordless nail gun, perfect for weekend project warriors.
It’s cordless which means you can bring it practically anywhere without having to plug it in. The blade change tool lever makes swapping blades a cinch; flip the lever on top of the tool head, pop in the attachment, and flip it back. There’s an LED work light and six different speeds. It doesn’t vibrate much and it’s lightweight so it’s perfect for smaller people. The charger is fast and efficient so you won’t be sidelined too much while you’re waiting for your battery to juice up. If you simply can’t wait, pick up a spare 4.0Ah battery.
Kimo has done a great job in designing this oscillating tool. It’s built well, better than one would expect at this price point. The package comes with the multi-tool, a 20V 2.0Ah battery and charger, seven different blades and attachments, and a handy carry case in basic black to hold it all until your next job. For the price, the quality, and the performance, this Kimo Oscillating Tool is an amazing value. Highly recommended.
7. Porter-Cable 3 Amp Oscillating Tool KitPros:
- Spring-loaded blade change feature is great to use
- Comes with 52 accessories which is fairly awesome
- Nice ergonomic grip
- Included case isn't of top-notch quality
- Not as quiet or smooth as other brands
- Requires a universal adapter to use accessories from other vendors
The Porter-Cable Oscillating Tool Kit features a 3 Amp motor, ergonomic tool housing covered with rubber, and a really handy depth gauge to repeatedly make consistent plunge cuts. The thick metal lever to change tool blades is easy to use and has a good heft to it. The blades seat solidly in the tool head which made me feel that I was using a tool of high quality.
Speaking to tools, this multi-tool kit comes with 52 (!) accessories including eight plunge blades, three scrapers, two grinding discs, a triangular sanding head, and several sheets of sandpaper in various grits. The carry case is made of hard plastic but feels somewhat cheaply made which is a shame with a tool that’s as nicely built as this one. Something else to consider: you’ll need a universal adapter in order to use non-Porter-Cable blades with the tool.
This oscillating tool isn’t the lightest or the best on our list however it’s a very solid entry for anyone to consider. The price is right and you can’t argue with how many blades this set comes with. The power cord is ten feet long, a decent length before needing an extension cord, and sometimes not having a cordless variety is okay. Sure, it’s not as convenient as a cordless multi-tool but the Porter-Cable Oscillating Tool would be a nice addition to your garage because of its good motor, consistent cutting power, and solid construction.
What is an Oscillating Tool?
Oscillating tools, also known as multi-tools, are great for cutting, scraping, and sanding jobs in unusual spaces with little to no room for an ordinary power tool. They’re also incredibly useful for mundane tasks that would normally make anyone run for the hills; think caulk or grout removal.
Need to make a fine cut in drywall? Need to trim material to help you fit cabinets or flooring into an existing space? That multi-tool will suddenly be your new best friend and doubly so with old houses that are looking for some upgrades. The tool will help you undercut door jambs, make removal cuts in baseboard trim, cut notches in flooring, make surgical cuts in drywall or, worse, lath and plaster.
Oscillating tools function through the use of a gearbox that converts the force of a strong horizontally orientated motor by 90 degrees. That force then vibrates the tool head back and forth slightly. Attachments in the form of scrapers, sanders, and blades secured to the tool head take it from there to get the job done.
Blades typically have fine teeth that provide clean, smooth cuts into wood or metal or a combination of both. Need to install a new electrical box into some lath and plaster? Have your shop vacuum at the ready and plunge that oscillating tool blade into the wall (make sure to check for electrical lines first). Zip, zap, done. It’s so much easier than a framing square and a utility knife!
Sanding attachments are triangular in shape to allow access into tight areas while grinding pads, putty knife blades and so many more varieties can remove thinset, grout, and even tile if needed. When faced with a tile replacement job, I was grateful to have an oscillating tool to get it done without any trouble. My wife had expected more of a mess so didn’t believe that I had done anything until I pointed out the newly installed tile.
What Can I Do with an Oscillating Tool?
They’re good for so many cutting and scraping jobs that you’ll wonder what you did before you had one besides sweat and curse a lot. An oscillating tool’s ability to get into spaces you never thought possible will have you doing backflips, after your job is finished, of course.
So what all can you do with a multi-tool? Plenty. While they can handle a huge variety of jobs, they can’t do much without fresh blades so make sure you have some on hand. Oscillating tools provide an amazing amount of versatility with those small jobs normally taken care of with a small handsaw or utility knife.
First up is most likely the reason everyone needs an oscillating tool: making flush cuts. Whether you need to slice pipe even with a floor or wall or even trim shims after installing a door, you’ll never want to give up your multi-tool. Is there a nail poking out and you need to remove it without messing up the surface around it? Well, there you go.
Have you ever installed wood or vinyl flooring? Then you understand that cutting out floor vents for registers within tolerances can be a real challenge. With your oscillating tool, just lay the floor, mark a line where your duct is, and plunge cut that baby out using a half-round blade.
I’ve done a lot of remodeling and the one thing that still gives me night sweats is making drywall cutouts for electrical boxes in newly installed drywall. Oscillating tools make that task clean and simple with a rounded blade. Not only will you get the job done but the blade will hold up to nails or screws you can’t see.
Let’s say you have a piece of tile that falls out in your shower area. Hey, it happens. Use a carbide-grit grinding pad to remove the mortar from the wall and piece of tile, then spread a fresh coat of thinset and reapply. You can use a carbide-grit blade to cut out grout to freshen it up or if you have a bath remodel job. That same blade can even cut tile if you need to.
Making cuts in carpet remnants has never been easier than with a multi-tool. Set the speed to high and you’ll throw out all of your utility knives in the garbage. It’s so fast that your head will spin. If you’ve never done this, you owe it to yourself to schedule a time to do it in the future.
Painting isn’t really about painting, it’s about the prep work before the paint. Use a scraping blade to remove loose paint on your material. Switch out to the triangular sanding head to take care of rough corners, smooth over messed up areas from scraping old paint, and sand down wood filler.
Speaking of sanding, all those little bits and pieces on furniture, molding, trim, shutters, and more have nooks and crannies that an oscillating tool can sand down with ease. Long stretches of reveals can be smoothed a lot easier with a multi-tool than a palm sander or even a mouse sander.
Finally, making plunge cuts on baseboard, trim, and molding is what oscillating tools were made for. Cutting doorjambs and trim to make room for new flooring is completely easy with your new multi-tool. Installing new cabinets or modifying old ones? Use a saw blade to take care of your modifications quickly, easily, and cleanly. There are so many oscillating tool blades and attachments now available that you will be able to find the exact one for your job with no problem.
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