When it comes to versatility and overall usefulness, it’s hard to beat the power, performance and convenience of an oscillating multi-tool. For the uninitiated, an oscillating multi-tool is a compact, portable power tool that accepts a wide range of interchangeable accessories, which can be use to sand, cut, scrape, grind and polish.
The accessory 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. When equipped with the proper accessory, the multi-tool will slice through virtually any building material, including wood, metal, drywall, cement, leather, resilient flooring, tile, mortar, plastic, and fiberglass. And it’ll work in places other power tools wouldn’t dare go, including narrow spaces, tight corners, and awkward angles.
Note that both corded electric and battery-powered cordless multi-tools are available. Cordless models are lightweight, highly maneuverable and offer the freedom to cut anywhere. However, electric models are more powerful and, of course, have unlimited run time as long as electricity is flowing.
Here are some other features to consider when shopping for an oscillating multi-tool:
- Electric motor with at least 2.5 amps, or 20-volt lithium-ion battery for cordless model.
- Variable-speed motor with top speed of at least 20,000 OPM (oscillations per minute).
- Universal Fit system that accepts accessories from any manufacturer. (like Rockwell Tools Universal Fit blades)
- Vibration-dampening design with easy-grip body.
- Consider buying a multi-tool kit, as opposed to an individual tool. The ready-to-use kits come with a carrying case and wide assortment of accessories for sawing, slicing, sanding and grinding.
Here’s a look at 12 DIY jobs that you can tackle with an oscillating multi-tool. Keep in mind, that this is just a small sampling of the many ways this versatile tool can save you time and trouble around the home and shop.
1 Trim Door Casings—When installing a new floor, it’s often necessary to trim door casings and jambs to accommodate the thickness of 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.
2 Sand Wood Smooth—The multi-tool accepts a variety 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 like an angle grinder, grout dust doesn’t get spewed throughout the house.
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.
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.
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 a steel scraper blade and use it to slice through the hardest, most-stubborn caulk, even tenacious 100% silicone sealant. Use this method to scrape caulk from around tubs, sinks, counters, backsplashes, and windows and doors.
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.
11 Polish and Buff Metal—The oscillating multi-tool is best known for its ability to cut, grind and scrape, but it can also be used as a fast, effective polisher/buffer. Use a felt-pad accessory to polish and clean stainless steel, brass, copper, chrome, even gold and silver. It’s also useful for buffing stains from tile, granite and fiberglass surfaces. For best results, use with an appropriate polishing paste or rubbing compound.
12 Cut Tile and Stone—To execute the toughest, most demanding cuts reach for a diamond-grit blade. This semicircular blade is coated with super-hard, long-lasting diamond grits that can slice through ceramic tile, stone, mortar, grout, even cement backerboard.