Oscillating Tool Buying Guide
One of the first things you need to check when looking for the best oscillating multi-tool (not to be confused with this multi-tool) is its power, specifically the motor’s Ampere rating (or amps) if it’s a corded tool.
Starter oscillating multi-tools usually have motors that deliver at least 1.5 amps. These types of multi-tools are ideal for hobbyists or homeowners who have occasional or light household projects. Using the tool frequently or using it to cut very tough hardwood or thick metal is not recommended.
If you’re a professional builder or you’re a DIYer who wants to invest in something heavy-duty, then multi-tools with 3 amp motors or higher are ideal for you.
What about cordless oscillating multi-tools? When you look at the product specifications on the tool’s webpage, box, or manual, you’ll see that these tools are powered by 18V or 20V batteries. So, which one’s better?
The good news is there’s really no difference between the battery’s voltages. Tools powered by 20V batteries are no better or worse than tools powered by 18V batteries. You can buy either the 18V or 20V oscillating multi-tool, and its performance will basically be the same.
Check out this article or this video for a more detailed explanation on 18V and 20V batteries.
The oscillation speed of an electric multi-tool is measured in oscillations per minute (shortened to OPM). Most of the oscillating multi-tools that we have in the market right now have variable speed settings. This means that you can cut or sand from a low oscillation speed of 6,000 OPM to as high as 21,000 (and sometimes more) depending on whether you want a smoother cut or finish.
Today, there are only a few single-speed multi-tools in the market. You won’t find a dial in single-speed multi-tools as the machine is automatically programmed to go up to the pre-set oscillation speed the moment you turn it on.
Accessory Changing System
There are oscillating multi-tools that need an Allen wrench so you can change the cutting blade and other attachments. This can be a hassle if you’re in a hurry to finish the job or you’ve somehow misplaced the compatible Allen wrench.
The good news is the majority of oscillating multi-tools you can find today have tool-less blade changing systems. All you have to do is lift or release the clamp or lever on the tool’s nose, install the blade, and lock the clamp back into place. The design of the clamps vary by manufacturer, but in general, this tool-less blade changing system is more user-friendly than ones that need an Allen wrench.
Oscillating multi-tools move from side to side to cut, sand or grind a surface. How far the blade travels from one side to another is called the oscillation angle.
Tools that have a wider oscillation angle are generally more aggressive and can cut faster than those with a smaller oscillation angle. But if you want more precise cuts, then you’re better off with a tool that has a slimmer oscillation angle.
The multi-tools we have reviewed have an oscillation angle that ranges from 3° to 5°. This Rockwell multi-tool is unique because it allows you to switch the angle from 3.4° to 5°. This is ideal if you want to have the best of both worlds.
Corded Versus Cordless Multi-tool
If you’re going to do much of your work indoors or you’re working outdoors but you have access to an electrical outlet via an outdoor extension cord, then a corded multi-tool is recommended. You’ll never have to worry about losing juice in the middle of a project with a corded model. You also don’t need to buy another battery so you can continue working while the other battery is charging.
Cordless models are ideal for outdoor locations or work sites with no access to electricity. A fully charged battery can last anywhere between 20 to 45 minutes. If you’re partial to cordless models and you’re planning on working all day, then make sure that you have a spare in your tool bag.
A good multi-tool is not just one with a powerful motor, variable speed setting, and a good oscillating angle. How much it weighs and how it feels in your hand are also important especially if you’re going to use it throughout the day.
The ideal multi-tool should weigh 3 lbs. or less to prevent operator fatigue. Anything more and you’ll need to stop frequently to give your hand rest in between tasks.
Number and Quality of Attachments Included
High-quality multi-tool blades and other attachments are not exactly known for being cheap. A single Dremel Multi-Max Wood and Metal Blade, for example, currently costs $9.85, while the brand’s Universal Carbide Cut Blade can set you back nearly $20. A pair of Bosch Starlock metal cutting blades costs $19.65, while a set of assorted Starlock accessories costs almost $62. That’s why it’s important to choose a unit that already comes with a complete set of blades and other attachments.
Quality is also important when it comes to choosing blades. The unit might have so many attachments that you could possibly use, but you might as well throw them away if the blades are brittle or if the sanding pads easily wear away.
In addition, when looking for the best electric multi-tool, choose one that is compatible with many blades and sanding pads that are available on the market. Getting stuck with one particular brand of attachments is going to be a problem especially when your favorite retailer runs out of them or if they are going to be phased out by the manufacturer.
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