Oscillating Tools

You have probably walked by a display of oscillating, multi tools and wondered if you really need one.  They look intriguing but are really worth having?  Actually, they’re great for a variety of specific jobs and they are indispensable for problem situations.

The tool evolved from a medical device.  In 1968, the German company Fein patented the oscillating “plaster cast saw.” It could slice through a cast without harming the patient’s skin. It can do that because the blade doesn’t rotate, it moves back and forth only 3-4 degrees at a very high speed.  It cuts hard objects easily but your skin will simply move back and forth with the blade.  That medical tool evolved into the do-anything oscillating multi-tool.  Until a few years ago when the patents expired, the only oscillating tool on the market was the Fein Multi-Master.

So what can you do with an oscillating tool?   There are tools available to saw, sand, rasp, grind, scrape, cut and polish.

  • Sand and Cut In Tight Spaces – You can angle the offset blades in any direction which lets you cut in very tight spaces and there are a wide array of hook and loop sanding pads available that let you sand in corners and narrow spaces
  • Trim Door Casings – When you need to trim the bottom ends of the door casings and jambs for new flooring the multi-tool is ideal. It can make a flush cut at exactly the right height just using the new flooring as a guide.
  • Remove Grout – With a carbide grit grout removal tool you can easily remove grout without touching the tile.
  • Salvage Moldings – You can slide an offset metal cutting blade behind moldings to cleanly cut nails to remove moldings without damage.
  • Remove Morter – You can use a carbide rasp to grid away mortar and the triangular head lets you get into tight corners.
  • Pry Old Caulk, Adhesives and Paint – Put on a flat blade scraper and the oscillation makes removing old caulk or peeling, blistered paint a snap. Then you can switch to a sanding pad and get it nice and smooth.
  • Cut Plumbing Pipes – With the right blade you can slice quickly through plastic, copper and galvanized pipes.
  • Cut Openings In Drywall – The small blades and easy to control cutting let you make precise plunge cuts and openings in drywall or paneling.

Be aware of the tradeoffs when you look at oscillating tools.  You can get them in corded or battery versions.  The battery models are convenient but they’ll run down when you need continuous operation.  Corded models will keep running and are often more powerful, but of course, you’ll need an outlet.

Check out ‘bargain’ tools carefully.  We often hear of people having to replace cheap oscillating tools because they’ve burnt out or they get so hot after a few minutes of use that you can’t hold them.  Be sure you get a good tool so you only need to buy it once.

This is one of those tools you don’t think you need and then once you have one, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.

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