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Oscillating Tool Reviews

Every DIYer should have an oscillating tool — but which model is right for you? Read these reviews from our editors to get the low down on these problem-solving tools.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Why you need an oscillating tool

Oscillating tools are great for a few specific jobs like removing grout, making drywall cutouts and undercutting trim for flooring installation. But mostly, an oscillating tool is a problem solver for a thousand weird situations. As one remodeler told us, “I couldn’t list the last ten things I used it for, but I know I couldn't live without it.” Several Field Editors told us something similar: “I couldn't imagine any need for an oscillating tool—until I got one.”

Just a few years ago, oscillating multi-tools were rare, even in pro toolboxes. But with a wider range of choices and falling prices, more and more DIYers are using them. And since they are endlessly useful, we predict that you'll own one sooner or later.

We looked at dozens of them in all price ranges for this review, then narrowed the field to some of the most widely available models. We also drew the upper line at $130. If you're a pro (or a serious tool junkie), you can easily spend more than that. But we think most DIYers will be more than satisfied owning one of the tools reviewed here.

Cordless is convenient, but...

A handy guide

Cost and Power Rating

Spend more—or less?
These oscillating tools cost from $25 to $130. Despite that huge price gap, we found only small differences in how well they cut, sand or scrape. The real differences are in convenience and comfort. Spending more will get you a tool-free accessory attachment system, less vibration and a tool that's more confortable to use for long periods. We also assume that higher-cost tools will last longer, but we didn't test for longevity.

If you expect to use an oscillating tool regularly or have a big job planned, choose a more expensive tool. For occasional use, you'll probably be satisfied with a tool with a low-cost model.

More power isn't essential
More power is better, of course, but we don't consider it a key factor in choosing an oscillating tool. We tested tools with motors ranging from 1.6 to 3 amps. And to our surprise, the performance differences were minor. Tools with lower amp ratings bog down if you press hard while cutting or sanding, but so do the higher-amp models. The tools with lower amp ratings work well under normal loads.

Oscillating angle is a tradeoff

Check the contents of the kit

Oscillating tools are usually sold as kits with varying assortments of accessories. Considering the high cost of blades, checking the contents of the kit is worthwhile. Don't just look at the number of pieces, though: A 30-piece kit might include 25 low-cost sanding pads.

Origin of oscillating tools

FeinOrigin of oscillating tools

Fein 250Q Oscillating tool

FeinFein 250Q Oscillating tool

From Hospitals to Job Sites
In 1968, Fein patented the oscillating “plaster cast saw,” which could slice through a cast without harming the patient's skin. That medical tool evolved into the do-anything tool we know today. Fein still makes pro-grade oscillating tools, and some of our Field Editors swear it's still the best choice. The Fein 250Q shown (along with the Start Q kit) costs about $200 on Amazon through our affiliate program, other retailers and online.

Tool-free systems

The standard system for mounting accessories is a screw and an Allen wrench. But most manufacturers are now introducing faster, easier ways. You'll still find lots of tools with Allen screws on store shelves, but we expect that to change.

Rockwell Sonicrafter RK5139K

This tool tops our list in terms of smooth, quiet operation, and we love the accessory attachment system because it accepted every blade we could find. Its carrying case is also our favorite because it provides a place for accessories and a generous space for the tool and cord; no struggling to fit it all back into the case! Rockwell also makes a 3-amp model with electronic speed control (the Sonicrafter RK5140K; $150 through our affiliate program with Amazon) and a 2.3-amp model without a tool-free system (SS5120; $60).

Black & Decker BD200MTB

From the tool-free attachment system to the smooth, low-vibration feel, this tool is in the same class as those costing much more. A true bargain. The attachment system is identical to Porter-Cable's and accepts Porter-Cable accessories. You won't find this tool at most home centers, but it's available online through our affiliate program with Amazon and at Wal-Mart.

Chicago 68861

The price is irresistible, even if you don't foresee any need for an oscillating tool. This bare-bones tool runs a bit rougher than most of the more expensive models but performed well in our tests. And we've heard from Field Editors who own it and are completely satisfied with it. It's available at Harbor Freight stores and online. Chicago Electric also makes a 2-amp model with variable speed (available on Amazon through our affiliate program for about $45).

Craftsman 35078

We like the tool-free attachment system and love the LED work light on the nose of this tool. Our only complaint is that the body of the tool is wide and less comfortable to grip than other models.

Dremel Multi-Max

This is a smooth, comfortable tool and a contender for our best overall choice. The accessory attachment system is even easier to use than its competitors' but accepts only Dremel attachments. Dremel also makes two other great models (without tool-free systems) that cost $90 (MM20) and $80 (6300). You can find these models on Amazon through our affiliate program.

Porter-Cable PCE605

A superb tool—smooth running and very comfortable to use. The roller guide is a plus, and we strongly recommend it if there's a big grout removal job in your future. The accessory attachment system is instant but limits the depth of cut. Porter-Cable also makes a 2.5-amp model with the same attachment system ($95) but without the roller guide. You can buy the PCE605, through our affiliate program with Amazon.

Ridgid Jobmax R28600

This is the starter tool for Ridgid's multihead JobMax system. Unlike other oscillating tools, it has a variable-speed trigger rather than a switch. That lets you control the speed without stopping to make adjustments, which is nice for precision work. But the trigger doesn't lock, and holding it constantly gets uncomfortable. The LED work light is a great bonus.

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