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
FeinOrigin of oscillating tools
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
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.
OSCILLATING TOOL REVIEWS
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
RK5140K; $150 through our affiliate program with Amazon) and a
2.3-amp model without
a tool-free system
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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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.