Here at The Family Handyman, the only power tool I use is a Mac
computer. The real editors
fire up their tools, build the projects, generate the dust and write their
stories. As the copy editor, I fire up my Mac and—on a good day—succeed at translating their articles from Constructionese into something resembling real English.
confess that I'm also "tool phobic," convinced that if I actually pick up, say,
a circular saw, as soon as I squeeze the
trigger, I'll either ruin something expensive ("sorry
about the cherry cabinets, dear!") or maim myself or anyone near. "You'll shoot your eye out" zings around my brain like a pinball.
But if I'm going to blog occasionally, I've got to expand my tool repertoire beyond my
Mac. I looked around the house and saw the Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool I
bought my husband for his birthday last year. I spied the crumbling 16-ft.
grout line along the back of our kitchen counters. It covers the inside corner
where the granite tops meet the tile backsplash—a joint that's subject to
movement and that should have been filled with flexible caulk instead.
the hardware store, I picked up a regular grout saw for $5, safety glasses—and
coward that I am—some 1-7/8-in.-wide Frog Tape to protect the wall tile and the granite. Back at home, I taped
off the area and first gave the grout saw a try. Scraping the grout by hand was
tedious and slow. I switched to the Multi-Max, and flinching, I flipped the
switch and touched the blade to the grout line. It was a little loud at the
recommended medium to high speed, but it was easy to hold and control. Using
the tool in a back-and-forth motion wears a groove in the grout, and making
several passes in an area cleans it all out.
The Multi-Max made the work go
much faster (not quite instant gratification, but a lot closer!). I
was able to remove an 8-ft. grout line in about an hour, but that included
scraping the grout behind the faucet and other dispensers by hand because the
space was a bit too tight for the Multi-Max. As a rookie, I didn't set any speed
records, especially because I was trying to shoot a blog photo with my iPhone
in my other hand. My prediction: You
could remove grout a lot faster!
Multi-Max is also designed for cutting, scraping, sanding and grinding. I can't
vouch for its sanding and grinding abilities, but Gary Wentz, one of the real
editors here, says it excels at making cuts other tools can't. He used it to
cut a notch in a floor joist where his reciprocating saw wouldn't fit between copper
pipes. My DIYer husband found it indispensable for finishing the window cutouts
in the siding for the playhouse he built last summer.
first DIY project with a power tool: Job done, expensive tile and eyeballs intact.
A good day. And the next time I tiptoe outside my comfort zone, it'll be to
apply my first bead of caulk on that very same joint. I'll get to use one of my
favorite low-tech tools—my finger.
You can buy the Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool ($120) and Frog Tape ($11) at
home centers and through our affiliation with Amazon.com (see links below).
Many other companies—Ridgid, Bosch, Craftsman, Fein and more—also offer oscillating tools, at many price levels. Check them out.
- Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Kit
- Frog Tape Pro Painter's Masking Tape
- Donna Bierbach, Senior Copy Editor