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Guide to Oscillating Tools

Oscillating tools (often called "oscillating multi-tools") are power tools that use vibrations generated by quick back-and-forth movements to cut, sand, polish or scrape a wide variety of materials. They are ideal for a number of applications, including sanding, cutting, grouting, refinishing, buffing, restoring, plunge cutting and flush cutting. Many people, professionals and hobbyists alike, enjoy using them because they are a handy, all-in-one solution that takes the place of several tools. They can be used in many professional and hobbyist tasks like remodeling, finish work, construction, tile work, woodworking, flooring, etc. They are available in electric and cordless models. Though similar, oscillating multi-tools are different from rotary tools. Oscillating tools employ a fast back-and-forth movement, while rotary tools use a spinning motion in a fixed position. Rotary tools also tend cut a bit more roughly because they spin at high speeds. 

Top Picks ¦ Glossary ¦ Before You Buy ¦ FAQ ¦ Shop Oscillating Multi-Tools


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Electric Oscillating Tools
electric oscillating tools

 

With electric models, you don't have to worry about run-time while you work. As long as there is a power source (outlet), you can power your oscillating tool without problems, and work for as long as you want. Plus, you can take on heavier duty or lengthier projects since you have a constant power source. One downside of electric oscillating tools is that they have somewhat limited access. You can only work as far as the cord will reach. Otherwise you're stuck with having to find available power outlets or running an extension cord to reach certain work areas. Shop Electric Oscillating Tools

 

Cordless Oscillating Tools
cordless oscillating tools

 

Cordless oscillating tools are convenient to use. You can use them anywhere as long as you have a charged battery to power it. Being cordless means they are also portable, which is great for finishing tasks quickly. However, you are limited on the run-time. You can only work as long as your battery is charged. If you forget the charger or didn't charge it before you planned to use it, you're stuck waiting on the battery, which costs you work time. Shop Cordless Oscillating Tools

Oscillating tools, both cordless and electric, are excellent multi-purpose tools. They serve the purpose of several tools in one convenient package, rather than relying on several separate tools. For example, a single oscillating tool can be used to cut, sand and grind in multiple applications. You get the use of a saw, sander and grinder all in one tool. It can be far more convenient to have an oscillating tool that can perform all these tasks, instead of three separate power tools that you would have to transport and set up each time you need to use them.

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Top Picks

bosch MX25EC-21

 

With the Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit from Bosch, you can take on flush-cutting, plunge cutting, sanding, grinding, grout removal and scraping. Equipped with a comfortable soft grip, this 2.5 amp tool has a variable speed dial for matching the speed to the application and material. Shop the Bosch Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit

 

bosch MX25EL-37

Bosch's Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit with 37 Accessories is compact enough to work in tight spaces, and it comes with a variety of blades for a number of professional and hobbyist applications. Shop the Bosch Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit with 37 Accessories

bosch PS50-2A

The Bosch 12V Litheon Multi-X Cordless Oscillating Tool Kit can be used for repairs, remodeling, restoration work, sanding and grout removal. Its use of side-to-side motion enables it to be used on soft woods, hardwoods, drywall, plastic, metals and grouting. Shop the Bosch 12V Litheon Multi-X Cordless Oscillating Tool Kit

portercable PC250MTK

Make clean, smooth cuts with the Porter Cable 2.5 Amp Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit. Powered by a 2.5 amp motor, it has a variable speed dial that offers maximum control and high torque while you work. Shop the Porter Cable 2.5 Amp Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit

bosch_PS50-2B

For both professional and DIY projects, use the Bosch 12 Volt Litheon Multi-X Cordless Oscillating Tool Carpenter's Kit. It's perfect for repairs, remodeling, carpentry and restoration work. It's compact enough to work in tight corners and is designed for use on soft woods, hardwoods, drywall, plastic, metals and grouting. Shop the Bosch 12 Volt Litheon Multi-X Cordless Oscillating Tool Carpenter's Kit

skil 1400-02

Take on woodworking, carpentry, flooring and tiling using the Skil 2.0 Amp Oscillating Multi-Tasker. It features an integrated dust extraction port, variable speed and no mar head. It's also equipped with a soft grip for easy handling, and includes blades, sandpaper, sanding pad, adapter, Allen wrench and carrying bag. Shop the Skil 2.0 Amp Oscillating Multi-Tasker

 

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Glossary

Oscillations Per Minute: Listed as OPM. Measures how many vibrations the tool produces. The higher the OPM, the more powerful it is.

Amperage: Measures the flow of electric charge in an electric oscillating tool.

Voltage: The energy that makes electrical current flow.

Grout: Construction material that is used to fill spaces such as masonry joint and ceramic tile spacings.

Attachments: Accessories that can be used to enable oscillating tools to take on a number of tasks. 

    Sanding Pads: For sanding materials, like wood. You can use the sanding pads from a detail sander on an oscillating tool in most cases.

    Polishing Pads: For buffing surfaces. You can use the polishing pads from a detail sander on an oscillating tool in most cases.

    Carbide Rasps: For rough sanding of wood, adhesives, filler, concrete and stone. Available in triangular and finger-shaped options.

Blades:

    Sawing Blade: For making cuts in various materials like wood, drywall, parquet, wood paneling, plastic and laminate. Some sawing blades have fine teeth for more precise cuts. How strong the sawing blade is depends on the materials that it's made of.

    Plunge Cut Blade: A type of sawing blade used for cutting wood.

    Flush Cut Blade: For cutting window sills, door jambs, baseboards, floor trim, wall trim and other flooring material. Also can square off rounded corners. Suitable for wood, plastic, drywall and other softer materials.

    Grout Removal Blade: For removing grout, porous concrete and construction materials. Also can cut out damaged tile joints and plaster. 

    Scraper Blade: For removing coatings like lacquer, old adhesives, tile adhesive, carpeting, silicone, acrylic and stickers.

    Segmented Blade: For cutting grooves in plaster, porous concrete and other construction materials. Also can cut out tile joints. Some segmented blades can cut soft materials like felt, leather and polystyrene.

    When choosing an oscillating blade, pay attention to its capabilities (they are listed in the product descriptions). The functions of each blade differ depending on the design and the company that manufactures them. Each type of blade listed above is explained in general terms, but every blade's capabilities and uses are different depending on their design and construction.

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Before You Buy Header

There are several things to consider before buying an oscillating tool. Figure out what qualities you want. Is portability most important? If that's the case, then a cordless one may be best, as it enables you to work without worrying about always having an electrical outlet within reach, as you would need with an electric one.

Consider the type of work you will be doing. If you're a professional who needs an oscillating tool for day-to-day jobs, your needs are probably different from a hobbyist who does occasional home projects. An electric one is a good option if you need a constant source of power. A portable one could be somewhat inefficient due to all the battery recharging you would have to do. But if you only need it for occasional home projects, a cordless oscillating tool may be the right option.

Ease of use is another factor to consider. Some electric oscillating tools may weigh less than portable ones, but you also have to consider that it's corded. That may limit reach and where you can work, as you can only go as far as the cord stretches and you will always need a nearby outlet. At the same time, a portable oscillating tool might be easier to use because it's not bound by a cord. However, it may weigh a bit more because it's battery powered and carries that extra bit of weight.

Also, think about how much you want to spend. You can find many affordable oscillating multi-tools for less than $100, but high-end, professional-grade ones can run several times that, with some costing close to $1,000. If you're a professional in need of a high-quality oscillating multi-tool for regular use, then it may be worth it to spring for a more expensive model. But if you're a hobbyist or only need one for occasional/home use, you can easily find an affordable oscillating multi-tool for anywhere between $100 and $200.


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FAQ

Should I opt for an electric or cordless oscillating tool?
Whether you choose an electric or cordless oscillating tool depends on how you plan to use it. If you need to work continuously and often on heavy duty, long-term projects, go with an electric oscillating tool, since it has a constant power source and will be able to power you through numerous tasks. If you prefer something more portable, a cordless is fine. Just be prepared to charge it periodically and know that its capabilities may be limited (run-time, etc.) with its limited power source.

What sorts of applications can an oscillating tool be used for?
Oscillating tools are one of the most versatile power tools available. Depending on the attachments you use with it, an oscillating tool can be used for sanding, cutting, grouting, refinishing, buffing, restoring, plunge cutting and flush cutting. Oscillating tools can be used for both professional and hobbyist applications, including remodeling, finish work, construction, tile work, woodworking, flooring, etc.  

How big of a project can I use an oscillating tool for?
Oscillating multi-tools are perfect for smaller scale projects, such as removing grout, scraping gunk, sanding small sections of wood, making straight-edge cuts, removing trim, trimming flooring, cutting nails/bolts and cutting pipe. Oscillating tools work great for these types of applications because of their convenient size and efficient power. You could try to use a large power saw to trim flooring or make a straight-edge cut along something like a doorway or cabinet opening. But their bulky, larger size makes them more difficult to handle, especially in smaller spaces. Oscillating multi-tools can also be used during parts of larger-scale projects, like remodeling a kitchen or refinishing a basement, but they shouldn't be the the only power tool you use. They work great during the small-scale portions of larger projects, but it wouldn't be efficient to use only an oscillating multi-tool, as they are typically not powerful enough. 

Can I use attachments of a different brand than that of the oscillating tool?
Depending on the brand, some oscillating multi-tools can be used with the accessories and attachments from different brands. However, it's best just to use attachments that are from the same brand as the oscillating multi-tool you are using. They are specifically designed to fit that particular model and will work best with it. Using the accessories of one brand on the oscillating tool of another brand can be a bit risky. For instance, you run the risk of the attachment not fitting properly or not locking into the oscillating tool, which can hinder tool performance or damage the work piece. However, some oscillating multi-tools are compatible with the accessories of different brands, and in that case, you can mix and match accessories with the oscillating tool. For example, the Milwaukee M12 Cordless Lithium-Ion Multi-Tool is compatible with some of Bosch's oscillating multi-tool attachments. If you choose to mix brands, be sure to research both the oscillating tool and the accessories to make certain they can be used together. 

I have more questions!
We'd love to help. Give us a call at 866-597-3850 (Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT). Or email us at sales@toolbarn.com.


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