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Oscillating tools are like the hand-held workhorses of the toolkit. With the right attachment, you can use the device to sand, cut, polish, grind, trim, clean, edge, scrape, or drill a wide range of materials, including wood, plastic, metal, drywall, tile, and grout.
Basically, oscillating tools—often called multi-tools–vibrate the attachment back and forth at an extremely high rate of speed, which means that you get business accomplished quickly and easily without creating as much dust as many other types of power tools. Best of all, these tools are ideal for flush-cuts or working at awkward angles without too much fuss and bother.
Here are the best oscillating tools in various categories likeliest to be of interest to the average DIYer.
Best Overall: Dremel Multi-Max MM50-01
Dremel has long been one of the top names in both oscillating and rotary tools, and the Multi-Max MM50 shows why. This well-designed oscillating tool boasts a powerful 5-amp motor, a variable speed of 10,000 to 21,000 rpm, and a no-tool-required mechanism for quick and easy changes of attachments. Plus, the front end is compact enough to fit into tight spaces, while the slightly angled design of the body means you have excellent control even when working on very small or detailed projects. At just under 3 pounds, the lightweight tool can consistently cut and sand through thick and thin materials with little vibration or kickback.
And you’ll get plenty of attachments with this 31-piece kit. Along with the oscillating tool itself, the kit includes two wood and metal flush-cut blades, one wood flush-cut blade, one wood and drywall blade, one drywall jab saw, one hook-and-loop pad, 12 sanding sheets in various grits for sanding painted surfaces, 12 sanding sheets in various grits for wood, metal, or plaster, and one handy storage bag to keep everything together. That means you can tackle a huge range of DIY tasks around your home, yard, and garage.
Best Budget: Genesis GMT15A Multi-Purpose Oscillating Tool
Light in weight and on the wallet, the Genesis multi-purpose oscillating tool doesn’t disappoint in its value and power. The reasonable price tag is perfectly paired with the versatility of this compact corded machine. It works well in corners and close quarters as a sander, saw, powerful scraper, and detailed grout remover.
The 1.5-amp motor, while not the highest in power, is smooth and consistent in its delivery. The narrow oscillating head gives 21,000 oscillations per minute with little vibration. A 4-pin flange firmly holds the included accessories in place. The Genesis comes with the 4-pound tool, 3-inch hook and loop sanding pad, extra sandpaper, rigid scraper blade, a 3-inch wood and drywall blade, Allen wrench, and a 30 mm flush cut blade. The flush-cut blade is perfect for narrow jobs around door jambs, windowsills, and trim.
Best Cordless: Makita Lithium-Ion Cordless Multi-Tool
It’s powerful enough to tackle nearly any job. The Makita 18-volt cordless oscillating multi-tool can take on tile, plaster, drywall, wood flooring, PVC and more. The variable-speed control revs up to a smooth 20,000 oscillations-per-minute. The tool can also run at a gentle 6,000 opm when a soft touch is needed on woodwork, glass, or other fragile material. The 18-volt LXT battery is sold separately and only takes 30 minutes to charge. The ergonomic grip paired with the 3.2-degree oscillation angle cuts down on arm fatigue and allows for serious cutting and sanding at a rapid pace. Makita has an easy-change design for switching quickly between accessories when completing complicated projects.
The built-in LED light is a bonus and brighter than most cordless units. This makes working in cramped, dark spaces or in and around inner doorways easier. The unit comes with adapters that can work with other brands of oscillating tools. The large on and off switch is easy to manipulate when wearing bulky gloves, and the lock-on button ensures that the tool doesn’t inadvertently switch off in the middle of a job.
Best for Metal: Rockwell RK2701K Sonicrafter Oscillating Multi-Tool
Rockwell has made one of the more powerful oscillating multi-tools on the market. The two angles, 5 and 3.4 degrees, paired with the 4.2-amp motor allow you to go from slow and steady to fast and furious. The Rockwell is dependable to quickly complete light and heavy-duty jobs, from cross-cutting, plunge cuts, trimming precise cuts or slicing swiftly through metal pipes or sheeting. It has a cutting load of 35 pounds, an industry maximum.
The Rockwell really shines in its ability to vacillate between aggressive and precise speeds, and it doesn’t stall when pushed to its maximum capabilities. It can deliver speeds from 10,000 to 19,000 opm without significant vibrations. It weighs just over 3 pounds, making it easier on arm and back muscles when using the machine on long, difficult jobs.
Best for Cutting: DEWALT Oscillating Tool Kit
The brushless motor can go from 0 to 20,000 opm in under a minute. Weighing in at just over 3 pounds, the lightweight DEWALT cordless multi-tool has 20 volts rather than the typical 18 or even 12 volts of most oscillators, which allows it to quickly slice through sheetrock, light woods, and metal. The quick-change lever allows for keyless blade changes for fast swapping between the 28 included accessories.
The kit comes with 2 amp-hour and 4 amp-hour rechargeable batteries for longer running time without having to switch out the power source. This cordless workhorse is quiet and powerful, effortlessly cutting through most materials quickly. It’s compact but hefty at 7 pounds. It comes with DeWalt’s 3-year limited manufacturer warranty.
Best Kit: PORTER-CABLE Oscillating Tool Kit
This kit is packed with the essential accessories for an oscillating tool and then some. It has 52 accessories to complete a multitude of projects. PORTER-CABLE’s powerful 3-amp motor can cut through tough jobs quickly. The kit comes with a depth and cutting guide that offers more control for slicing into wood and plunge tasks. The 10-foot cord gives plenty of play for getting around big jobs.
PORTER-CABLE's signature tool-free blade change system is a user favorite. It allows for quick changes to effortlessly switch from sanding to cutting or vice versa without requiring other tools to attach accessories or awkward bolts to fumble with. This decreases the time spent on finishing projects. The oscillating tool is compatible with other accessories you may have on hand and can fit blades from most manufacturers easily.
Best Attachment Kit: Arms Tools 27-Piece Oscillating Tool Accessory Kit
One of the beauties of an oscillating tool is its versatility, thanks to the many different types of available attachments. If you already have your tool, but need an extensive assortment of attachments to go with it, then you’ll love the Arms Tools 27-Piece Oscillating Tool Accessory Kit.
This handy kit includes 27 different blades and attachments for just about any oscillating tool function, including sanding, cutting, and scraping. The sturdy attachments have quick-release shanks so you can easily switch them when needed. They fit just about all major brands of oscillating tools, so whether you are starting from scratch, want to increase your tool selection, or just like having extras on hand, you’ll be covered.
If a blade breaks or just doesn’t quite fit in the space that you need it to, having an extra set of hard-working accessories on hand is a bonus. The Arms Tools 27-Piece Oscillating Tool Accessory Kit gets high marks for its value and blade diversity.
The Dremel Multi-Max MM50 (view at Amazon) is one of the bestselling oscillating tools, and for good reason. Loaded with features, it has lots of power, fits easily into even tight spaces, makes changing attachments a breeze, and has variable speeds for excellent control. But if you’re looking for an oscillating tool with the power to cut through metal, even metal pipes, turn instead to the Rockwell Sonicrafter Oscillating Tool (view at Amazon). Despite its power and variable speeds, it is fairly lightweight and easy on your hands and wrists.
What to Look for in an Oscillating Tool
There are two basic types of oscillating tools: those with cords that run off AC current and those without cords that use batteries, typically 18-volt lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, although there are lightweight cordless models that use 12-volt batteries and some powerful tools with 20-volt batteries.
Corded oscillating tools are the most common, as they have enough oomph to get the job done without fear of running out of juice early. If you tend to use your oscillating tool for lengthy sessions, such as while removing grout, or turn to it frequently while working on DIY or hobby projects, this is the best choice for you.
Cordless oscillating tools free you from being tethered to an electrical outlet, but most aren’t quite as powerful as their corded counterparts, and of course, you’ll need to be aware of the battery’s remaining charge when using the tool for a lengthy session. Still, if you prefer the freedom to use your oscillating tool wherever you’d like, this is the best choice for your needs.
As handheld tools that create vibrations that are very small but very fast, oscillating tools don’t require heavy-duty motors; most of these tools have motors with 1.5 to 5 amps of power. As a general rule, tools with less than 2 amps are suited for very lightweight tasks, while those with 4 to 5 amps of power can tackle heavy jobs. Most DIYers, however, will find that a tool somewhere in the middle of the range is sufficient.
Speed and Angle
Unlike many other power tools that work by spinning blades or moving them in a back-and-forth motion, oscillating tools oscillate—that means a side-to-side motion at a very high rate of speed. This speed is measured in oscillations per minute (opm).
The average speed of these tools is around 20,000 opm, but you’ll find some brands that are quite a bit slower and some that are faster. However, don’t automatically assume that the faster, the better: higher speeds get the job done faster, but slower speeds give you more control, so the best speed really depends on your specific task.
Some oscillating tools have variable speed controls, which makes the tool quite a bit more versatile.
Another important number is the oscillation angle, which is a measurement of how far the blade oscillates from side-to-side. Most oscillating tools fall somewhere between 2.5 to 3.5 degrees. As a general rule, the larger the oscillation angle, the faster the tool will get work accomplished, but the lower your level of precise control. For most DIYers, an oscillation angle somewhere in the middle of that range is best, but the perfect number really depends on how you generally use the tool.
What is an oscillating tool used for?
An oscillating tool, often called a multi-tool, has numerous uses, making it a very handy addition to your tool box. There is a huge array of attachments and blades available to tackle just about any project you can think of. Some uses for your oscillating tool include:
- Making straight or curved cuts through most types of materials, including wood, metal, plastic, drywall, and tile
- Removing grout or caulk
- Grinding or sanding away rough edges on most materials
- Polishing and buffing wood, metal, and other materials
- Scraping away old paint, mortar, and adhesives
- Cutting through rusty, stuck nuts and bolts
- Removing baseboards and other trim
- Cutting through pipes, even in tight quarters
- Removing sections of damaged drywall
- Sanding off old paint and other finishes
- Lifting linoleum flooring
- Undercutting doors
How do you cut a straight line with an oscillating tool?
You can cut curved or straight lines with an oscillating tool. To cut straight, you’ll typically do best with a round or half-moon saw blade. Mark your desired cut line with a pencil or marker on the material you’ll be cutting, and then slowly and carefully work your oscillating tool along the line, cutting no deeper than ¼-inch. Make as many passes as necessary to cut through the material. Take care not to press down hard; let the tool do the work. Pressing the blade down too hard can cause it to overheat and wear out quickly, and also makes it likelier you’ll veer off your desired cut line.
Can an oscillating tool cut tile?
With the right attachment, you can use your oscillating tool to cut, file, trim, and shape tile, even cutting gentle curves or other shapes that go beyond straight lines. You can also use an oscillating tool to make holes in tile, which is sometimes necessary for installations where you need to tile around an outlet, trim, or other obstruction. Generally, you’ll need a ceramic-cutting attachment for any of these purposes.