Tool School: The Do-It-All Oscillating Tool

Tool School: The Do-It-All Oscillating Tool

An oscillating tool can sand, grind, cut, plunge-cut, flush-cut, remove grout and scrape, all within a tight space if needed. This makes it the most versatile power tool in your shed and a must-have for any DIYer.

Photos by Charles & Hudson & Built by Kids.

For 25 years the Fein Multimaster had the oscillating tool market cornered and the tool was very costly. But at the end of 2008, Fein’s patent on the oscillating tool expired, which allowed a plethora of tool manufacturers to make their own versions of this amazing tool. You can pick up a high-quality oscillating tool from Bosch, Porter-Cable, Dremel or Rockwell.

The oscillating tool works by moving an attachment at high-speed in an rotating or back-and-forth motion that allows for precise control with minimal vibration. Attachments include saw blades of various shapes, grinding discs, and sanding pads.

There is no standard interface for these attachments, so most manufacturers have their own and you can’t use one company’s attachments with another manufacturer’s tool. However, you can purchase a multi-tool adaptor that will allow you to interchange attachments between tool makers.

Attachments are secured to the tool via a bolt that can be tightened and loosened with an allen key. The Porter-Cable model has a tool-free attachment system which doesn’t require any bolts or wrenches which is a big plus for convenience.

You can go corded or cordless, and most manufacturers offer both options. For cordless, some tool companies have chosen to go with the 12 volt platform while others have opted for 18 volts. 18V don’t always perform the best, so do your research before you buy.

An oscillating tool is capable of endless home improvement tasks. It can cut holes in walls, slice grout, grind thin-set mortar, sand, and cut through door trim, among lots more. Chances are, once you start getting into DIY, this is a tool you’ll find you need pretty often.

Lifehacker’s Workshop column covers DIY tips, techniques and projects.


  • Good for the little jobs but working on Australian hardwood and bigger projects would not be ideal.

    • A movie that was made in 1943.
      The words leading up to it:
      “For whom the bell” then an “s” at the end.

      Anyway it looks like the article has now been edited.

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