One of the most useful tools in a DIYer’s and tradesman’s toolbox is the oscillating multi-tool or multi-cutter. The oscillating multi-tool is a relatively new type of power tool that was originally developed by the Fein corporation under a patent which expired in 2008. Since then, other power tool companies have entered the market with their own versions of the oscillating multi-cutter.
As its name suggests, the multi-tool is not a tool that is specialised for a single task but can be used in a range of different building jobs making it an extremely useful device, so much so that it makes us wonder how we ever did without one!
In this review of oscillating multi-tools, we first take a look at the different uses of this multi-purpose power tool before examining what technical aspects of the multi-cutters are best to look for when buying one. We then end the review with a look at some of the popular oscillating multi-tool options that are available in the UK.
Uses of an oscillating multi-tool
So what can you use an oscillating multi-tool for? With the right blade or accessory, a multi-tool can be used for range of different tasks including, but not limited to, cutting straight lines in a variety of different materials, scraping off adhesives, paint and other coatings, detail sanding, levelling of masonry surfaces and more. More specifically, the oscillating multi-tool has been found to be particularly effective at the following tasks:
Clearly, the oscillating multi-tool is a very useful tool in a variety of different situations and is rapidly becoming one of the default tools that DIYers and tradesmen often have in their tool kits not unlike the humble power drill.
What to look for in an oscillating multi-tool
Of course, as with other popular power tools, there is a plethora of oscillating multi-tool brands to choose from, each with their own technical specifications and features, making the task of choosing the best oscillating multi-tool for one’s toolbox somewhat of a challenge. So what should one be looking for when buying an oscillating multi-tool? In today’s crop of multi-cutters, the following features are the key ones to pay attention to:
Corded vs Cordless
First and foremost, there is the question of what sort of power system should the multi-tool be beholden to. It can be powered by either mains electricity or by a battery-powered system, so which is the better way to go? This is a question that comes up a lot for almost all power tools and very much depends on a number of different factors including personal preference, how the tool will be primarily used, access to a universal power tool battery charging system, and affordability. For more detailed analysis of which power system is likely to be the right one for you, see our general power tool page where we address the different power system types that power tools are designed for.
In general, mains-powered tools are higher power, unlimited in the length of time of their use, free from having to deal with the hassle of keeping batteries charged, and are cheaper overall. On the other hand, cordless tools don't need to be close to a mains electrical outlet, allowing them to be used almost anywhere. And the lack of a power cable makes cordless devices easier to handle without all the hindrance that comes with being tethered to a single location.
Brushed vs Brushless
When it comes to cordless multi-tools, like other cordless power tools, they can be either of the traditional brushed variety or of the latest brushless type. These designations characterise the type of electric motor used within the multi-tool. The brushed type makes use of small carbon brushes that facilitate the electrical connection to the moving parts of an electric motor. Brushless motor designs, in contrast, do away with these brushes giving multi-tools that use brushless electric motors several advantages over brushed ones. These include:
Clearly, cordless, brushless multi-tools are going to be superior overall to equivalent brushed machines. As a result, a brushless multi-tool should always be the preferred option, as long as its higher cost does not break the bank.
It probably goes without saying that the greater the power of the electric motor, the greater the capabilities of the multi-tool in doing its various cutting, sanding or other tasks. Once again, mains-powered tools are generally higher-power than their battery-powered equivalents.
Blade/Accessory Interface System
In general, there are two types of accessory interface mechanisms in today’s crop of multi-cutters. These include the hex key-based mechanism where a separate hex key (Allen wrench) is required to unscrew the retaining bolt holding the accessory or blade, and a tool-free design which is usually facilitated by an integral lever on the multi-tool itself. Obviously, the preferred option is the tool-free mechanism as it makes the changing of the multi-tool blade or accessory a quick and painless process. Unfortunately, however, tool-free designs of oscillating multi-tool are more often found on the brand-named power tools such as those from Fein or DeWalt which tend to be more expensive than their less well-known or budget counterparts.
Oscillations Per Minute (OPM) and Variable Speed
Being able to vary the speed of oscillation makes the multi-tool yet more versatile. This is because some work, such as more delicate detail or profile sanding, requires slower oscillation speeds to give better control to the operator and to get better end results. Cutting jobs, on the other hand, generally perform better when the oscillation speed is higher.
Angle of Oscillation
This refers to the degree to which the blade or accessory travels from side to side relative to a fixed point during the oscillation cycle. Here, the higher the angle, the faster the actual cutting or sanding that the multi-tool can perform.
Perhaps an obvious one! In general, one wants the lightest possible oscillating multi-tool that fits one's requirements as it makes using it less tiring on the arms especially when holding it for long periods. Weight is particularly important, when using the multi-tool above shoulder-height or within confined spaces.
As with most power tools, the multi-cutter is a relatively large and heavy-weight affair, making the transporting of it a more delicate process. As a consequence, a carry case is always recommended for any oscillating multi-tool to protect it from damage during transportation and when not in use. A well-designed case will also have ample space to accommodate some of the many different blades and accessories that the multi-tool can use.
Dust Extraction Adapter
Since one of the functions of the oscillating multi-tool is the sanding or levelling of surfaces, which is often a messy business due to the amount of dust released into the immediate environment, many oscillating multi-tools have the ability to attach a vacuum system to them to help remove some of the unwanted debris. This usually takes the form of a long external adaptor that attaches to the outside of the multi-tool, often interfacing directly with the multi-tool sanding accessory itself. This is yet another important aspect of a multi-tool to watch out for to ensure that it is part of the package or, at the very least, an optional accessory, as it can be highly effective if lots of dust and debris are expected.
Blade / Accessory Compatibility
The attachment mechanism for the blade or accessory on the oscillating multi-tool can be different for different companies (see below) which can mean that accessories from one multi-tool manufacturer will not fit a multi-tool produced by another company. Therefore, it would seem that this would be a important criteria on which to base one’s multi-tool choice, however, some of today’s multi-tool manufacturers and after-market accessory manufacturers have managed to create interface designs that allow their accessories to fit a wide range of brands. In addition, for any oscillating multi-tools that are still incompatible with these accessories, there is usually an adapter available that will make them fit. As a consequence, making sure that your multi-tool of choice is compatible with accessories and blades that are readily available and which do not lock one into a particular tool manufacturer and their usually more expensive branded accessories no longer holds as much importance as it once did. For more detailed information on the types of accessory attachment interfaces, as well as the different types of multi-tool accessories that available, see later sections on this page.
Oscillating multi-tool interface types
Multi-tool blades and accessories can come with different attachment interface formats specialised for different brands of multi-tool. The common ones are shown below:
Oscillating Tool Interface System (OIS)
Blade and accessory types
There are an assortment of different types of oscillating multi-tool blades and accessories, each best used for a specific type of job. Some of the more common ones are described below:
High-Strength Steel (HSS) Blade: this is primarily used to cut wood, however it is more susceptible to being damaged if it hits metal (eg. hidden nails).
Bi-Metal Blade: this multi-tool blade is used for wood and metal cutting. This is particularly useful if old wood is being recycled as any hidden nails remaining in the old wood will not damage the blade and will be cut through easily.
Scraper Blade: this is used for removing adhesives and other coatings from a flat surface. It can also be used to remove old silicone sealant from bathroom or kitchen tiles.
Carbide Segment Saw Blade: the edge of this blade can be used for removing grout from in-between tiles. It also can be used to cut through softer masonry such as plaster and porous concrete. This is a more economical version of the Diamond-Coated Saw blade (see next).
Diamond-Coated Segment Saw Blade: the edge of this blade is used for cutting harder masonry such as marble and cement.
Carbide Rasp: this blade is used to remove and level down old tile adhesive and other masonry.
Sanding Pad: This accessory is used for sanding. Sand paper is attached to this pad using hook-and-loop fastening.
Popular CORDED oscillating multi-tools in the UK
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OPM : Oscillations Per Minute
Popular CORDLESS oscillating multi-tools in the UK
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OPM Oscillations Per Minute
** weight includes battery pack(s)
Oscillating Multi-tool Reviews
DeWalt DWE315KT Review
The DWE315KT from DeWalt is another candidate to consider when shopping around for an oscillating multi-tool. With its reasonably-powered 300W electric motor and trigger-controllable oscillation speed of up to 22,000 opm, the machine is a basic tool built with DeWalt-level quality and versatility in operation.
Like most premium-brand multi-tools, the DWE315KT sports a tool-free blade-changing mechanism. DeWalt’s version of the tool-free mechanism represents one of the most efficient designs amongst the various brands of oscillating multi-tools. The mechanism is operated simply by squeezing the accessory clamp lever located just below the blade attachment interface to quickly release whatever accessory is on the machine or to put a new one on. Like other multi-tools, the blade or accessory can be rotated and set to multiple angles around the oscillating spindle allowing the tool to be held and used in its most comfortable position no matter the awkwardness of the job.
The machine is easily switched on (and kept on) via the depression of a large power button located on the underside of the tool precisely where a user’s fingers would naturally grip the device. In addition, the DWE315KT also has a lock-on switch to allow for the permanent switching on of the multi-tool without the user needing to keep the power switch depressed. As with the ability to set the blade at multiple angles, this lock-on feature is similarly useful for changing the multi-tool’s angle of attack to its most optimal.
Other useful features on the DeWalt multi-tool include a power lead that is generous in length and an integrated LED light on the head of the machine that serves to brighten the work area when the trigger is pressed. The DWE315KT also comes with a dust collection adaptor that can be attached to the machine primarily when using the multi-tool for sanding. Unlike a lot of other oscillating multi-tools, the DeWalt machine also comes with a cut guide attachment that can aid in the accuracy of the cut as well as controlling its depth. This guide accessory is attached to the tool using one of the supplied hex tools.
The DWE315KT multi-tool also comes with a selection of DeWalt consumables including various types of cutting blades to suit a variety of cutting jobs, and a sanding platen together with an assortment of various grades of sandpaper. This complete package allows a new owner to get going straight away without having to go back to the marketplace for consumables so soon after the tool purchase. When it does come time to replace consumables, DeWalt-branded versions can be expensive, but fortunately, there are other less-expensive generic versions that are equally as good (if not better! - see below) and which are also compatible with the DeWalt tool. Importantly, the DeWalt machine also comes with an accessory adaptor that allows for the attachment of accessories that do not natively fit the DeWalt tool. However, it should be noted that when using this adaptor, the second of the supplied hex tools is needed to secure the accessory to the head of the multi-tool, defeating one of the major advantages of the DeWalt machine, its tool-less accessory-changing mechanism.
One accessory we always like to see when purchasing power tools is a storage and transport carry case to keep the tool protected when not in use. Fortunately, the DWE315KT comes with just such a good-quality plastic case with a secure locking mechanism. The case conforms to DeWalt’s TSTAK storage solution which allows it to be neatly stacked with other toolboxes from the TSTAK line, making the movement of multiple power tools and equipment at the same time easy to do.
Even with premium-branded tools, however, not everything is perfect all of the time. The more negative aspects of the DeWalt tool include the position of the power button which, as alluded to earlier, is located on the underside of the machine. Although ergonomically positioned for easy activation while holding the multi-tool, it can also make it susceptible to becoming inadvertently activated when putting the tool down. One also has to pay attention not to accidentally press the power switch when changing accessories, especially since some accessories may stick after prolonged or aggressive use. A recommended way to ensure against unintended activation is to unplug the multi-tool whenever changing an accessory. Unfortunately, this puts an extra burden on the user to repeatedly unplug and replug between accessory changes and not all users are going to be so disciplined, making the accessory-changing process potentially hazardous.
A second minor design oversight with the DWE315KT worth mentioning is the fact that the blades for the multi-tool are capable of being mounted backwards onto the spindle. This can lead to unwanted rubbing against the accessory clamp lever’s spring housing when the tool is activated. The spring housing, being made of plastic, has the potential to be partially damaged from this arrangement. This is not something most DIYers or professionals will fall foul of but inexperienced multi-tool users can be at risk of making such a novice mistake.
Other negatives with the DWE315KT multi-tool have more to do with its accessories rather than the machine itself. Surprisingly for a premium brand, the DeWalt sanding attachments and cutting blades are not as robust as one might expect from the premium power tool company. It has been reported that the sandpaper supplied comes off the sanding platen too easily. In addition, the sanding platen itself is liable to disintegration if users press the side of the platen against a surface while it is oscillating. Similarly, users have also found that the DeWalt blades that come as part of the DWE315KT package do not always last as long as some other less-expensive generic-brand versions.
Overall, the DWE315KT multi-tool is a robust and durable option for DIYers and professionals alike. It is a basic tool but with critical features such as the tool-free blade-changing mechanism and dust extraction. Price-wise, it is more expensive than less reputable brands, but when buying DeWalt tools, it tends to be worth the extra cost as their tools usually last for many years.
Worx WX680 F30 Review
The Worx WX680 F30 multi-tool is a reliable multifunctional power tool that is well-made, affordable, and highly-rated. At 350W, it is one of the more powerful oscillating multi-cutters on the market. The build quality on the multi-tool is excellent with the machine feeling substantial in the hand. At the same time, the Worx WX680 F30 is comfortable to work with, helped by being on the lighter side, weighing in at only 1.3 kg.
Feature-wise, the Worx WX680 F30 is your basic multi-tool. It is not overly fancy but does have a reasonable amount of functionality. The Worx multi-tool does not include a dust extraction accessory, however, since most multi-tools require you to purchase this separately, it is perhaps not surprising. The tool does come with a good carry case, which one can use to safely store the multi-tool and its accessories during storage and transportation.
Like other multi-tools, one can use a variety of blades with the Worx tool, but these have to be purchased separately as the tool only comes with a couple of cutting accessories (one wood blade and one wood/metal blade) and a single sanding pad. You will almost certainly need to purchase extra blades to provide you with more cutting options. Indeed, we recommend purchasing multiple sizes and types of blades for the tool as the two that come in the package won’t go very far. This is especially true if care is not taken not to overheat the blades while using them as this will dull them even quicker.
The description for the Worx multi-tool states that it comes with ‘29 accessories’, however, included in the count are 26 sheets of sandpaper, each of which is counted an individual ‘accessory’. In our opinion, this is a bit disingenuous, as most people would not consider such a disposable item to be an accessory. A more acceptable description would have been to clarify that to tool comes with ‘3 accessories and 26 sheets of sandpaper’. However, despite the misleading description, this tool is still good value for the money.
In an excellent design decision by the company, Worx have constructed their multi-tools with a universal fitment, which means they can make use of a variety of different brands of blades and accessories without the need for an adaptor. However, not ALL brands are compatible, so it is essential to check before purchasing.
The blades and other accessories are easy to change on the Worx WX680 F30 as the tool employs a tool-less blade-change mechanism operated by a lever on the back of the machine. One thing to be aware of, though, is that the vibration generated from using the tool, especially when cutting through metal, can cause this lever to work loose. Fortunately, the attached accessory itself usually remains firmly fixed, and the errant movement of the lever represents more of an annoyance than anything else.
In addition, although the tool accessory-change mechanism itself is made of metal, the tool change lever is made from less durable plastic. Consequently, one needs to treat the lever with care, especially since the high-stress nature of its function makes it more susceptible to breakage.
Worx WX680 F30 vs WX681 F50
The Worx WX680 F30 also has an almost identical multi-tool sibling, the Worx WX681 F50. These tools clearly derive from the same production line, and their function is virtually identical. However, there are a couple of differences between the two machines to be aware of, especially if you are trying to decide on which model to buy. These differences are as follows:
- 1The WX681 F50 is even more powerful, operating at 450W, while the WX680 F30 runs at 350W.
- 2The WX681 F50 has two LED lights, located on each side of the head of the tool, which act to light up the area being worked on, while the WX680 F30 model is designed without any integral lighting.
Overall, the Worx WX680 F30 multi-tool is your standard no-frills multi-tool that is a simple yet reliable machine. Its biggest negative is that it does not come with many blades, and its description is unnecessarily misleading. However, the good news is that most accessory fittings, irrespective of brand, will connect with the tool’s fitment, making it an excellent option for the DIYer that is well worth checking out.