The Best Oscillating Tool — Buyer’s Guide, Review, and Comparison

As the mighty masters of multifunction — oscillating tool units are crucial for the dedicated DIYer and committed contractor. Handheld, these machines offer a plethora of functions from sanding and cutting through to de-grouting and planing — permitted through a cornucopia of attachment heads. Able to access areas other power tools cannot reach, eliminating kickback, and permitting flush and plunge cutting — they can address timber, metal, acrylic, and plastic. And, available in mains-driven and battery-powered models and designed for both casual home-users through to trade-pros — there’s a machine for every budget and project demand.

Oscillating Vibrating Cutting Tool Categories

Corded oscillating multitools

Corded Electric Multitool

Offering an abundance of applications from a single handheld unit, the corded oscillating multitool can sand, cut, grind, and trim through a choice of head attachments. With greater power consistency and higher grunt than battery-driven machines, they are the ultimate versatile tool for casual home-improvers, serious DIYers, and trade professionals.

N
Lighter than cordless units.
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No drained battery or recharging headaches.
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Greater brawn than lithium-cell machines.
Cordless-multitools

Cordless Multi Tool

The cordless oscillating multi tool is the pinnacle of portable DIY and trade tools. Driven by a lithium-ion cell, it’s compatible with a veritable plethora of accessories — allowing you to cut, polish, buff, sand, and chip from one single machine. Usable on plastics, acrylics, timbers, and metals — it’s the tool every serious home-improver should have in their toolbox arsenal.

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Portable.
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Removes the hassle of mains leads and extension cables.
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Long battery life from a single charge.

Oscillating Multi Tool Top Picks In Each Category

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Power: 4.0 amp
  • Voltage: 120 volts
  • Speed: 8000 - 20000 OPM
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds

Features

  • Reinforced metal gearing.
  • Tool-free accessory exchange.
  • In-built LED lamp.

Product Rating: 4.9/5

Check Price at Amazon Bosch GOP40-30B Review Bosch GOP40-30B Review
  • Voltage: 20 volts
  • Speed: 0-13000, 17000, 20000 OPM
  • Size: 11.2 x 5.25 x 2.75 inches
  • Weight: 2.33 pounds

Features

  • Three-speed selector.
  • Dual-grip.
  • Quick-change accessory system.

Product Rating: 4.8/5

Check Price at Amazon DeWalt DCS356B Review DeWalt DCS356B Review

The Best Oscillating Tool – Buyers Guide

Like an extreme Swiss Army Knife, an oscillating tool can tackle a superabundance of DIY and trade projects with the assistance of electrical power.

Available in both battery-fuelled and mains lead-driven formats, these versatile units can fulfill a plethora of functions — from sanding and sawing through to grinding and shearing. Whether you’re trimming baseboards, shaping drywall, fitting doors, or recessing sockets — all you need is one, single oscillating multi function tool.

Incorporating a hex-key nut or tool-free system, you simply exchange the head accessory depending on your current project and the demands of your target material. However, while all units share a similar oscillating motion and choice of tool attachments — these machines vary in brawn, speed range, intensity control, and weight.

Consider this article your multitool bible — revealing the secrets behind the machines, and empowering you to select the best oscillating tool to suit your usage frequency, ability, common projects, and budget.

When selecting your ultimate unit, think about:

  • Corded or cordless model.
  • OPM — Oscillations Per Minute.
  • Variable speed range.
  • Speed control mechanism.
  • Tool-free or hex-key accessory exchange.
  • Number and type of included attachments.
  • Brushed or brushless motor.

The Two Formats of Oscillating Vibrating Cutting Tool Units


As mentioned above in this oscillating multifunction power tool article, these flexible machines arrive in two types — corded and cordless. Your ultimate unit depends on your personal preferences and the nature of your DIY or trade jobs.

Corded Multi Cutting Tool


The original format, which remains a favorite with many oscillating aficionados.

While in the drilling arena, the popularity of battery-powered models has overtaken that of their mains lead counterparts — with multitools, the corded oscillator is still the most common system.

This is perhaps due to their ability to provide continuous and unwavering power without having the headaches of recharging batteries or switching cells. As many multitool projects deal with high torque demands and heavy loads, such as sawing hardwoods and slicing metals, this can rapidly drain lithium units — a nightmare on time-lengthy jobs.

And, in addition to this reliable power input — they typically offer greater grunt than their cordless siblings. With 120 volts of power compared to around 20 volts in battery models, it permits a higher amperage motor to drive the oscillating head.

Pros of Corded Oscillating Multi Tool Kit Systems
  • Typically easier on the wallet than cordless models.
  • The original format.
  • Continuous power with no battery drain.
  • Commonly brawnier than cell-driven machines.
  • Longer lifespan than cordless — a typical battery lifespan is three years.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Usable straight from the box — cordless often need an additional cell and charger purchase.
Cons of Corded Oscillating Vibrating Tool Units
  • Reduced portability.
  • Inability to operate in the field without a generator.
  • Requires a suitably amp-rated extension cord.
  • Hassle of restrictive, project-hampering, snake-like mains lead.

Cordless Multi Purpose Oscillating Tool


If your DIY or trade projects take you into areas with minimal or no access to power outlets — the best oscillating multi tool for you is a cordless model.

Driven by an 18-20-volt battery, these units allow you to ditch the mains lead — permitting the ultimate in portability. Utilizing modern lithium-ion cell technology, these machines offer greater running times and battery longevity than their original nickel-cadmium incarnations.

Without a cord, you can maneuver effortlessly around your target material without the risk of snagging, tripping or lead strangulation.

Sure, they generally have slightly less brawn than their corded brethren and require you to remember to charge the battery pack before use. However, for many users, the ability to easily squeeze into confined areas such as beneath floorboards and between drywall slats may make them more appealing than mains-powered models.

Pros of Cordless Oscillating Multi Tool Set
  • No restricting mains lead.
  • Long-lasting battery.
  • Elevated portability.
  • Eliminates extension lead concerns.
    Portable.

  • Ideal for work away from power outlets.
Cons of Cordless Multitools
  • Restricted operating time.
  • Long projects demand a bank of cells.
  • Limited life of lithium cells.
  • Often arrive without battery and charger — necessitating additional purchases.

What Is a Multitool and How Does It Work?


The first oscillating tool was created by German tool specialists Fein in 1967. This pioneering unit was designed for hospital use to remove plaster casts without slicing through the patient’s arms or legs. I can only assume that before that they utilized a hacksaw, which resulted in some unpleasant and gory accidents.

Originally, the oscillator was supplied only with interchangeable cutting heads — as I guess there was little point polishing, sanding, or de-grouting the plaster. However, the entrepreneurial Fein big-wigs saw a market for this novel machine in DIY and trade markets — and hence began to retail the world’s first consumer-targeted multitool.

Over the years, the attachment range expanded, allowing users to sand, cut, grind, shear, trim, slice, hone, polish, and etch — in fact, anything you can do with a vibrational motion.

The novel aspect of these units is the movement of the tool head. Instead of rotation typical of drills, and reciprocation common in saws, these machines incorporate an oscillation motion — in layman’s terms, vibration. If you’re a mechanical nut — calling you a nerd would be cruel — here’s the thrilling science.

I know what’s on your mind. You already have a powered saw, die-grinder, or sander — why the heck would you need a tool that does exactly the same job. The reasons, my young multitool padawan, are fourfold.

No Kickback


Boasting a tight oscillating angle — the risk of kickback concomitant to rotary and reciprocal machines is virtually eliminated. This all-too-common hazard can damage your tool and induce physical injury — if you’ve ever tried cutting wet timber with a chainsaw, you’ll have the scars to prove it.

Permits Flush Cutting


Ever hung a door? It isn’t straightforward. The most challenging issue is trying to have the base virtually touching your tiles or boards — which are notoriously uneven. To solve the predicament, you typically have to remove the door entirely, address it with a circular saw, and re-hang. And then repeat. And repeat again until it either fits, or you’ve removed so much material a small child could creep beneath it.

The flat, long, and narrow angle of oscillating saw attachment blades allow you to shape the door — or baseboards, laminates, etc. — through flush cutting while still in situ.

Accesses Confined Spaces


Sticking with the door-hanging example, let’s assume that as an anally-retentive DIYer or trade contractor — you’re seeking the ultimate fit. All you need is a sliver or two of timber to be removed — meaning a little sanding is required.

There’s no way you’re going to slide your belt or orbital sander beneath the door — meaning you’ll need to remove it again. However, a simple flat and long sanding attachment on your multitool can slide underneath, permitting you to shave off a sixteenth-of-an-inch while the door is still in place.

It Does the Job of a Plethora of Machines


The clue is in the name — it’s a darn multitool. Instead of cluttering your garage or workshop with 1001 power tools that only get put to use once a year, opt for a machine that can fulfill all their functions — saving you both space and money.

Uses for an Oscillating Multitool

Considered by DIY experts and trade-pros as the ultimate all-rounder — these units are invaluable for anyone who constructs, demolishes, fixes, hones, and crafts. The uses for an oscillating multitool are virtually endless, although they’re most commonly utilized for:

  • Making old nails and screws flush.
  • Hanging doors.
  • Fitting baseboards.
  • Laying flooring.
  • Creating socket recesses.
  • Forming basin spaces.
  • Cutting pipes.
  • Removing rust.
  • Polishing.
  • Eliminating old and tired grout.
  • Removing aged adhesive.
  • Chipping mortar.
  • Chopping model kit sprues.
  • Satisfying your wife — theoretically, if they made a suitable attachment.

How to Choose the Best Multitool Oscillating Machine

With seemingly every power tool manufacturer you’ve ever heard of — and those you haven’t — fighting for a slice of the vast multitool cake, the market is awash with oscillators with different features. Hence, selecting the optimal unit for your particular requirements is challenging to say the least.

So, to assist you on your journey, here are the key factors to ponder before making a multitool purchase:

Corded or Cordless

Definitely, the initial choice to make — as it will reduce the number of tools available by around 50 percent. I’ve detailed above at length the differences and how they apply to your projects. But in brief, corded units are brawnier, lighter, and cheaper — while cordless are more portable and with greater freedom of operation.

OPM — Oscillations Per Minute

If you own a heat gun, you considered the temperature output before purchase. When you bought a drill, you looked at the RPM prior to committing. And, when selecting your multitool, you need to check out the Oscillations Per Minute (OPM). This specification indicates how often the tool head vibrates every sixty seconds — the greater the OPM, the more rapidly you will complete your projects.

Furthermore, if you’re a serious DIYer or pro-user, explore whether the multitool features consistent output circuitry — as exemplified by the Makita TM3010CX1. This ensures that whatever load and pressure you apply to the machine, the vibrating rapidity remains constant — guaranteeing swift project completion and a more uniform finish.

Variable Speed and Range

Some machines, such as the budget Genesis GMT15A have just a single output speed — while most serious DIY and pro-grade tools such as the corded Black+Decker BD200MTB and cordless Makita MT01Z boast variable velocities — typically around 8000 – 20000 OPM.

Being able to switch between differing rapidities allows you to tailor the unit to suit both the demands of your project and base material — most typically, a slower rate for dense mediums and a faster output for softer woods and drywalling.

Additionally, check out the number of speed settings — the more choices you have, the greater the flexibility of the machine. Most units have four or five preset levels, while some units — for example, the DeWalt DWE315K — have an almost infinite number of settings controlled by a throttle trigger.

Accessory Exchange Mechanism

Lower-end units, like the Galax Pro 22000, often utilize a hex-key and nut mechanism to remove and replace tool accessories. Higher specced machines, for example, the battery-powered DeWalt DCS356B and mains-lead driven Porter-Cable PCE605K — feature a tool-free exchange mechanism.

The advantage of the latter is the speed of attachment switching, and the removal of the headache of lost hex keys.

Included Accessories

The greater the number of attachments included with your oscillating tool, the more projects you can address immediately after unboxing — without having to make additional purchases.

At the very least, look for units that arrive with a wood blade, metal blade, and sanding head — plus a few sandpaper sheets. A particularly favorable inclusion is a universal adapter, which permits you to utilize third-party accessories — not just those made by your tool brand.

Furthermore, if transportation and storage are important, consider multitools that arrive with a carry case, like the Bosch GOP40-30B and Makita TM3010CX1. And, if you’re opting for a cordless model — ensure that the unit comes with a cell and charger.

Brushed or Brushless Multi Tool

The internal motor of every oscillator — whether corded or cordless — will be either brushless or brushed. If you want an in-depth comparison of these two powerhouse systems — take a look at my Brushed Vs Brushless Motor Face-Off.

Generally speaking, the key distinction is efficiency — the brushless format loses less energy via friction and heat than the brushed models. While not so much of a concern with corded machines, in cordless it’s crucial — as energy wastage can have a dramatic effect on battery drain.

Hence, where possible, and if your budget allows, opt for a high-efficiency brushless multi-tool — like the DeWalt DCS356B.

MultiTool Oscillating Safety

With straightforward operation — even for newbies — oscillating tools are relatively safe when compared to say chainsaws and rotary hammer drills. However, as with all powered DIY and trade equipment, care and precautions need to be taken to guard against mishaps.

Here are my ten top tips for the safe and enjoyable use of your multitool:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wear a dust mask, gloves, and goggles.
  • Ensure the ventilation slits are clean and free from dust.
  • Disconnect the battery or unplug when exchanging accessory heads.
  • Check the tool attachment is secure before commencing use.
  • Don’t touch a recently used blade or saw with your fingers — it will be hot.
  • Where possible, operate the multitool with two hands.
  • Set the correct speed to suit your target material.
  • Never use damaged or bent tool accessories.
  • Don’t point your mighty tool at your wife, neighbor, or kids.

Conclusion


Oscillating machines are as crucial to the DIYer and trade-contractor as a hammer and screwdriver.

Combining the function of a plethora of power tools, these remarkably versatile units permit you to cut, sand, shear, trim, polish, and de-grout — simply by exchanging the head accessory.

Initially, decide between a corded or cordless multitool model, then, consider the features — OPM output, speed range, the number and type of accessories, and a brushed or brushless motor.

Sure, you can fill your garage with 101 project-specific power tools that rarely see the light of day. But personally, I’d suggest making your home improvement or professional life easier by opting for an oscillating tool.

Oscillating Multitool FAQs

Q: What Is the Best Oscillating Multitool?

In my opinion, the ultimate cordless multitool is the DeWalt DCS356B, while the optimum corded multitool is the Bosch GOP40-30B.

Q: Are Oscillating Multi Tool Blades Compatible Across Brands?

The majority of high-quality multitools arrive with a universal adaptor that permits you to utilize accessories from third-party manufacturers on your particular unit. However, there are exceptions — Fein and Bosch machines can only accept Starlock System cutters and heads.

Q: Are Vibrating Saw Blades Expensive?

No. Typically arriving in multipacks and including cutters designed to address diverse materials such as metal and wood — multitool saw blades typically cost less than $1 per unit.

Q: Can You Sharpen Oscillating Tool Blades?

Not really. Due to their small size and thin design that permits them to access hard-to-reach areas — it’s virtually impossible to sharpen a multitool cutter once they become blunt and worn. However, as new replacement blades can be picked up for a few cents, they are virtually disposable.

Q: Why Is My Oscillating Cutter Noisy?

Generally, an unusually loud oscillating multitool is due to:

  • Incorrectly fitted attachment.
  • Using an accessory that’s not compatible with your machine.
  • Lack of lubrication in the gears.

    However, some budget models are inherently noisy — due to their lack of soundproofing. Look for machines like the Makita MT01Z that boast sound reduction systems.

Q: Will My Vibrating Cutter Slice Through Masonry?

No. While oscillating multitools can address a plethora of materials such as metal, wood, and plastics — they will struggle with concrete and cement, although you can chip away small areas of mortar.

Instead, opt for a circular saw that’s designed for use on masonry.

Q: Can I Drill Holes In Wood With an Oscillating Multitool?

No. Although multitools are considered the masters of versatility, the one function they cannot fulfill is drilling holes — whether in wood, metal, or plastic.

The reason is, drilling requires a rotary action of the tool head — whereas multitools incorporate an oscillating motion. If you need to make holes, check out my top picks of the best drills.