The oscillating tool is dubbed the “jackknife of power tools” for its ability to handle all sorts of tasks. From cutting, scraping, and grinding to sawing and cutting, it delivers amazing results even when working in tight spaces.
Another similar tool is the rotary tool, but it is designed for more detailed work and is not often as necessary. This difference between oscillating and rotary tool tends to make the former more popular with carpenters, cabinet installers, tradespeople, and serious hobbyists. So, what else is there to know about this go-to piece of equipment for many a practical artist?
How Does It Work?
Unlike a high-speed rotary tool, an oscillating tool has a blade that vibrates over a narrow arc, which prevents dust from spraying all over. It’s a tool that becomes even more efficient when paired with the right accessory, allowing you to:
- Trim wood flooring and baseboards
- Plunge-cut wood flooring
- Clean grout
- Scrape away caulk or old glue
- Cut wood, metal, plastic, and fiberglass
- Grind tile adhesive
- Cut nails and bolts
Oscillating Tool Considerations
Not all oscillating tools are created equal, and picking out the right model tends to involve looking at the following features specifically:
When choosing between oscillating tools, the oscillating angle could be the deciding factor. Basically, it refers to the distance traveled by the blade as it vibrates. It usually measures between two and four degrees, with the higher angles offering more cutting power. Some tools also have shorter strokes, which provide better control and deliver a smoother finish.
Variable Speed Trigger
Another key feature to consider is the variable speed trigger, which allows for better control and a wide range of cutting speeds. That way, you get optimal cutting power regardless of the attachment and the material being cut. Its superior level of control also helps prevent burnt work surfaces and clogged and overloaded tools.
Tool-Free Blade Changing
Saving time is everybody’s goal, and tool-free blade changing can contribute to that immensely. You may find this feature especially helpful when tasks require the use of different types of attachments in sequence.
Ergonomic Grips and Trigger Locks
Even using an oscillating tool an entire afternoon can strain the muscles in your hands and forearms. You can help reduce this occurrence by picking out a model with a trigger lock and ergonomic grip. These fatigue-reducing features are especially essential for those using the device for working on long-term projects.
Corded or Cordless
Choosing between these two features can be more than a matter of convenience. It can also be a matter of cutting power. Corded models tend to pack more power than their cordless counterparts. As such, they should be the ideal choice for cutting harder and tougher materials.
On the other hand, cordless models should still cut through demanding materials. However, they may not cut through them as effortlessly. Plus, you do have the benefit of portability with them, which can matter more in some cases.
The accessories or blades you can use with an oscillating tool may depend on the specific model you’re using, the material you’re cutting, or both. Here are some examples:
Now, these should be staples in your DIY toolbox. They’re designed with wide and aggressive Japanese-style teeth that are great for flush-cutting door jambs and undercutting baseboards.
Make sure to attach them to a tool with more power, as a lower-powered instrument can make these accessories prone to breakage. Combined with the ideal tool, these blades should deliver smoother and more efficient finishes than those with smaller teeth. Go for narrower, straighter blades when aiming for plunge cuts.
Circular HSS Blades
These blades can cut through multiple angles from one position and are especially efficient at cutting plastic, metal, and fiberglass. That said, it’s important to note that their fine teeth can clog quickly when used at high power.
Despite requiring lower power-backing than wood-cutting blades, they are able to handle more demanding materials more easily, such as nail-embedded wood. Most standard wood-cutting blades would cave to that kind of toughness.
These come in a wide assortment of rigid and flexible widths. Rigid varieties are ideal for peeling off dried glue, old gasket material, and old carpets. In comparison, flexible scrapers are more suited for paint removal tasks. There are also hook scrapers, which are effective at cleaning deep and narrow crevices.
The blade of choice for grinding tile adhesive and rough wood, the grinder blade is as tough as they come and built like a thin-set mortar.
The Oscillating Tool for You
There are oscillating tools that suit every budget. Since you can use them for a ton of things, the key to choosing the right one could be to find out what you’d be using it for and how often.
Even if you initially needed the device for a single task, it should be easy to find more ways to use it once it’s inside your toolbox. Use our list of oscillating tool features and accessories to help make your decision easier!