WHY USE AN OSCILLATING TOOL?
Oscillating tools come into their own for a wide range of applications. Here are just a few of the types of work where they come fully to the fore:
– Flush Cutting
– Plunge Cutting
If that looks like quite a list, that’s because OMTs are among the most versatile power tools on the market. Whether you’re a committed woodworker or a casual home DIY enthusiast, you’ll find the best oscillating tool so indispensable, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one.
Now you’ve got a solid overview of what these innovative tools are and how you might use one, a shotgun look at the main types of OMTs. While many power tools come in a welter of variants, there are just 2 categories to think about so which should you opt for?
CORDED OSCILLATING TOOLS
One of the key selling points of a corded oscillating tool is that there’s no need to be concerned with run-time or recharging… As long as you have a power outlet to hand, you can run your OMT all day long.
In general, corded oscillating tools will pack more of a punch when it comes to power and overall performance.
The clear drawback of any corded power tool is being restricted by the length of the cable. Oscillating tools are no exception. Some manufacturers take this simple limitation into account and offer a generous length of cord while others cut it inexcusably short. If you’re opting for a corded model, make damn sure it offers you adequate room for maneuver. You can obviously use an extension cord to mitigate this to some extent.
CORDLESS OSCILLATING TOOLS
Convenience in terms of freedom of movement is the driving reason for most people choosing a cordless oscillating tool. If you place a premium on absolute portability and a full range of motion, a cordless OMT is the smart solution.
Many of the issues with cordless tools have been overcome since the advent of lithium-ion battery technology. That said, you’ll still find that after a few years, your tool will stop taking a charge. New batteries can be ruinously expensive so factor this into the equation and don’t expect a cordless power tool to have a limitless lifespan.
Run-time is something else you’ll need to think about if you go cordless. Consider the scope of work you’ll undertake and decide whether you’ll get enough juice in one session to accomplish what you need to. Also, think about the downtime when you’re charging up. These issues may not be problematic depending on your intended usage.
The significant downside of a cordless oscillating tool is a drop in available power compared to a similar corded model. Again, think carefully about your requirements and decide for yourself if this will be troublesome or a non-issue.
Who Needs Oscillating Tools?
It would probably be easier to ask “Who doesn’t need an oscillating tool” since they step in to take care of such an all-encompassing variety of projects.
Oscillating tools are a prized possession at home, in the workshop or out on the job site.
Anyone with any interest in woodworking, remodeling, restoration or repair will find a use for one of these multi-tasking workhorses. To look at, they don’t seem like much and you might be scratching your head wondering if you really need one. Once you’ve invested in the best OMT, you’ll be asking yourself how you ever managed without one.
While you can get individual power tools to accomplish each of the tasks performed by an oscillating tool, that really is the core reason to buy one rather than an excuse not to…
Which would you prefer?
Going out and buying 6 or 7 different expensive tools?
Investing in one portable, compact little unit that takes care of all of these needs by a simple swapping out of attachments?
Buying the best oscillating tool really is a no-brainer. It’s more appropriate to think of which particular OTM to buy. To that end, we’ll move on now to our oscillating tool buying guide to take all the sting out of your purchasing decision…
As with any power tool, price plays an important role but your decision should not be driven entirely by the bottom line. Think about overall value for money. Use the general benchmark that holds good for all power tools: buy the best tool for your specific requirements that you can comfortably afford. Accumulating a tool kit is a lifetime’s work so don’t rush in and compromise yourself.
It takes relatively little time or effort to sit down and familiarize yourself with the oscillating tools in general so you can make a more informed decision.
Read through plenty of comparisons and reviews so you can whittle down your options to a manageable shortlist. Any of the 5 OMTs above make a smart choice depending on your needs and budget.
Once you’ve got that nailed, probe into each of the models in serious contention for your hard-earned money. Pay particular attention to any reported downsides. A random negative comment here and there holds little weight. Many such reviews include unfounded and destructive criticism from a competitor or time-waster. If, however, you see a common theme consistently reported, noise or build quality for example, there’s rarely smoke without fire so take this into account.
Once you have all those general areas covered, it’s time to double down and think how your chosen oscillating tools acquit themselves in the following key areas…
What To Consider When Buying Oscillating Tools
Speed is undoubtedly one of the most crucial elements to ponder when you’re looking for the bets oscillating tool.
OMTs cut most effectively when they oscillate rapidly. You’ll enjoy a better rate of cutting whatever the material if your tool has the ability to ramp up the OPM rate to 20,000 or more.
The exception to faster being better, understandably, is when you’re engaged in precision work. To this end, looking for a variable speed oscillating tool gives you the best of both pace and accuracy.
The angle – how far the accessory can travel from side to side – also has a significant impact on overall performance. The greater the travel here, the more aggressive the cut and the quicker you’ll get the job done.
Power and speed are inextricably linked with oscillating tools. Although power is undeniably important, it doesn’t occupy quite the same position as raw speed.
For most normal applications, there’s not a chasm of difference between a 2-amp motor and a 3-amp alternative. The power only really has an impact if you’re really punishing your OMT, for example on a job site where you’re working throughout the day on often challenging projects.
Having said this, it doesn’t hurt to have plenty of power on tap so opt for the most potent oscillating tool you can easily afford. It’s better to have that power in reserve than to come up short when you need it and there’s nothing left to give.
- Ergonomics and Comfort
Any power tool you’ll use on an ongoing basis needs to be designed with comfort in mind.
All of the oscillating tools we reviewed offer a very user-friendly experience and they’re nicely balanced, intelligently designed tools.
Look for an OMT with a textured grip that won’t leave your hands blistered. Linked to the overall idea of comfort is the noise and vibration that will come your way…
- Noise and Vibration
As with power and speed, there’s a connection between noise and vibration, too. In this case, it’s more directly linked…
The more vibration your oscillating tool generates, the louder it will be. More vibration and noise tend to be by-products of powerful OMTs.
The more technology advances, the more this vibration can be dampened down through engineering so there’s progress on this front but many oscillating tools still fall down in this area.
Vibration is more of an issue than noise if it’s excessive. You can wear ear defenders to shut out some of the whining but there’s not much you can do if your oscillating tool ends up hurting your hands and arms.
We can’t highlight enough the importance of choosing an oscillating tool that has a reputation for running without too much vibration. It can transform your operating experience so proceed with caution.
- Weight and Balance
With any handheld power tool, making sure it sits nicely in your hand is a prime consideration.
Don’t fixate purely on getting the very lightest OMT you can find. Although it will feel welcome at first, if too much vibration sets in, that will soon become troublesome in its own right.
Choose an oscillating tool that’s too heavy for your strength level and you’ll suffer fatigue.
As with many things in life, striking a happy medium is the best MO. Try to find a mid-weight OMT which has a balanced feel and you’ll be set to work all day.
- Accessories and Attachments
The attachments at your disposal fall into 5 broad categories:
Cutting: A range of cutting blades cater for work with softer materials while sawing blades are ideal for wood or metal
Sanding: A sanding pad is your best friend if you want to sand down some furniture. These come in many different materials
Scraping: If you want to get rid of old layers of paint or tile adhesive, you’ll want a scraping blade. These blades can be rigid or flexible
Polishing: A polishing pad is use after sanding when working with stone or stainless steel. These impart a professional finish without too much elbow grease required
Grout Removal: Carbide or diamond-edged blades help you to remove grout without a headache
As with all aspects of your buying decision, focus on what you want from your oscillating tool so you can choose one that best meshes with these needs.
- Type of Work
Equally critical is to be clear about the kind of work you’ll be doing with your oscillating tool.
Whether you’re building something, conducting repairs or buffing things up and restoring them to their former glory, your intended purpose will dictate the type of OMT you should buy. Be honest and use this information to help you whittle down the likely candidates.
Think about how much you can afford to spend and stick to it. Under no circumstances stretch yourself financially in order to get a pricier oscillating tool than you can easily afford.
In general, spending more means you’ll be plagued by less vibration and you’ll get a comfier OMT. Performance and scope of work is also likely to be enhanced.
The bottom line, though, is that you can also pick up some highly capable and extremely affordable oscillating tools. We’ve included some budget options in our reviews so there’s something for every pocket.
Don’t obsess over price and consider it as one element of your decision but by no means the most important one.
Usage and Maintenance Tips
Using an oscillating tool varies considerably depending on the application so we’ll give you a few handy hints to get you started…
- Straight Cuts: When making straight cuts, use a straight edge to guide you but keep your eye on the blade and make sure it doesn’t come into contact with your guide then veer wildly off course
- Round and Straight Blades: For plunge cuts, using straight blades works best. Longer cuts respond better to a round blade. Periodically wiggle the blade out to avoid burnout
- Trim Removal: If you pull the trim very slightly away from the wall, you can slip in your blade and cut quickly through using a metal-cutting blade for a neat finish with minimum effort
- Be Careful with Metal: If you don’t want to wreck the blades on your OMT intended for softer materials, use bimetal blades when you’re working with metal
- Be Creative: If you’re struggling to perform certain tasks – cutting pipes in a tight space, for example – break out your oscillating tool to save the day
As far as maintenance goes with oscillating tools, there’s really nothing much to worry about.
Take the usual precautions of ensuring your tool is kept as free of sawdust and debris as possible, make sure all blades are in good nick and your attachments stored away when not in use and your oscillating tool should give you many years of dedicated service.