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Because of the popularity of the Dremel rotary tool, most people perceive the Dremel brand as a bastion of the arts-and-crafts set rather than of home improvement and fix-it-yourself enthusiasts. While their tools were ideal for carving and model making, their utility didn’t extend to bigger jobs. Well, someone let loose some very creative tool designers at the Dremel factory, and the results have added utility and versatility to a whole array of multipurpose tools. These new offerings range from models that resemble mini-circular, scroll, and saber saws to updates to the company’s iconic rotary tool.
Recently, I had an opportunity to put the Dremel MM20 Multi-Max oscillating power tool (available at The Home Depot) through its paces. While it doesn’t quite fit any of the traditional tool categories, it perfectly fits the Dremel brand of tools because it does so many things: it saws, scrapes, sands, slices, and more.
The fact that the tool is corded appeals to me because it keeps the tool weight low and eliminates frequent battery changing and charging for a tool that’s likely to be used continuously for long stretches. (Cordless models are, however, available.)
Attaching the accessories is easy too. Just remove the clamping screw with the supplied Allen wrench, position the accessory over the 10 lock pins at the desired angle, replace the clamping screw, and tighten. There is no shake, rattle, or roll with this system.
The on-off switch and speed adjustment are easily accessed, even as you are working. And you can buy an assist handle accessory that makes two-handed operation a little more comfortable.
The Dremel Multi-Max MM20 basic kit comes with several starter accessories, including a scraper, two blades, a triangular sanding pad, and a supply of various grit sanding sheets. Other accessories, such as the grout removal tool for regrouting tile, a knife tool for slicing through old carpeting, and the Multi-Flex attachment for scrolling and coping cuts, must be purchased separately.
My window sash repair project allowed me to try out several accessories. The first thing I learned is that it’s best to use a light touch and to let the OPMs (oscillations per minute) do the work. Most jobs are best done at high settings of 16,000 to 21,000 OPMs. Materials susceptible to chipping, such as laminates, are better cut at lower settings.
For a tool with a powerful 2.3 amp motor, control is exceptionally easy. Oscillating tools perform various functions using the back and forth movement of the accessory, not continuous movement in one direction, as do rotary tools. Unlike a circular saw, for example, there is no torque—nothing to make the tool jump in your hand. Furthermore, the “travel,” or the distance the tools move back and forth, is very limited with the Dremel Multi-Max, further reducing vibration. The blade accessories are unlikely to jam, even in tight quarters, as is common with a reciprocating saw.
The scraper accessory was able to remove multiple layers of old paint. (It also came in handy for removing vinyl tiles and stuck carpet padding.) It was less effective at handling paint that was already blistered; an old-fashioned hand scraper works more quickly. The flexible scraper also made fast work of removing dried glazing compound from around the broken windowpane.
The sanding accessory, while obviously not suited to large areas, was perfect for this project, allowing me to get into rails easily. (I only wish I had owned a Dremel Multi-Max when I recently sanded the wood floor in my hallway. My conventional palm sander couldn’t handle inside corners, around thresholds, or flooring at the base of doorjambs. I had to resort to tedious hand sanding for that.) The sander was also handy for feathering layers of old paint on the window sash to prep it for refinishing.
The Dremel Multi-Max will not replace any of your portable power saws or even your hand tools. You’ll still want a circular saw, saber saw, and a set of scrapers, chisels, handsaws, etc. The Multi-Max will, however, add to your problem-solving arsenal. It’s a tool that gives you the ability to handle the finishing touches on big jobs and to get you out of difficult jams on the small ones (among them: cutting back baseboard moldings; cutting drywall for installing electrical boxes and recessed light fixtures; removing caulk, grout, and glazing compounds; cutting copper and plastic piping; and removing carpet). It’s especially effective when making cuts in confined areas where a plunge cut or flush cut is your only option.
This post has been brought to you by The Home Depot. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.