When it comes to popular power tools, the oscillating tool is the new kid on the block. While oscillating tool technology has been around since the 1960s, the tool’s popularity in construction didn’t take off until German power tool manufacturer Fein’s patent expired in 2009 and other toolmakers quickly entered the market. These handy tools can help you with woodworking projects and renovations. The best oscillating tools can cut materials like metal, wood, and drywall. They can even sand and file with the right attachment. Unique among powered cutting tools, they can fit in tight and awkward spaces to tackle jobs other power tools can’t do.
An oscillating tool uses blades and attachments suited for almost every type of home improvement project. There are blades that are specific for cutting wood, and blades for cutting metal, and even blades that can cut both wood and metal. As well, blades are available to cut insulation, caulk, and fiberglass. Attachments available include ones for sanding, scraping, removing grout, and filing. The tool vibrates the blades from side to side in an arc, digging the blade into material or moving the sandpaper across the surface.
These tools are great for DIYers and professionals. Keep reading to learn more about the features of these tools and how to choose the best oscillating tool for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Bosch Power Tools Oscillating Saw GOP40-30C
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BLACK+DECKER Oscillating Multi-Tool BD200MTB
- BEST FOR CUTTING METAL: DEWALT Oscillating Tool Kit DWE315K
- BEST FOR CUTTING: Dremel MM50-01 Multi-Max Oscillating DIY Tool Kit
- BEST FOR SANDING:Rockwell RK5142K Sonicrafter F50 Multi-Tool
- BEST CORDLESS: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit DCS356D1
- BEST KIT: PORTER-CABLE Oscillating Tool Kit PCE605K52
Since oscillating tools are relatively new compared to circular saws and power drills, you may not be aware of everything they can do. This section will point out some of the key considerations that you should keep in mind when shopping for the best oscillating tool.
Corded vs. Cordless
When oscillating tools first hit the market, they were corded. Recent advances in lithium-ion battery technology, however, have allowed manufacturers to offer comparable battery-powered options. Today, you can get both corded and cordless options, and each type has its perks.
- A corded oscillating tool is the way to go for someone who uses their oscillating tool frequently and for long durations, like during woodworking and sanding. Corded power tools work as long as there is electricity available. You can set up an extension cord and leave the tool plugged in, keeping it available anytime you need it. This eliminates having to wait for a battery to charge.
- Cordless oscillating tools are well-suited for a construction site or during a renovation where cords can be a tripping hazard when using it in many different locations around the site. They’re now powerful enough to tackle many jobs that corded models can, and the added portability can be a plus on a big job site.
Power and Speed
Depending on your intended purpose, power might be a significant factor in choosing the best oscillating tool. This can include choosing between a power source (corded or cordless) or buying a tool with the amperage to tackle the job.
For heavy-duty projects like remodels or construction, you need a tool that offers the right amount of power to get the job done.
- When it comes to battery-powered oscillating tools, voltage determines power output. Tools that use 18 or 20 volt batteries are more than sufficient.
- For corded oscillating tools, the tool gets its voltage from the outlet, but there are other factors. While speed is ultimately a result of the motor’s power, the amperage rating indicates the tool’s robustness. The motor’s components are more heavy-duty with a higher amperage; this means that it can withstand intense working conditions longer without breaking down. Look for tools with 4 or 5 amps, which are better suited for tougher materials. However, light-duty projects don’t require as much power, so a 3-amp motor will be enough.
Keep in mind, however, that power isn’t as important as having the right blade on your tool and setting it to the proper speed. Cutting metal requires lower speeds than wood, so be sure to choose an oscillating tool with an adjustable speed range. Look for tools with oscillating speed ranges between 8,000 and 20,000 oscillations per minute for optimal usability in most home improvement projects.
Variable Speed Control
One feature is more important than most others when choosing the best oscillating tool: variable speed control. Simply put, variable speed control is a must-have for the proper use of your oscillating tool.
An oscillating tool with variable speed control allows you to use your blades for as long as possible and preserve your workpiece. Using a metal blade at a high speed will create far too much heat and friction. In most cases, this will quickly wear the blade out. Also, a blade intended for wood, passing through hardwoods like maple or oak at maximum speed can create too much heat, burning the wood and grinding the teeth off of the blade.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s that you should use your oscillating tool at the lowest speed possible to complete the job to avoid burning your workpiece or destroying your blades.
Just about every power tool company now offers an oscillating tool, and they each make branded blades. While the selection of tool brands makes tool pricing competitive and even more affordable (though the actual blades can be very expensive), it does make finding the right blade challenging. There are several different attachment styles to choose from, so finding the right one can be somewhat confusing.
If you’d prefer to avoid this issue, you can look for an oscillating tool that uses a universal system or adapter to accept most blade styles. This system can save you quite a bit of time and money when choosing a new blade, as you can shop for the appropriate accessory without worrying about brands or attachment methods.
Almost all oscillating tools provide increased ergonomics over other cutting tools. These handy tools are designed to work in tight spaces, allowing you to position the blade in a variety of angles. Their flexibility allows you to see what you’re doing and work comfortably. It’s one of the greatest benefits of an oscillating tool.
To adjust your blade to the angle you need, you need to loosen whatever mechanism holds your blade in place, reposition the blade to the desired angle, and tighten it back up. This means you can use your tool horizontally with the blade pointing straight ahead for cutting trim where it meets a new floor, or cutting vertically and one-handed through a cabinet with the blade at a right angle.
The ability to adjust the blade improves the tool’s ergonomics and makes it more comfortable to use. Since these tools are relatively lightweight compared to a circular saw or a reciprocating saw, you’ll be able to use them longer without feeling fatigued.
Noise and Vibration
Power tools make noise. Compared to other tools, oscillating tools have tiny motors and their blades have short strokes, so they tend to hum at lower speeds. At high speeds, however, they can be very loud. Also, the material you’re cutting and the blade you’re using has a lot to do with the noise that the tool produces, so it’s difficult to determine an expected decibel range. In general, a good rule of thumb is to use ear protection to safeguard your hearing.
Oscillating tools work by vibrating your blade or sanding attachment back and forth, so it’s understandable that some of those vibrations will make it back to your hand. However, too much vibration could make the saw difficult to use or lead to fatigue, so find a tool from a manufacturer that designs tools that minimize this vibration.
One interesting thing to know about oscillating tools is that they’re very safe, regardless of additional safety features. While not impossible to cut yourself, the saw’s small arc makes it very challenging to cut skin. Your skin’s elasticity (stretch) is greater than the saw’s amplitude (length of the stroke from side to side). This relationship means that an oscillating tool will simply vibrate the skin, as the stroke isn’t long enough to tear it. It makes no difference what blade-type or tooth-size you’re using. This makes accidentally touching a running blade startling but usually uneventful. However, it is possible to cut yourself with enough pressure.
Most oscillating tools are available in kits with accessories and attachments. They include several blades for wood, metal, and blades that can handle both. They usually have sanding pad attachments as well.
Tools that offer tool-less blade changes can be a real timesaver. These systems allow you to change your blade out without a hex key. They usually have a large knob that you can manipulate by hand or a lever to squeeze that releases your blade so you can replace it.
Other features you might appreciate could be built-in LEDs to light your workpiece while cutting, a depth guide for controlling your depth of cut, or a roller guide to help maintain a consistent cut across a long surface.
Our Top Picks
Now that you understand some of the key features to consider when choosing the best oscillating tool, you’re ready to start shopping. The following list includes some of the best oscillating tools on the market. You’ll find corded and battery-powered options, as well as those that come with kits full of accessories and blades.
If you’re looking for a quality oscillating tool, the GOP40-30C from Bosch Power Tools should be on your list. This oscillating tool has a 4-amp motor and an adjustable speed range between 8,000 and 20,000 oscillations per minute, allowing you to dial in the right speed for the task at hand. It has a no-touch, tool-less blade change system that snaps on the blade and provides more contact area between the tool and blade than other systems. This increased contact area promotes torque transfer from the machine through the blade and into the workpiece, cutting faster with less vibration.
The GOP40-30C comes with a carrying case and 32 accessories, including sandpaper, several blades, and a separate box for holding accessories. If you’re interested in dust collection, you can purchase a separate attachment (available here) to hook the GOP40-30C to your shop vac.
If a light-duty oscillating tool is all you need for your projects, the BD200MTB from BLACK+DECKER might work for you. This corded oscillating tool has a 2.5-amp motor and six adjustable speeds between 10,000 and 20,000 oscillations per minute. It comes with a wood/metal blade, as well as a sanding attachment, several sheets of sandpaper, and a carrying case. It also comes with a universal accessory adapter, which will allow you to secure most blades and attachments to this tool.
While this isn’t a heavy-duty tool, it will work well in hobbyist workshops and for occasional use around the house.
Cutting hard materials like metal can take a while, so a corded oscillating tool with a low speed range offers the capability to see the job through. The DEWALT DWE315K is a dependable corded oscillating tool with a 3-amp motor. It has a wide speed range between zero and 22,000 oscillations per minute, allowing you to choose the exact low-range speed you need for cutting materials like iron, steel, and stainless. It also can zip through softwood quickly and easily at a high speed.
The DWE315K has a built-in LED light and a tool-less blade-change system that you can operate with your index finger. It comes with a 29-piece accessory pack, which includes sandpaper and a rolling-depth gauge, as well as a carrying bag and an accessory box.
When you’ve got a large project that requires several cuts, the Dremel MM50-01 oscillating tool could be the tool for the job. This corded oscillating tool has a 5-amp motor and a speed range between 10,000 and 21,000 oscillations per minute. It has a compact design that allows it to get into tight spaces without obstructing your view of the workpiece. It also has a low-vibration metal head to reduce discomfort and fatigue during use.
The MM50-01 features tool-less blade changes and an angled head to provide a more ergonomic grip. It comes with a storage bag and 30 accessories for sanding or cutting materials like metal, wood, and drywall.
Sanding projects that require a power sander can take a lot out of you. The vibrations from a power sander can cause fatigue, and they can wear out a light-duty tool. The Rockwell RK5142K Sonicrafter F50 Oscillating Multi-Tool solves those issues. It has a powerful 4-amp motor that can withstand long sanding projects and a counterweight that helps reduce the amount of vibration you feel while using it.
The RK5142K also offers tool-less blade changes, a Universal Fit System to accommodate other brands’ blades, as well as an adjustable speed range between 11,000 and 20,000 oscillations per minute. It comes with a carry bag and a 32-piece accessory kit full of blades, sandpaper, and attachments.
Large renovation projects often demand a high-quality cordless oscillating tool. The DCS356D1 20V MAX XR Oscillating Tool has the speed and portability you need to tackle these projects. This oscillating tool uses DEWALT’s 20V MAX XR battery line-up, coming with a 2-amp hour battery and charger. It also offers three speed levels: 13,000, 17,000, and 20,000 oscillations per minute.
The DCS356D1 has a built-in LED light that helps when working in dark cabinets or corners of poorly lit rooms. It comes with a carrying bag and a 28-piece accessory kit that includes several blades, a sanding block and paper, an accessory box, and a rolling depth gauge.
If you’re looking for an oscillating tool that comes with almost everything you need to get started, check into the PCE605K52 from PORTER-CABLE. This corded oscillating tool has a 3-amp motor and features tool-less blade changes. It has a speed range between 10,000 and 22,000 oscillations per minute, making it one of the fastest oscillating tools on the market. The rubber overmold grip at the front, middle, and rear helps to reduce vibrations.
The PCE605K52 comes with an impressive accessory kit consisting of 52 pieces. The kit has 13 blades, a sanding attachment with several sheets of sandpaper, and a rolling depth guide. It also has a hard carrying case to keep everything organized.
When cutting door or baseboard trim for new flooring, use a piece of scrap flooring as a guide. Lay the scrap piece of flooring on the subfloor and rest the blade flat on its surface. If you keep the blade in contact with this scrap piece as you cut the trim, you’ll end up with a section of perfectly scribed baseboard for your new floor to fit under.
If you’re cutting a dowel or nail flush, but don’t want to mar or scratch a finished work surface with the vibrating blade, you can fashion a guard from a piece of tissue box. Simply cut a slot or hole to fit around the piece you’re cutting and rest the blade on it as you cut.
To get the most usable life out of your blades and minimize the noise and vibrations you’ll have to deal with, regulate your speed. Set the oscillating tool at a low setting, and work your way up until the blade is cutting well without burning the material or dulling the blade.
- Use scrap flooring as a guide when cutting your baseboard and door trim for a new floor.
- Fashion a blade guard from thin cardboard to prevent scratching a finished work surface.
- Regulate your speed to reduce blade wear, noise, and vibration.
If you still have some questions about the best oscillating tools, that’s understandable. These tools serve so many purposes that it’s tough to know everything about them. Below, you’ll find a collection of the most common questions and their answers about oscillating tools. If you still have questions after reading this section, reach out to your oscillating tool’s manufacturer’s customer service department.
Q. How does an oscillating tool work?
Oscillating tools swing blades back and forth in very small arcs. These arcs allow the teeth of a blade or grit on a piece of sandpaper to dig into the surface, while also making these saws very easy to control.
Q. What is an oscillating tool used for?
Oscillating tools have a range of applications. You can use them to cut lap joints on woodworking pieces, to make plunge cuts in cabinets for plumbing, to cut holes for electrical boxes, to remove grout, to sand woodwork, and for many other projects.
Q. Can an oscillating tool cut nails?
Cutting nails requires a metal blade, which is usually carbide. These blades can easily cut through nails and other metal objects like pipes and fittings.