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10 Hard Tasks Made Easier with an Oscillating Multitool

by Michael Chotiner

I've been a carpenter, general contractor and how-to writer for more than 40 years. Early on, I became an adherent to the maxim "Use the right tool for the right job." That may be the reason that it's taken me a long time to warm up to multitools, which can be fitted with a vast assortment of cutting blades, scrapers, grinders and sanding attachments. It just didn't occur to me that a multitool could do anything that I'm likely to need to do as well or better than the arsenal of conventional, purpose-made tools already at my disposal.

On taking a closer look, I've found that an oscillating multitool may offer the best solution for tasks in certain situations where an ordinary power tool might prove too big or clumsy, or where a using hand tool might require more time and effort than most folks would want to spend.

Here are ten projects that are made easier with an oscillating multitool:

(Please Note: Safety first!! When using a multitool, make sure that you always use proper safety equipment and operate the tool following the manufacturer's specifications. )

1) Trim the bottoms of door jambs and casing in place

Trimming door jamb with oscillating tool
Image courtesy Bosch Tools

When you need to trim the bottom of a door jamb or casing to let in new flooring or a saddle for transition between rooms, there's no simpler way to do it than with a multitool fitted with a plunge-cutting blade. Just set up a scrap of the material that needs to be fitted underneath, rest the blade on the surface and pull the trigger to cut a recess that matches the precise thickness of the material.

2) Cut out a molding section in place

Cut molding with oscillating tool
Image courtesy Bosch Tools

You need to cut out a section of molding to bring a sample to the lumberyard to match the profile, or to attach a cabinet directly against a wall surface. Use a multitool with a woodcutting plunge blade to cut out the section you need to remove without disturbing adjoining millwork or the wall surface.

3) Cut fasteners to be flush with a surface

Trim fasteners with oscillating tool
Image courtesy of Ryobi

Fit a multitool with an offset bi-metal cutting blade to make a clean flush cut on the shaft of a fastener like the one pictured above, which protrudes through a cabinet wall.

4) Cut an opening for an electrical junction box in a finished wall surface

Cut hole in wall with oscillating tool
Image courtesy DeWalt Power Tools

Just trace the shape of the device that you need to install on the wall surface and use a multitool with a plunge blade to cut the opening freehand without marring the surrounding paint.

5) Cut off shims

Trim door or window jamb installation shims with an oscillating tool
Image courtesy Dremel

In many cases, when shimming out a window or door frame, you can simply break off the shims. But in a tight spot like this that's surrounded with finished moldings, there's no easier, neater solution than trimming with a multitool fitted with a woodcutting plunge blade.

6) Cut copper tube to be flush with a wall surface

Flush cut pipe with oscillating tool
Image courtesy Ryobi

You couldn't achieve the precision cut on a job like the one pictured above with a hacksaw or tubing cutter. Use an offset bi-metal cutting blade for a perfectly smooth surface.

7) Remove tile grout

Remove grout with oscillating tool
Image courtesy of Dremel

Before re-grouting to freshen up dingy, spalling grout, you've got to remove the old stuff. There's no easier, neater and more precise way than with a multitool fitted with a grout blade.

8) Cut tile in place

Cut installed tile with oscillating tool
Image courtesy Bosch Tools

Need to remove a tile from within a field to replace it or create a custom pattern? Don't want to do more damage than necessary by breaking it out with a chisel? An oscillating multitool fitted with a diamond blade would be your best bet.

9) Detail sanding

Detail sanding with an oscillating tool
Image coutesy DeWalt Power Tools

Full-size finishing sanders, belt sanders and disc sanders work well for large areas, but don't often do their best work in tight spots, especially corners. That's where a multitool with a purpose-shaped sanding pad comes can come in very handy.

10) Scrape away paints, adhesives and laminates

Scrape away paints, laminates and adhesives with oscillating tool
Image courtesy DeWalt Power Tools

A multitool fitted with a scraper blade will not only make fast work of flaking paint and stubborn adhesives, it'll help you pry up bonded flooring and laminates for easier removal.

Many models to choose from!

DeWalt oscillating multitool kit
Image courtesy DeWalt Power Tools

Nearly every major manufacturer of power tools offers one or more versions of the oscillating multitool. However, not all are created equal. Multitools come "tool only" and in kits (example above) with various assortments of accessories—corded and cordless, with varying levels of power. And of course there's a wide range of prices—from about $60 for a relatively low power tool only to around $300 for a full pro-grade kit.

The type of multitools you choose depends on your own personal needs and budget. I'm not going to tell you which one to get, or that they can entirely replace any number of conventional tools that you might have or want. But as shown from the examples above, there are some projects you can't do as easily with anything but a multitool. They're great knuckle-savers, too!

About the author: Michael Chotiner is a DIY author and has years of hands-on construction experience as a carpenter and general contractor. Michael writes about his experiences and expertise for The Home Depot. To review a selection of oscillating tools, including styles discussed by Michael, you can visit Home Depot's website.