The Best Oscillating Tool

An oscillating tool is capable of cutting, slicing, sanding, grinding, polishing, and even scraping. It’s probably due to this incredible versatility that the oscillating tool goes by many different names. Oscillating Multi Tool, Multi Tool, or Fein Tool are just a few of the names that you’ll hear it called on jobsites today. It works by vibrating (or oscillating) thousands of times per minute allowing it to make cuts that no other type of saw can make.

Until recently, oscillating tools were out of reach of the average DIY-er. In the 1960’s, Fein’s invention was used to cut plaster casts off people with broken arms and legs. The unique oscillating action allowed the physician to cut off the cast without cutting the patients’ skin underneath. Fein started selling a model in the 80’s that was primarily used in the auto industry and by specialty flooring contractors who were able to justify the nearly $1,000 price tag. Fast forward to 2009 when Fein’s patent expired: Everybody started making and selling their version of the oscillating tool in varying degrees of price and quality. 

In this review, we’re going to show you the different oscillating tool designs and features that will make whatever project you are working on a success. And we’re going to look at different brands and models to help you make the right decision on what is the right for you. For a detailed review of cordless models, click here.

*I hope you’ll love the products I recommend! Just so you know, Plumb and Lined may collect a share of sales or other compensation from some of the links on this page. 

THE BEST OVERALL

Dremel MM50

DREMEL MM50-01

The Dremel MM50 isn’t the most powerful tool in our list, but it is more than adequate, has great cutting speed thanks to the wide 3.2 degree oscillating angle, and comes at a price that won’t break the bank. The Quick-Lock system holds blades securely and lets you change accessories quickly without any tools. It’s well-balanced tool with a comfortable grip and an on/off switch that facilitates one handed operation. Great vibration control, variable speed and a feature that maintains constant speed throughout the toughest materials. The MM45 is the one that is in my toolbox every day.  

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DREMEL BRAND and HISTORY

DREMEL is another one of those brand names that has become a generic term. Just like when someone says “I need a Kleenex”, they are actually looking for a facial tissue that may or may not have been made by Kimberly-Clark, or when you take your “Jet Ski” to the lake, you are talking about your personal watercraft unless it was made by Kawasaki, most everyone calls any rotary tool a DREMEL.

The company was founded by Albert Dremel in 1932 in Racine Wisconsin. The concept behind Dremel’s original Moto-Tool was to rotate a bit at high speed instead of high torque so the tool could perform tasks like polishing, carving and engraving. Bosch took over ownership of the company in the 1993. Dremel was one of the first to release an oscillating tool following the expiration of Fein’s patent in 2009.

Photo courtesy of Dremel

THE BEST OSCILLATING TOOL

Dremel MM50

DREMEL MM50-01

The Dremel Multi Max MM50 has a great blend of performance, features and price. An innovative magnetic accessory interface makes accessory changes easy because it holds the accessory in place so you don’t have to. Its powerful 4-amp motor is strong enough to cut through most materials quickly. Dremel did a nice job of designing a comfortable handle that reduces the vibration that you feel while using the tool. If you’re looking for a well-built tool that will last for years from a trusted brand, the MM50 might be the best one for you.

The Good: Good blade change mechanism, Good cutting speed

The Not So Good: Some may think the 7’ long cord is a little short

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DREMEL

MM45
BEST OVERALL
  • 2.86 pounds
  • 5 amps
  • 10,000-21,000 OPM
  • 3.2 degree oscillation angle
  • Tool free blade change
  • Variable speed
  • Accessories & bag

GENESIS

GMT25T
BEST VALUE
  • 3.2 pounds
  • 2.5 amps
  • 15,000-22,000 OPM
  • Oscillation angle not listed
  • Tool free blade change
  • Variable speed
  • No bag incl

DREMEL

MM30-04
BEST SPEED
  • 2.7 pounds
  • 3.3 amps
  • 10,000-23,000 OPM
  • 3.2 degree oscillation angle
  • Tool free blade change
  • Variable speed
  • Accessories & case

GENESIS

GMT15A
BEST BUDGET
  • 2.75 pounds
  • 1.5 amps
  • 21,000 OPM
  • Oscillation angle not listed
  • Allen wrench blade change
  • Not variable speed
  • No bag incl

FEIN

SUPERCUT
BEST FOR PROS
  • 3.54 pounds
  • 3.7 amps
  • 10,000-19,500 OPM
  • 4.2 degree oscillation anglel
  • Tool free blade change
  • Variable speed
  • Accessories & case

OSCILLATING TOOLS WORTH CONSIDERING

BEST VALUE

Genesis GMT25T

GENESIS GMT25T

The Genesis GMT25T oscillating tool has features that you would expect to see on models costing twice as much. The variable speed motor is controlled with a dial, so you can adjust speed to match the job- from medium (15,000 OPM) for delicate work to fast (22,000 OPM) for more aggressive cuts. It has a comfortably sized grip with a rubber over mold and a traditional on/off switch that locks on for one handed operation. Slightly underpowered with a 2.5-amp motor, it makes up for it with a good tool free blade changing system.  If you’re looking for low priced but with some of the features of the more expensive models, the GMT25T might be the tool for you.

The Good: Great Price, Good tool free blade changing

The Not So Good: Loud sound level   

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BEST SPEED

Dremel MM30-04

DREMEL MM30-04

 The Dremel MM30-04 has the fastest motor of tools in our lineup at 23,000 OPM. As the little brother of the MM50 (our Best Overall winner), the Multi Max 30 shares some of the great features like the magnetic blade holder that makes blade changes a snap, and the same 3.2-degree oscillation angle. The MM30-04 has a less powerful motor (3.3 amp) but it still has enough power to perform well in a variety of materials. If you’re looking for Dremel quality and reliability in a more affordable package, the MM30-04 would be a good choice.  

The Good: Fast cutting speed, Good blade change mechanism, Good bang for the buck                                                   

The Not So Good: Some may think the 7’ long cord is a little short

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BEST BUDGET

Genesis GMT15A

GENESIS GMT15A

If you’re on a budget, the Genesis GMT15A might be the best oscillating tool for you. It’s hard to beat Genesis’ at producing a tool that can get the job done while parting with the least amount of your money to get it. It has a wimpy 1.5-amp motor, no variable speed and they don’t even list the oscillation angle. The blade lock is weak, allowing the blade to sometimes loosen during use. You’ll need an Allen wrench to change the blade, but you can store it in the cardboard box that serves as the case. Inquiring minds would be correct to question how long this tool will last. That being said, I’ve got a guy on my crew that buys these kind of tools two at a time. His logic is that he uses them until they burn out and then he breaks out the next one. We’ll see if it ends up costing him more in the long run. Stay tuned.   

The Good: Price                                                                                               

The Not So Good: 1.5-amp motor, Lots of vibration     

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BEST FOR PROS

Fein FSC500QSL

FEIN SuperCut FSC500QSL

Fein invented the oscillating tool in 1967 and they continue to make the highest quality and most stable tools available. The Supercut is the flagship of their fleet. Great cutting speed, the best tool changing system and the least vibration of any oscillating tool. Naturally this kind of quality comes at a price that for most people, is hard to justify.    

The Good: Low vibration, Great power                                                        

The Not So Good: Price

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Why Trust Me?

I always chuckle when I see the websites with the reviews of tools when they say “we spent over 20 hours evaluating these tools, trying to simulate real world conditions in our test lab” and that is somehow supposed to convince you that that makes them some kind of authority on the subject. And because they’ve spent all that time, you therefore should trust them to recommend the Best Oscillating Tool.

I guess maybe there is some value in knowing that a brand new tool with a brand new blade was able to cut 113 2 x 4s before the tester person’s arm got tired or the battery ran out, but you might want to know how well that tool performs after it’s a few years old. Or you might want to know if the tool can hold up to daily use and abuse like it is subjected to in the actual real world.

Over the last 30 plus years as a general contractor, I’ve been making my living using these tools at jobsites day in and day out. My crews and subs make their livings using these tools too. And we all talk. Word quickly gets around about an innovative new design, and probably even more quickly when someone made the mistake of buying a piece of junk.

There’s nothing worse than spending your hard earned money on a tool that you are expecting to make it easier and faster to tackle all kinds of projects around the house, only to find out that the tool comes up miserably short of meeting your expectations. My goal here is to keep you from buying that piece of junk. 

Why You Need an Oscillating Tool

An oscillating tool can perform many functions. It’s most commonly used for making cuts that traditional saws can’t make. Undercutting a door jamb to allow for new flooring, plunge cuts in cabinets or drywall for electrical boxes, trimming a baseboard in place, and that kind of thing.

You can also use an oscillating tool to cutout old grout in between tile or scrape off old paint and flooring glue. Most oscillating tool kits come with sanding pads that can come in handy for sanding a surface in tight quarters, but you’d be better served with a dedicated random orbit sander for big jobs.  

Oscillating Tool Features- What’s What and What’s Important

Cutting Speed

Cutting Speed is one of the more important features when deciding what is the best oscillating tool. There are three factors that affect cutting speed. The amp rating indicates how much electricity a motor draws. Most oscillating tools will be rated between 3 and 5 amps. Blade speed is measured in oscillations per minute or OPM. The best oscillating tools will have a range of about 10,000 to 23,000 OPM. And finally, the oscillation angle measures the length of the cutting stroke. Generally speaking, a higher oscillation angle translates to a faster cut. Most oscillating tools will fall into the 2 to 5-degree range.

Variable Speed

It’s useful to be able to slow the blade down for delicate cuts, therefor increasing your control, or to get the blade going faster for tough cutting jobs and scraping. Better tools will have a dial to adjust the speed while others will have a trigger similar to cordless drills. The trigger models feel clumsy to me. The cheapest models don’t include the variable speed feature at all.

Changing the Blade and Accessories

One of the reasons an oscillating tool is so versatile is the ability to change to different types of blades and accessory attachments. On the best oscillating tool, the changes can be made without the use of a wrench or tool. Cheap oscillating tools require a hex or Allen wrench to make the switch. Everyone knows how frustrating it can be when you need to change the blade but you can’t find the wrench.

Value for the Money

Professional grade corded oscillating tools range from about $70 to $140 dollars depending on brand and features. Cordless models start around $100, give or take, for just the tool with no batteries or chargers. Good quality cordless kits are in the neighborhood of about $200. Top of the line Fein tools will set you back nearly $500 for a kit package. The cheap and wimpy consumer grade throw away tools can be had for as low as $30.

Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this amazing blog post about oscillating tools. Keep it up!!

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