Many multifunction tools don't live up to all they're supposed to do, but the Fein MultiMaster is a rare exception. I've used one for about eight years; I don't use it on every job, but when I need it, I'm glad I have one. I originally purchased it for the exclusive purpose of making accurate plunge cuts, but I soon discovered it performed well on many other functions. Already sold on the utility of the tool, I jumped at the chance to review Fein's new and improved model.
The MultiMaster is known for its unique oscillating action, with its drive end rotating only 1.6 degrees. This minute, side-to-side motion done really fast gives the tool outstanding control. The tool has a variable speed dial that adjusts from 11,000 to 20,000 oscillations per minute. Whether cutting, scraping, or sanding, the tiny stroke of the MultiMaster's accessories works smoothly and precisely. This action is what makes it such a good plunge-cutting saw. It also makes it a better detail sander than other tools on the market.
Fein didn't alter the basic design of the MultiMaster, but it did improve some of the tool's most important features. The motor is said to be 40% more powerful than the previous model for quicker results under load.
But, without a doubt, the best change is to the mechanism that holds the tool attachments in place. The old system required a hex wrench to loosen or tighten the central bolt that holds the blade or other tool in place. The new model uses a cam lever mounted above the head of the machine. This greatly simplifies blade changing because you don't need to mess around with a loose wrench. The cam lever lifts open to release the center bolt and snaps shut to lock it in. (And it really snaps shut–so watch your fingers.)
Another great addition to the blade-locking system is the star-shaped die cut in the center of the tools instead of a circular hole. The points of the star engage with raised lines on the drive head, and provide a positive mechanical connection that cannot slip like the old system. The star-shaped holes let you set the attachment in either eight or 12 positions, depending on how many points it has.
The dust collection attachment on this model is more ergonomically friendly than on the last. Although I've never kicked up a huge amount of dust detail sanding with a MultiMaster, the dust collection port makes sense for some uses. A duct with a felt gasket fits around the drive end, with the felt resting against the back of the sanding head for a tight seal. One of the sanding heads has holes to funnel the dust through, and uses sandpaper with corresponding holes.
There is also a similar connection for the carbide grit abrasive head. A flat duct runs under the body of the MultiMaster and fits adapters at the rear for 1-1/16- and 1-1/4-inch vacuum hose connections. The dust collector worked well in use.
I was also impressed with Fein's new, nicer system case. It's large enough to hold all the accessories in separate, removable storage bins, with molded organizers to hold the tool and dust collection parts. It's well padded, sturdy, and ergonomically sound, a huge improvement over the previous case.
The MultiMaster I tested came in a kit called the "Top Kit." Along with the tool and dust collector, you also get large and small plunge-cutting blades, carbide grit grout saw and triangular grinder, a scraper blade, and two triangular sanding heads with an assortment of hook-and-loop sandpaper. The kit also includes a profile sanding kit with six rubber pads and sandpaper.
Of all the accessories, this profile sanding kit is my least favorite. It works, but the clothespin-type design of the sandpaper clamp makes it uncomfortable to use. Installing the sandpaper is somewhat difficult, and the whole thing is clumsy, making this accessory seem like an afterthought.
Of the other attachments, I used the scraper blade to remove a variety of tenacious materials in tight spaces, such as small pieces of linoleum under a toekick or some old varnish stuck in a crack. Everyone knows how hard it can be to sand in tight spaces, and this is where the triangular head shines. The curved-sided triangle let me get right into corners and along skinny ledges that other sanders would bounce away from. And the hook-and-loop paper makes it easy to flip the sandpaper around as a point or edge gets worn.
The gentle action of the carbide grit grout saw makes it easier to remove one tile without damaging adjacent tiles. And for the use that I originally bought my MultiMaster, the saw blades work superbly for plunge-cutting and for trimming installed casing to the level of new flooring.
There are a variety of tools available to fit the MultiMaster, and the old accessories will fit the new tool, but not vise versa. From wood rasps to diamond tile blades to polishing pads, there are accessories to help with all sorts of jobs that you may run into someday.
I've been sold on MultiMaster for many years, and the new version is even better. The upgraded features make this tool easier and even fun to use. This is still a detail tool, not a production tool, though; it excels at jobs like fine, controlled plunge cutting but will fall short trying to cut a 4-foot long straight line.
That said, the MultiMaster is highly recommended for finish work. Its versatility is unmatched, and I paid for my first one on the initial job I got it for. It can make an impossible job possible.
Fein Power Tools Inc.
Multimaster FMM 250 Q
Kit price: $399
Tool-Only Price: $269
David Getts is an architectural woodworker, remodeler, and author. He owns David Getts Design in Seattle.