In my experience, once you have an OMT you quickly find more and more uses for it: flush-cutting metal, removing grout, sanding tight into 90-degree corners, and plunge-cutting into wood, drywall, and other materials. The applications are limited only by the available blades, and blades are available for a variety of materials and tasks.
When I tested oscillating multi tools (OMTs) for the summer 2012 issue of Tools of the Trade, only a few brands had full-size cordless models. By now most of the major brands have caught up so this is a good time for an update. This story includes 18-volt models that came out after our last story was published. As before, we chose not to include 10.8-volt/12-volt max models because they’re not in the same class (in terms of power and runtime) as full-size tools.
Determining power differences between OMTs is a difficult task. They all exhibit tremendous torque because they need only wiggle the blade a few degrees in either direction. Because of this action; it’s almost impossible to stall an OMT out; if the tool is forced, the blade will hold fast in the work and the motor will wiggle the tool and user’s hand instead. In terms of power and cutting speed, all of the OMTs tested for this article are “good enough”. That being so, I based my assessment of them on ergonomics, features, and the way they handle vibration.
Among the features shared by all of the tools tested are tool-free blade clamps and rubberized grips. Tool-free clamps make it easy to change and adjust blades and accessories, and are greatly preferred to the bolts and washers (and hex keys) used on earlier models. Most of the tools tested have larger rubber gripping surfaces than were found on earlier models—an indication that manufacturers understand OMTs are held different ways for different operations.
Other features appear on only certain tools. One model has a variable speed trigger while the others have well-placed, unobtrusive switches and speed dials. A couple have LED headlights and only some of the batteries used with these tools have fuel gauges built in.
If you don’t plan to spend much time with one of these niche tools in hand, battery compatibility may be the easiest way to decide on the best tool for you. Sure there are differences in features and comfort—and I found preferred models based largely on those factors—but the closely matched performance capabilities of these four tools means that any and all can get the job done.
Features Worth Looking For
Tool-free blade clamp lever that won’t snap closed forcefully.
Power switch recessed out of the way, but easy enough to reach with work gloves on.
Speed dial tucked into body away from primary grip area to avoid accidental adjustment.
Vibration-reducing battery bumpers
Unobtrusive battery profile
Compact stature and good balance
High efficiency brushless motor
Plenty of rubber grip surfaces
Blade clamp mechanism with no loose parts
Low profile nose height
Battery fuel gauge
Detailed reviews of individual models can be found by clicking the links below. Fein’s 14.4- and 18-volt models haven’t changed since our last full review of OMTs and can be found in Full-Size Oscillating Multi Tools in the summer 2012 issue of Tools of the Trade. Note: Some of the other tools in the 2012 story—including the cordless tools from Makita and Porter-Cable—are not their companies’ newest models.
Tool-free accessory attachment is standard with all of these new-generation OMTs. The sleek blade clamp design of the Bosch MXH180 has no loose parts to juggle while changing blades and was a standout feature among the tools tested. For a detailed review of this model see Bosch MXH180BL.
DeWalt’s DCS355 design is all its own, with a variable speed trigger instead of a fixed on/off switch and an exposed spring-loaded blade clamp lever. Instead of making a version similar to Fein’s original OMT designed decades earlier, DeWalt changed up the form and features more that any other brand. Thinking outside the box made for an interesting tool with a few hits and a few misses. For a detailed review of this unique model see DeWalt DCS355D1.
Makita is the only manufacturer in this test that also had an 18-volt cordless OMT in the last test (the LXMT02), but this Makita XMT03 is a newer model. The main difference is the tool-free blade clamp but this new model is also larger and heavier. For a detailed review of this low-vibration tool see Makita XMT035.
The Milwaukee 2626-20 is one of two tools in the test with an LED headlight for a better view of the cutline in shadowy conditions and generous rubber surfaces all across the bottom of the tool for improved grip comfort in a variety of positions. These improved ergonomic and usability features are well appreciated, as is the standard battery fuel gauge. For a detailed review of this model see Milwaukee 2626-22.
The table below shows the types of accessories that fit the tools in this test. Arbor hole configurations are constantly changing to allow for more universal blade fitment, so additional options may be available (note: the adapters listed in the table below come with the tool kits tested).
|FIT GUIDE||Bosch tool||DeWalt tool||Makita tool||Milwaukee tool|
|Bosch blades||Yes||With adapter||Yes||Yes|
|Dremel blades||Yes||With adapter||Yes||Yes|
|Fein MultiMaster blades||No||With adapter||With adapter||With adapter|
|Makita blades||Yes||With adapter||Yes||Yes|
NOTE: Milwaukee does not make accessory blades. Their OMT will fit a wide variety of available blades similar to the “OIS” format of Bosch and Makita.