What is an Oscillating Tool

It is always nice to know your equipment before you start a project. The oscillating tool is just such a piece of equipment that needs to be fully understood before you can unleash its power and potential on your projects.

In this comprehensive guide that I’ve compiled for you, I want to share with you the most important information that you need to know about oscillating tools.

What is an Oscillating Tool?

Oscillating Tools

Oscillating tools are a power tool that is designed to cut, grind and sanding wood, metal and other. It usually comes with a variety of accessories such as grinding wheels, saw blades, and router bits. It can also be used for cleaning, painting, and polishing jobs as well as making joints. The oscillating tools offer a versatile range of uses for different tradesmen.

An oscillating tool also known as a multi-tool is similar to an angle grinder. It operates by moving the head back and forth. This movement allows you to cut, sand, and grind with a wide variety of attachments. They’re a very versatile power tool that can be used for many different applications around your home or workshop.

How Does an Oscillating Tool Work?

An oscillating tool works by rapidly moving a small saw blade back and forth. The tool can be used to flush cut through materials, such as drywall or metal, but it is often best known for its ability to remove grout from between tiles as well as stripping paint from home siding.

At first glance, it may seem as though an oscillating tool is similar to a power drill. The two share some similarities, such as multiple speeds and some accessories that can be interchangeable between the tools. However, the way these tools function is quite different. Oscillating tools generally feature many speeds (usually eight) for more versatility in different situations.

What is an Oscillating Tool Used For

What is an oscillating tool used for? Oscillating tool is a very versatile power tool that can be used for many different applications around your home or workshop. It has many uses in the home, in DIY projects, and in the woodworking project. There are many functions for an oscillating tool that range from sanding hardwood floors to cutting tile – there are just too many uses to list here!

Plunge Cuts

The head of an oscillating tool is used to make plunge cuts. The tool will be stationary and the workpiece is fed through it.


The oscillating tool is handheld and used to scribe onto the workpiece. For example, you can use it to cut tiles to fit into place or form a seal around an outside window.

Wood Cutting

An oscillating tool is very good for cutting drywall, small pieces of wood and plastic due to the accuracy it offers. This makes it ideal for craft projects too.

Grout Removal

One of the most popular uses for an oscillating tool is in grout removal. You can achieve this by using an oscillating multi tool with a suitable attachment. It’s also fantastic at stripping paint from home siding which saves you time and elbow grease.


An oscillating tool is great for sanding and can be used to smooth out edges of wood and metal pieces after they’ve been cut.

Angle Grinding

The oscillating tool can also be used as an angle grinder and with a polishing pad, you can remove rust from metal surfaces such as steel gates.

Cutting Tile & Stone

Using the oscillating multi tool with a masonry blade, it’s possible to make very accurate cuts in tile and stone materials such as marble effectively allowing you to tile around obstacles such as sinks or toilets without needing more equipment than just your oscillating multi tool!

Removing paint

The oscillating tool helps remove paint from metal surfaces quickly and easily e.g. steel gates. This prevents you from having to take a chemical stripper to them which can be expensive and wasteful; you’ll need to use a less strong solution with the oscillating multi-tool.

Cutting Metal

An oscillating tool is a good choice to cut metal due to its accuracy and being able to make plunge cuts. You can use it for all kinds of applications from cutting out holes in walls to making fast work of cutting out metal sheeting for use in other projects.

There are too many uses for an oscillating multi-tool to list here but it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself not reaching for the tool during a repair or home improvement project.

Factor to Look For in an Oscillating Multi-Tool

Oscillating Tool Used For

Before deciding on an oscillating tool it’s essential that you know exactly what your needs are. By determining what jobs the tool will be required for and how often you expect to use it, you can easily find a model that has all the features you need.

When you are you trying to find the best oscillating tools, you will want to consider the following factors:

Power Source

Oscillating tools can be powered by electricity or batteries. Battery-powered models are usually lighter and more portable than those that need to be plugged into a power outlet.

Cordless vs. Corded

One important factor you should consider when selecting an oscillating tool is whether it needs to be corded or cordless. Many models come with both options included as part of their package. However, there are advantages and disadvantages of each type. If you need a tool that can follow you around a worksite but doesn’t have a long battery life, the best option would be to choose a corded model. However, if you’re looking for versatility and portability, a cordless power source may suit your needs better.

Number of Oscillations per Second

The number of oscillations per second the head of an oscillating multi-tool makes is measured in Hertz (Hz). An oscillation refers to the movement back and forth from one end of the tool head to another. The greater the number of oscillations, the faster your cuts will be made.

Variable Speed

Most oscillating multi-tools allow you to vary the speed at which it operates. This is an excellent feature as some materials require slow cutting while others need more powerful impacts quickly. In most cases, higher speeds provide greater cutting power so it’s important to be able to adjust this setting depending on what you are working on.

Blade Changes

The speed at which blades can be changed when using an oscillating tool is another factor you should consider. Some tools require their blades to be changed by a screwdriver while others have a quick-release oscillating blade function. If you anticipate using different types of oscillating blade regularly, it’s best to choose one that has a quick-release system as this will save considerable time and effort.


Cordless oscillating multi-tools are usually lighter than those that need to be plugged into a power source. Generally speaking, the more powerful a model is, the heavier it will be. However, there are exceptions to this rule so it’s important to look through various reviews before making your final purchase choice.


An oscillating multi-tool can vary in price from about $30 up to several hundred dollars depending on the power, the number of accessories included, and the brand. When choosing between price ranges it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for! A mid-range model may provide only a few more features than an entry-level one but it will most likely be built to last longer.


Most manufacturers offer their customers some type of warranty protecting against products being faulty or not meeting buyer expectations. Some warranties are time-limited while others can be unlimited, so it’s best to check this before making your final purchase decision.

Corded vs Cordless Oscillating Saw

Corded vs Cordless

Many people are torn between choosing whether to use a corded or cordless oscillating saw. While they both have their own advantages and disadvantages, it is important to understand the difference before making your final decision.


As with most power tools, a corded oscillating tool will have a greater cutting speed and power than a cordless version. Having said this, there are times when a cordless model is the best choice to use. This is mostly because of its freedom of movement. You can take it anywhere you need around your work site without being hindered by an extension cord.


  • Greater cutting power than cordless models.
  • Provide more freedom of movement as they don’t require an extension cord.


  • They are limited by the length of their cord and can only be used where there is a power source.


A cordless model gives you the option to go wherever you need when you are working. This is because it doesn’t require an extension cord to be plugged into a power source like traditional models do. While these types of saws usually provide less cutting power than their corded counterparts, they have the advantage of being portable.


  • More flexible as it can be used anywhere around your work site.
  • Less restricted by power cords meaning they are ideal for tight spaces.


  • Will not provide the same amount of cutting power as corded models.

Oscillating Multi-Tool vs. Power Drill

At first glance, an oscillating multi-tool may seem similar to a power drill. They share some similarities – both are handheld devices that are manipulated by hand to perform different functions. However, they are used for completely different purposes.

A power drill is operated by rotating the drill bit at very high speeds to create holes in materials. Oscillating multi-tools function differently – blades attached to the head of an oscillating tool vibrate rapidly at very low speeds to make cuts in material.

Oscillating Tool vs. Jigsaw – What is better?

An oscillating tool can sometimes be confused with a jigsaw. A jigsaw generally uses one blade to make cuts in straight lines or curves while an oscillating tool can use different types of blades to cut in different directions. While some oscillating tools can perform like a jigsaw, it’s often the case that if you want to make precise cuts, an oscillating multi-tool is the better choice.

Oscillating Tool vs. Circular Saw

A circular saw is one of the most commonly used power tools around the home. This power tool is the best choice for certain types of cutting tasks but an oscillating multi-tool is better than others. Circular saws are operated by holding the saw blade stationary and moving the entire unit across a workpiece to make a cut. Oscillating tools, on the other hand, need to be held very steady when in use.

If you already own a circular saw, an oscillating tool may add limited benefit to your power tool collection. If your budget is tight, it’s likely better to invest in a good-quality jigsaw before buying an oscillating multi-tool.

Oscillating Tool vs Multi-Tool

Many people get confused between an oscillating multi-tool and a plain ‘multi-tool’ such as those that Leather-man and Gerber make. Multi-tools often combine several tools into one unit including pliers, screwdrivers, and knives.

Oscillating tool blades are used to cut through materials like wood and metal allowing them to be versatile power tools for use around the home. An oscillating tool can often perform like several tools in one.

FAQ’s About Oscillating Tools

  • What is an oscillating tool, and how does it work?

    An oscillating tool, also known as a multi-tool or oscillating multi-tool, is a versatile and handy power tool used for various tasks such as cutting, sanding, scraping, and grinding. It operates by rapidly oscillating the accessory attachment back and forth in a small arc, which allows it to perform precise and controlled movements, making it suitable for intricate tasks in tight spaces.

  • Can I use different brands of accessories with my oscillating tool?

    Most oscillating tool manufacturers use a universal blade mount system, which means you can typically use accessories from different brands interchangeably. However, it’s essential to check if the accessory is compatible with your specific model to ensure a proper fit and safe operation.

  • Is it better to choose a corded or cordless oscillating tool?

    The choice between a corded and cordless oscillating tool depends on your specific needs. Corded models typically offer consistent power for extended periods, making them suitable for prolonged use. Cordless models provide more mobility and flexibility, making them ideal for projects in remote areas or where a power source is not readily available. Consider your project requirements and preferences before making a decision.


Oscillating tools are an excellent option for anyone looking to get the job done quickly. When it comes time to choose one, you should consider several factors including speed and weight. You’ll also need to decide whether or not you want a corded or cordless model based on your work site’s needs.

I hope this quick guide has given you a better understanding of what is an oscillating tool, how to use it, and how it works.

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