The mother of all oscillating multitools first appeared in 1967 in the form of an oscillating saw. Used by medical personnel to remove plaster casts, the saw could cut through the plaster and gauze, without cutting the skin below. The company responsible was the German manufacturer Fein.
Fifty-plus years later, oscillating multitools are as important to most trim and renovation carpenters as their hammers or circular saws. The tools excel in making precise plunge cuts, excising broken tile, removing dried glazing from a window sash (without breaking the glass), and can be used to cut or sand basically everything and anything that’s hard to reach. I’ve road-tested the new Fein MultiMaster for the last few weeks, and from what I’ve seen, Fein hasn’t lost any ground to their legion of competitors.
Weighing in at just over 3 lbs. the MultiMaster isn’t appreciably lighter or heavier than other multitools. At just over 3-amps (350-watts), the motor has a soft-start feature and an oscillating speed that’s variable from 10,000 to 19,500 rpm. The corded version (they also manufacture a cordless model) has a 16-ft power cord that’s jacketed in an all-weather material that stays flexible in cold weather. The tool body balances well in the hand, and doesn’t have excessive vibration in use. Like all multitools, it makes noise that varies according to the materials being cut. I don’t have a way of measuring decibels, but they’re loud, and I always wear hearing protection. When connected to a vacuum, a snap-on dust shroud does a great job of keeping dust to a minimum. The variable speed dial is an improvement from the previous version which required you to use two fingers to tune. This new dial can be easily adjusted with one finger (or the thumb) of the same hand that is holding onto the tool.
One feature that really defines this little machine is the StarLockPlus blade attachment design, something that Fein and Bosch developed a few years ago. The blades are shaped to fit exactly onto the tool, and snap into place. There are no bolts or adapters to lose, and the blades do not move or come loose in service, even when bending under the hand an over-enthusiastic operator. The only downside is that unlike many other brands, the blades and other accessories are only compatible with Fein and Bosch. There are no adapters. And the StarlockPlus blades are not cheap, but they do seem to keep their edge longer than most other blades I've used.
Fein offers an entire catalog of accessories for this tool that includes wood and metal cutting blades, carbide rasps, and several different sanding/polishing accessories. I especially like the different sanding profiles that range from finger width to 4 ½-in. diameter. They make sanding into tight spots much easier.
I can’t speak from personal experience to the long-term durability of the Fein, but recently I was on a job site where two older Fein MultiMasters were in use. According to their owners, the tools were used on a daily basis for years and were always dependable. The Fein Multimaster Starter kit (includes one blade, sanding pad, sanding paper, and carrying case) sells for about $200, which puts it at nearly the top of the price pile. (The highest price, of course, goes to that other German company.) But having seen other oscillating tools crash and burn prematurely, and considering its superior blade attachment feature, it’s a solid deal. They also make a nice storage case.