How to Use Oscillating Tools More Efficiently: Get the Skinny on Oscillating Blades and Attachments
A lot of us have an oscillating tool and those of us who don’t have one, well, we definitely want one. These tools make so many of our jobs easier – they help us work faster and keep us totally efficient on the job. Because they perform so many applications, though, how do you know you’re really using them to their fullest potential? Fortunately, these tools are born and engineered to be super-efficient and, accordingly, it only takes keeping a few tips in mind to ensure you’re getting the most out of your multi-tool.
Oscillating Tool Blades and Attachments
Just like any other machine, the results you’ll get out of your oscillating tool will be only as great (or as mediocre) as the accessories you use with it. Accordingly, using the right blade or attachment for each application is one of the most important considerations before engaging your multi-tool. It’s also one of the first factors you’ll have to consider before getting to work and, perhaps more than any other component, the accessories you choose will affect your ability to perform a job properly. For that reason, your attachments are probably the biggest contributor to multi-tool success.
To ensure your attachments can meet each task with the proper angle and force, oscillating tool accessories come in a comprehensive variety of shapes, sizes and materials. To quickly sum up your options, here is a brief rundown of the most popular accessories for your multi-tool.
Know Your Accessories
Sawing | Cutting Blades
To put it succinctly, there a lot of cutting attachments for your multi-tool. Because there are a lot of different things you’ll need to cut, there are a lot of different blades to cut them with. Accordingly, its super important to your results and to the life of your tool and your accessories that you use the right blade for each cutting job. For example, attempting to cut metal with a blade designed to cut softer materials will literally destroy your blade. Don’t do this. Cut metal with a blade designed to cut metal; use blades labeled bi-metal, metal or titanium. Similarly, although a metal blade will cut wood, it will do it much less efficiently than a wood cutting blade. For faster, smoother cuts, better results and longer lasting accessories, use the blade designed for the task being performed.
There are oscillating blades designed to cut just about everything. You can find them built specifically for cutting wood, plastic, drywall, fiberglass, metal, floor coverings, coatings, residues, silicone, caulk, putty, cardboard, foam, insulation, rubber, grout, leather, felt, styrene, concrete, masonry, plaster, ceramics, stone tile, epoxy, backer-board, etc. As you might assume, then, these blades also come in many various shapes and sizes. Depending upon the task at hand, you may choose from plunge cut and flush cut blades, straight blades, wide-base straight blades, circular and half-circle blades, triangular and finger blades, tapered blades, scraper blades, concave and convex blades, hooked blades, and wavy and segmented blades. That’s a lot, right? So although many blades also offer multipurpose cutting, please choose your attachments carefully to ensure you are using your blades and your power tool to its fullest potential.
Scraping blades do pretty much exactly what you’d expect them to – they scrape. They are ideal for removing adhesives, silicone, paint, undercoating and etc. Scraping blades are available in both flexible and rigid designs and with a variety of blade shapes from straight to curved to ensure no residue (or etc) is beyond scraping up.
Also available in a variety of shapes and sizes, a rasping blade is typically used for grinding and sanding applications like grinding filler, tile adhesives, stone, concrete and wood. Some rasping blades are shaped to produce terrific accuracy allowing users to work with these blades for more creative purposes.
Grout removing blades are great for getting tough materials out of touch to reach places. These round or half-round blades are most typically used on materials like plaster, concrete, sealant and, yes, grout. As with all applications, it is vital to the performance (and lifespan) of your multi-tool to use the right attachment with particularly hard materials.
Available in both round and triangular shapes and with a variety of sanding materials, a sanding attachment allows your multi-tool to work as a surface sander. Hook-and-loop style abrasives allow you to sand and smooth virtually every surface and because the tool itself is compact, you have great access into tight spaces.
With a multi-tool and a hook-and-loop polishing attachment you can produce high-quality finishes on most every surface. Fabricated with a variety of polishing materials (i.e. felt, fleece, etc), these attachments help you create an ideal finish to metals and natural surfaces (like aluminum, chrome, stainless, and stone materials). The polishing attachment is also handy for removing blemishes or heat discolorations from surfaces.
Because its arbor sits atop the blade, a flush cut blade allows you to cut flush against a surface. For this reason, flush cutting blades are useful for a lot of different applications like flooring, wall trim, windowsills, door jambs and etc. Without a flush cutting blade, you’d typically need to make flush cuts by hand, it goes without saying, then, that they save a lot of time and a lot of energy.
Super Straight Cuts
Carefully using a good straightedge as a saw guide can help you produce really straight cuts really quickly.
Carbide Vs Diamond Blades
While a carbide blade is perfectly sufficient for smaller, softer cutting jobs, a diamond blade is really, truly worth the few extra dollars. In fact, for larger cutting jobs, investing in diamond blades is a must; they cut faster, last longer and will deliver better cutting results.
Straight Vs Round Blades
While straight blades which allow you to plunge directly into a material are best suited for plunge cutting applications, long, straight cuts are best delivered with a round blade. If you need to make a particularly precise cut (or if you want to reduce the heat generated during a cut (and you should want to do this)), a shallow scoring along the cut line, which you will gradually deepen until the cut is complete, will produce cleaner results.
To avoid blade slippage on curved surfaces (like pipes), blades with wide bases are particularly helpful. The wide bottom prevents the blade from sliding off the piece you’re cutting resulting in a faster, cleaner cut. Though these blades are great for cutting curves, don’t use them for plunge cutting. The wider base requires more force to plunge and puts excess stress on the tool’s motor.
Use the Right Blade
This sounds self-explanatory, but many a blade has died too young for being used improperly. Use the right blade (and the right attachment) for each application.
Protect Finished Surfaces
When cutting against a finished wall or surface, place a scrap of sheet metal in between the blade and the finished surface. This allows you to make the necessary cuts without marring previously finished surfaces.
Protect the Life of Your Blades
Heat and pressure are the enemies of every blade. Accordingly, poor cutting technique can lead to premature wear and poor blade performance. While you should never force your blades, don’t allow them to stay in one place for too long; broad motions will reduce heat build-up. Because debris created during a cut isn’t completely forced out by the action of the blade, it’s important to keep your cut-path free of dust and chips. To do this, slightly rock the blade as the cut progresses. The motion should push debris out while keeping the blade cooler, too. When making long cuts, use long strokes and gradually deepen your cut-depth. This will distribute the heat and help decrease chip build-up. – The lesser heat and pressure your blades endure, the longer your blades will stay sharp. Applying a safe lubricant (like soap or beeswax) to the blade’s teeth will also reduce friction/heat during use.
Blade Wear and Tear
Symptoms of a blade that needs to be replaced include discoloration, bent or dull teeth, slower/sloppier cuts, smoking or sparking while cutting, and extra high-heat during use. Don’t attempt to cut with a worn out blade; this is bad for your cutting results and bad for the tool’s motor.
Protect Your Sandpaper
Using lower speed settings as you sand will minimize the amount of heat generated during use; this will protect the grit on your paper. Additionally, keeping even pressure on your tool while working (or, keeping the attachment flat against the workpiece) will do a few things for you: (a.) even pressure will keep your sandpaper from wearing prematurely or unevenly, (b.) it will similarly ensure better performing, longer lasting sandpaper and (c.) it will contribute to better, more consistent results.
Invest in an adapter! Having the ability to use blades from different manufactures can be hugely helpful on the job. Because there are so many specific attachments available for your multi-tool and so many different jobs you’ll want to tackle with it, adapters help ensure you can use the right attachment at the right time. – It can be also helpful to shop for accessories online. Typically you will find a much larger selection of accessories online than you will in-stores. Although you may not be able to do this all the time, having more options at your disposal ensures you have the right accessory each time you fire up your tool.
Letting Your Multi-Tool Work for You
While it’s true that your multi-tool can’t do everything for you and it’s similarly true that a multi-tool isn’t built to take the place of every tool in your arsenal, these tools are incredibly versatile. That versatility coupled with their streamlined, compact design is a great recipe for a really helpful tool. Use them where your other tools won’t fit or aren’t portable enough to reach. Use them around the house and at the jobsite; use them for that list of grinding, sanding, scraping and cutting projects that never seems to get smaller. Use them for everything you can and be more efficient for it.
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