The Best Oscillating Tools Tested in 2024 - Top Picks from Bob Vila

By Tom Scalisi and Glenda Taylor | Updated Jan 31, 2024 5:47 PM

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The Best Oscillating Tools Tested in 2024 - Top Picks from Bob Vila

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

When it comes to popular power tools, the oscillating tool is the new kid on the block. It features a small blade that’s fixed at one end while the other end moves rapidly back and forth in an arcing motion that mimics a pendulum swing. The action, a combination of vibration and sawing, works well for cutting materials like metal, wood, and drywall and, with the right attachments, can also sand and file. While it’s not as powerful as a large circular saw or drum sander, its ability to tackle multiple light-duty tasks makes it a popular choice with remodelers and DIYers. Plus, its compact design lets it fit in tight and awkward spaces to tackle jobs bulkier power tools can’t manage.

Some of the top power tool manufacturers, such as DeWalt, Bosch, and Dremel, are producing oscillating tools, and we wanted to know which ones lived up to the hype. So we tested them. We gathered the highest-rated oscillating tools and used them in several ways: sawing, sanding, and even grinding out old grout.

Keep reading to learn more about how to choose the best oscillating tool for your needs and to find out why each of the following models earned a spot on our lineup.

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

When gathering our list of oscillating tools to test, we extensively researched more than 25 different models. We gave some preference to well-known brands, such as DeWalt, Bosch, and Dremel, since they’re known for making high-quality tools for professionals and DIYers alike. Still, we didn’t automatically eliminate tools from smaller or niche brands if they were well-made and highly rated by consumers.

When it came to the actual testing, we first charged batteries (if necessary) and then noted how easy it was to install/change blades on the tool. We paid attention to the tool’s design and ergonomics, and then we tested each device for 1 hour by cutting wood and sheet metal as well as sanding. We also tried out each type of accessory included with the tool to see how well it performed. For example, some of the devices came with grout-removal blades, which we tested on some old tiles that are slated for replacement.

As we put the oscillating tools through their paces, we noted how well they performed each task, awarding points based on a rubric. The better the performance, the higher the points. After testing, we added and averaged the points and used them along with our notes to help determine the best use and category for each tool.

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

We tested both corded and battery-powered oscillating tools. Some came with just a couple of blades, and others came as kits full of accessories. Each of the following models is better suited for some uses than others, but each excelled in our hands-on testing. We noted both their pros and cons—one of them is sure to suit your cutting/sanding/polishing needs.

If shoppers are looking for a quality oscillating tool, the Bosch StarlockPlus should be on their list of models to consider. This tool has a 4-amp motor and an adjustable speed range between 8,000 and 20,000 oscillations per minute (OPM) to suit cutting different materials. We used the lower speeds for cutting through sheet metal and the highest speed for cutting through wood—the Bosch excelled at both.

We liked the toolless blade-change system that allowed us to swap blades and sanding pads without using a wrench or a hex key. All it takes is pulling the lever to release the current blade, then putting another blade in place and pushing the lever back down to secure.

The Bosch oscillating tool comes with a case and 32 accessories, including sandpaper, several blades, and a separate box for holding accessories, and we tested each type. We sanded, cut wood, cut metal, and even attached the included grout-removal tool and used it on some old tile we’ll be replacing. The device is exceptional: It fit well in hand, didn’t vibrate extensively even at low speeds, and the battery stayed charged throughout our 1-hour test period.

The only minor downside was the grout-removal blade, which in our test chipped the edges of some of our tiles. We prefer using a designated grout-removal tool or a rotary tool for grinding out old grout. Still, the Bosch is a top-notch oscillating tool that excels in both cutting and sanding.

Read our full review: Bosch StarlockPlus Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit

Get the Bosch oscillating tool at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Acme Tools.

Those looking for an oscillating tool with everything required to get started should check into this kit from Porter-Cable. This corded oscillating tool has a 3-amp motor and features toolless blade changes. It has a speed range between 10,000 and 22,000 OPM, and we found it cut through wood quickly and smoothly at the top end of its speed range. However, at the lowest speed, it didn’t cut metal as smoothly as we would have liked.

The rubber over mold grip at the front, middle, and rear helps to reduce vibrations, but this tool isn’t as vibration-free as some of the others we tested. After about 30 minutes of use, we were feeling some hand fatigue from the vibration, and once we finished the 1-hour test, our hands felt like they were still vibrating. Still, the most common uses for an oscillating tool are typically short—undercutting a door jamb or sanding in a tight spot—so vibration likely won’t be an issue unless the tool is used for for extended periods,

The Porter-Cable comes with an accessory kit consisting of 52 pieces, and we tested each type. We cut wood and sheet metal, sanded, and used the grout-removal blade on old grout. As mentioned in our Best Overall review, we’re not sold on using an oscillating tool for removing grout, as it tends to be too aggressive and nicks the tile surface. We liked the depth guide on this tool—we could adjust it to cut to a limited depth, preventing accidentally cutting too deeply. All in all, this is a solid tool.

Get the Porter-Cable oscillating tool at Walmart, Amazon or Porter-Cable.

Those in the market for a light-duty oscillating tool that doesn’t cost a fortune might want to consider this Black+Decker model. The corded oscillating tool has a 2.5-amp motor and six adjustable speeds between 10,000 and 20,000 OPM. It comes with a combo wood/metal blade, twelve sheets of sandpaper, a sanding base, and a storage bag. A universal accessory adapter is also included, and in testing it allowed us to attach blades and accessories from other brands. It features a toolless blade change, but installing the universal-blade attachment requires a wrench (included).

This tool doesn’t boast many bells and whistles, but we found it to be a solid performer for cutting through wood and sheet metal. Plus, it’s corded, so it’s ready to go as long as there’s an electrical outlet nearby.

The only downside we found with the Black+Decker oscillating tool was that it started to heat up about 20 minutes into our 1-hour test. We had to let it cool down for about 10 minutes before we could comfortably hold it again. This isn’t unexpected, however, as it has a less powerful motor than some of the other models we tested. It will still handle light-duty DIY cutting and sanding projects, and it comes at an attractive price point.

Get the Black+Decker oscillating tool at Amazon, Toolup, or Tyler Tool.

Renovation projects without easy access to electrical outlets demand a high-quality cordless oscillating tool, and that’s where the DeWalt 20V MAX XR oscillating tool shines. We’re familiar with the high quality of DeWalt power tools, so we were expecting great things from this cordless model and weren’t disappointed.

This tool comes with a 2Ah battery and a charger. Sure, a higher Ah battery might have been nice, but the batteries from this tool are interchangeable with other DeWalt 20V MAX tools, so users can swap batteries between them. We tested the oscillating tool on both wood and sheet metal. Even though 13,000 OPM is the low end of its speed range, which is higher than some, the DeWalt still cut smoothly through sheet metal in our test, proving that successful metal cutting isn’t only about speed. At the top speed of 20,000 OPM, it sawed quickly through wood. It also excelled in sanding.

The ergonomic grip on this cordless tool made it easy to operate. Plus, DeWalt has done an excellent job of reducing vibration—this was one of the smoothest-running tools we tested. The tool has a built-in LED light that is handy for working in low-light spots. It also comes with a carrying bag, a 28-piece accessory kit with several blades, a sanding block and paper, an accessory storage box, and a handy depth gauge. It features toolless blade changes.

What’s more, this DeWalt tool also allowed us to turn the angle of the blade 90 degrees so we could easily make cuts at a right angle. This is a handy feature for those times when it’s necessary to cut to the side rather than in front of the tool.

Get the DeWalt 20V MAX XR oscillating tool at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.

Extensive sanding projects using a power sander can cause real hand and arm fatigue due to the tool’s typically intense vibrations. So we were impressed by the Rockwell Sonicrafter’s powerful 4-amp motor and vibration-reduction technology that allowed us to sand for nearly an hour without the tool heating up or causing hand fatigue. When it came to cutting, this oscillating tool cut through wood smoothly in our test, but edges were slightly rough when we cut through sheet metal.

While the Sonicrafter did a decent job cutting wood, it truly excelled at sanding. We felt this was due (in part) to an ergonomic design that allowed us to hold it comfortably at just the right angle for smooth sanding. What set this tool apart was the smoothness of the sanded wood. Some of the tools we tested left slight cross-grain sanding marks, but the Rockwell didn’t leave any marks, which meant less finish sanding—a time and labor saver.

The Rockwell also offers toolless blade changes, a Universal Fit System to accommodate other brands’ blades, and an adjustable speed range between 11,000 and 20,000 OPM. It comes with a carry bag and a 32-piece accessory kit full of blades and sandpaper pads. While we wouldn’t hesitate to use this oscillating tool for cutting wood, we’re more impressed by its performance for precision sanding.

Get the Rockwell oscillating tool at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Sam’s Club.

One of the most significant downsides of cutting or sanding wood is the dust it creates. For this reason, many DIYers and pros perform these tasks outdoors or in an open shop environment when possible. But this Dremel oscillating tool made dust a nonissue, thanks to an optional dust port. It let us attach the hose from our wet/dry vacuum and substantially reduce the amount of airborne dust as we tested the tool.

This is a battery-operated tool, and it comes with both the battery and the charger, plus three blades and a case, so it’s ready to go right out of the box. It features tool-free blade change and has a compact nose that makes it easier to work in tight spots. We liked the ergonomics of the tool—it was comfortable to hold and operate and didn’t produce an uncomfortable amount of vibration.

The Dremel comes with variable speed (10,000 to 20,000 OPM), and in our tests it cut through both sheet metal and wood quickly and smoothly. This is a top-notch oscillating tool, and the inclusion of the dust port really sets it above the others for working indoors. The only downside is that the included battery is 2Ah, which started running out of steam after about 45 minutes. Fortunately, Dremel sent two batteries, so we could load the fresh one and continue the test. Also, while it comes with three blades, no sanding pads are included.

Get the Dremel oscillating tool at Amazon, Lowe’s or The Home Depot.

Cutting hard materials like metal can take a while, so a corded oscillating tool with a low speed range is usually necessary for good results. While all of the oscillating tools we tested came with variable speeds, at the low end, those speeds were capped at between 8,000 and 11,000 OPM, and that can be too aggressive to cut metal smoothly.

This DeWalt model was the only tool we tested that boasts a trigger-control speed, meaning the less pressure we put on the trigger, the slower it would go. This was ideal for cutting sheet metal, and we were able to use just enough pressure on the trigger to cut smoothly through the material. By applying more pressure on the trigger, we could also generate ultrafast speeds that cut quickly through wood. The variable speed trigger also came in handy for sanding—we could easily adjust the sanding speed by varying pressure on the trigger.

The DeWalt’s corded 3-amp motor provided all the power we needed during testing, and its LED guide light made it easy to see the material in dim conditions. The tool kit came with 29 cutting and sanding accessories, plus DeWalt’s DWA4216 five-piece accessory kit that includes a universal adapter, so we could use other blades with this tool. This DeWalt oscillating tool is a good option for all types of cutting and sanding, but it’s a standout for those who need to cut metal frequently.

Get the DeWalt DWE315K oscillating tool at Amazon, The Home Depot (without accessory kit), and Buya (without accessory kit).

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

Since oscillating tools are relatively new compared to circular saws and power drills, shoppers may not be aware of everything they can do. This section will point out some key considerations they will want to consider when shopping for the best oscillating tool.

When oscillating tools first hit the market, they were exclusively corded. Recent advances in lithium-ion battery technology, however, have allowed manufacturers to offer comparable battery-powered options. Today, shoppers can get both corded and cordless options, and each type has its perks. We tested both corded and cordless models.

Power could be a significant factor in choosing the best oscillating tool, depending on the intended use. For heavy-duty projects like remodels or construction, choose a tool that offers enough power to get the job done.

When it comes to battery-powered oscillating tools, voltage determines power output. Tools that use 18- or 20-volt batteries are usually sufficient for large or jobsite use. Compact models with 12-volt batteries may be better suited to smaller projects.

For corded oscillating tools, the tool gets its power from the outlet, but there are other factors to consider. While speed is ultimately a result of the motor’s power, the amperage rating indicates the tool’s robustness. The motor’s components are typically more heavy-duty with a higher amperage; this means that it can withstand intense working conditions longer without breaking down. Consider tools with 4 or more amps when sawing dense hardwood or grinding stone or tile. However, light-duty projects, such as sanding, don’t require as much power, so a 3-amp motor will usually be enough.

That said, power isn’t as important as having the right blade on a tool. Some blades are for cutting, while others are for scraping or filing. Still others are designed to hold sanding or polishing pads.

One feature is more important than most others when choosing the best oscillating tool: variable-speed control. The ability to adjust the speed is a must-have for successfully using an oscillating tool. For example, cutting metal requires lower speeds than cutting drywall or wood, so choose an oscillating tool with an adjustable speed range for the most significant degree of versatility. Look for tools with speed ranges between 8,000 and 20,000 OPM for optimal usability in most home improvement projects.

While lower speeds are better for cutting metal, other factors can also affect the results, including the level of vibration, ergonomics, or the blade itself, so don’t depend solely on low speed for precision metal cutting.

Just about every power tool company now offers an oscillating tool, and they each make brand-specific blades. While the wide selection of tool brands makes tool pricing relatively affordable (though the actual blades can be pricey), it can be challenging to find brand-specific accessories. Not all brands produce a full line of oscillating tool accessories.

Consider buying an oscillating tool that uses a universal system or adapter that accepts other blade styles for the most versatility. This can save time and money when choosing new blades, as buyers can shop for the appropriate accessory without worrying about brands or restrictive attachment methods.

Oscillating tools provide improved ergonomics over other types of cutting tools. These handy tools are designed to work in tight spaces, allowing users to position the blade at a variety of angles. Their flexibility allows users to see what they’re doing and work comfortably, which is one of the primary benefits of an oscillating tool.

Some models come with padded nonslip grips around the tool’s body to make grasping them more manageable, and larger oscillating tools may offer a secondary grip area for using a second hand to stabilize them during use. Cordless models must incorporate a spot for a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which may be at the end of the handle or along the bottom edge. When shopping in person, buyers will want to grip the tool as they would when using it to see if it feels comfortable in hand.

Power tools make noise. Compared to other tools, oscillating tools have tiny motors and their blades have short strokes, so they tend to hum at lower speeds. At high speeds, however, they can be very loud. Also, the material that’s being cut and the blade being used have much to do with the noise the tool produces, so it’s difficult to determine an expected decibel range. A good rule of thumb is to use ear protection to safeguard hearing.

Oscillating tools work by vibrating a blade or sanding attachment back and forth, so it’s understandable that some vibration will make it back to the hand. However, too much vibration could make the tool difficult to use or cause hand fatigue, so find a model from a manufacturer that designs tools that minimize this vibration.

It’s interesting to note that oscillating tools are typically very safe, regardless of additional safety features. The elasticity (stretch) of human skin is greater than an oscillation tool’s amplitude (length of the stroke from side to side). This relationship means that an oscillating tool will usually just vibrate the skin, as the stroke isn’t long enough to cut it. This makes accidentally touching a running blade startling but usually harmless. However, it is possible to cut skin if pressure is applied. What’s more, if the blade has been in use for a few minutes, the friction could make it hot enough to burn skin.

Some oscillating tools are sold without accessories, while others are available in kits with accessories and attachments that may include several blades for wood and metal as well as combo blades that can handle both. They may come with polishing or sanding pad attachments as well.

Models that offer toolless blade changes can be a real time saver; these systems allow users to change blades out without a wrench or hex key. They typically have a large knob or a lever that releases the blade so users can replace it.

Other features include LEDs to light the workpiece while cutting, a depth guide for controlling the depth of cut, or a roller guide to help maintain a consistent cut across a long surface.

Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

The main rule of thumb to remember when working with an oscillating tool is that a higher (faster) OPM is for cutting wood while a lower (slower) OPM is suitable for cutting metal.

When undercutting a door jamb for new flooring (the most common use for an oscillating tool), use a piece of scrap flooring as a guide. Lay the scrap on the subfloor and place the oscillating tool blade flat on the scrap. Users will want to keep the blade level as they cut the jamb; they’ll cut away just the right amount of the jamb for the new flooring to fit evenly.

To get the most usable life out of blades and minimize noise and vibrations, regulate the speed.

These tools serve so many purposes that it’s tough to know everything about them. Below, you’ll find a collection of the most common questions about oscillating tools and their answers.

Oscillating tool blades vibrate rapidly back and forth in tiny arcs. These arcs allow the teeth of a blade to cut through the material. The vibrations are also optimal for sanding wood projects.

Oscillating tools have a range of applications. You can use them to cut lap joints on woodworking pieces, make plunge cuts in cabinets for plumbing, cut holes for electrical boxes, remove grout, sand woodwork, and many other projects. The most common use is cutting away the door jamb bottoms to install new flooring.

Yes—cutting nails with an oscillating tool requires using a metal blade. These blades can easily cut through nails and other metal objects like pipes and fittings.

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

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The Best Oscillating Tools Tested in 2024 - Top Picks from Bob Vila

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