9 Jobs You Can Do With a Multitool
The oscillating multitool has become the do-it-yourselfer’s do-it-all device, thanks to its interchangeable accessories.
The oscillating multitool is a relatively new portable power tool, but it has already won over a legion of woodworkers, contractors, and do-it-yourselfers. Invented in the 1960s to provide a fast, safe way to remove plaster casts from broken limbs, the first woodworking version of this tool was introduced in the mid-1990s.
Today the oscillating multitool is one of the most versatile power tools ever produced. It features interchangeable accessories for sanding, cutting, scraping, grinding, and polishing. Plus, it’ll slice through virtually any building material, including wood, metal, drywall, cement, mortar, plastic, and fiberglass, to name a few. Here are 10 simple jobs you can do with one of these handy tools.
1. Trim Door Casings
When installing a new floor, you might need to trim the bottom ends of the door casings and jambs so the flooring will fit. The multitool is ideal for this job. Take a piece of the new flooring and place it upside down on the subfloor right next to the casing (this way it’ll tell you the height to which you’ll need to cut, but you won’t scuff up the good side of the flooring). Attach a flush-cutting wood blade to the multitool.
Then hold the blade flat against the flooring, and plunge-cut straight into and through the casing. Remove the severed piece of wood, and the new flooring will slide right beneath the casing.
2. Sand Wood Smooth
Every multitool manufacturer offers a wide array of sanding attachments, which can be used to smooth wood, wood fillers, and clear topcoat finishes. These accessories accept hook-and-loop abrasives, making it easy to change the sandpaper when it’s worn out. The most popular sanding accessory is a large triangular-shaped pad, which is effective when smoothing broad, flat surfaces. However, there are also several sizes of narrow, pointed sanding “fingers” that let you sand in narrow crevices and tight corners.
3. String Trimmer
Hold the string trimmer’s cutting head 2 to 3 inches above the ground, mimicking the cutting height of a lawnmower blade. Slowly sweep the machine back and forth, but be sure to keep the cutting head parallel to the ground. Swinging it like a golf club will give you uneven cuts and possibly scalp a bald spot into the lawn. Never operate a string trimmer without eye and hearing protection, and always wear long pants and work boots.
The best time to use your string trimmer is immediately after mowing the lawn. Go around the yard and use the trimmer to clean up any areas missed by the mower, including up against the foundation, around lamp posts and mailboxes, near staircases and fences, and around any obstacles—such as rock outcroppings—that you can’t mow over.
When trimming extra-tall grass or long weeds, carefully raise the string trimmer and cut down from the top, removing only 2 to 3 inches at a time. If you try to chop down tall plants in one pass, they’ll become tangled around the cutting head and shaft, effectively choking the machine until it stalls. For extra-tough cutting jobs, many string trimmers can be fitted with a special metal blade that can quickly slice through forests of weeds, brush, and even small saplings.
A string trimmer is ideal for cutting right up against trees and shrubs, but be careful not to cut too closely. If you strip off any bark or cut deeply into the trunk, you can kill the tree or shrub.
4. Cut Plumbing Pipes
Fitted with the appropriate blade, the multitool can quickly slice through copper, plastic, and even old galvanized metal pipes. And because the tool is compact and the blade adjusts to various angles, you can work in tight spaces and at awkward angles, including inside of cabinets, behind walls, in ceilings, and under floors.
5. Remove Old Paint
Removing blistered, peeling paint is no fun, but it’s a lot less tedious with a multitool. Attach a steel scraper blade to the tool to remove the loose, blistered paint. Then switch to a sanding pad to sand down to the bare wood or shiny metal below. Start with a coarse-grit abrasive, and then use progressively finer abrasives until you reach the desired level of smoothness.
6. Handheld Blower
Portable blowers provide a quick, easy way to blow leaves off your lawn, but they’re also great for clearing grass clippings, dust, and debris from garage floors, truck beds, backyard decks, front porches, patios, driveways, and sidewalks.
A handheld blower also can be used to move puddles of standing water and to dry off wet surfaces, including porches, patios, ramps, wood decks or basement floors. Fitted with the correct attachment, a handheld blower can blow leaves from rain gutters, too.
7. Salvage Room Moldings
Prying off wood moldings without damaging them is virtually impossible—unless you use a multitool. Install a fine-tooth metal-cutting blade to cleanly slice through multiple coats of dried paint, old caulking, and even finishing nails. You can use this technique to safely remove virtually any type of room trim, including shoe molding, baseboard, window and door casings, and chair rail.
8. Get Rid of Grout
There are specialty tools designed for removing old, stained, cracked tile grout, but few work as fast or as well as the multitool. Attach a carbide-grit grout-removal blade, and use it to grind grout from the joints between floor tiles and wall tiles. Since the blade oscillates back and forth and doesn’t spin like a grinder, it doesn’t spew grout dust throughout the room. Grout-removal blades come in different thicknesses for use on narrow and wide grout joints.
9 JobPlus Base with Multitool Attachment Head
When sanding with a multitool, press down lightly and allow the sandpaper to smooth the surface. Pressing down too firmly will clog the abrasive, dramatically reducing its effectiveness, and putting undue stress on the tool motor.
A multitool is ideal for cutting through baseboard, shoe molding, door casings, and other interior trim. However, when cutting moldings, be sure to use a combination wood/metal-cutting blade. That way, should you come in contact with a nail, you’ll be able to cut right through it without ruining the blade.