Multi-tools usefulness growing in popularity

Multi-tools are small, versatile, hand-held power tools that help you sand, saw and scrape in dozens of home renovation situations in tight quarters.

Multi-tools are small, versatile, hand-held power tools that help you sand, saw and scrape in dozens of home renovation situations in tight quarters.

I’ve been following the multi-tool category closely since it first appeared in a small way during the early 1990s, and since then I’ve tested all major brands for effectiveness in refinishing windows, removing old tile grout, polishing corroded brass, peeling off old indoor/outdoor carpet and making intricate cuts in various pieces of wood in close quarters.

I find multi-tools genuinely useful, and the last five years has seen the category grow in effectiveness.

Attachments like sanding pads, saw blades for wood, metal and drywall, tile grout removal, abrasives and felt polishing pads are the reason why.

Never seen a multi-tool in action? Take a look at my multi-tool video tour (www.SteveMaxwell.ca/how-to-multi-tool-video).

If you’ve got refurbishing to do around your place, let me show you what matters when it comes time to choose a unit.

Brief history of the multi-tool

When multi-tools first came out, sanding pads and saw blades were held onto the tool shaft by friction only, but heavy use caused these attachments to loosen over and over with frustrating speed.

This prompted tool engineers to come up with a more secure option for securing sanding pads and saw blades, and that’s what we’ve got now across the board.

These days all models sport attachments that lock mechanically with the tool, held in most cases by a small bolt.

The only exception to this design are multi-tools made by the European brand Fein.

Some of their models sport a lever-operated attachment system which eliminates the need to go scrounging around looking for a tool to do the job.

It works very well.

At the moment, two different and competing attachment interlocking systems are popular, and this causes a large measure of incompatibility between different makes.

• Some brands use a star-shaped connection pattern to secure attachments.

• Others use a circular array of interlocking pins.

• Only the Milwaukee multi-tool includes an adaptor that allows all kinds of attachments to be used on a single tool.

This power tool’s power matter

You wouldn’t think that power matters much when it comes to small tools like these, but sometimes it does.

Many of the most recent multi-tool models are powered by a 12-volt rechargeable battery, and while these are convenient and offer reasonable power, cordless models aren’t quite as powerful as corded ones.

Will you be sanding? Power isn’t much of an issue for this work, since it doesn’t take much energy to move a sandpaper triangle back and forth.

But the situation is different when it comes to cutting wood and removing tile grout.

That’s when a more powerful multi-tool yields considerably faster progress, and amperage draw is the best yardstick for assessing power.

Every plug-in electric tool has information printed somewhere on the side.

This area is generically called the nameplate and always includes a figure on how many amps of electricity the tool draws.

In reality, this figure varies depending on the load imposed on the tool, but nameplate amperage is still a reasonable rough guide for comparative tool power in corded models.

Amperage draw in the corded multi-tools I’ve tested most recently range from 1.5 amps to 2.3 amps.

This amounts to more than a 50 per cent difference between low and high, so it’s worth considering.

Multi-tools have let me accomplish home maintenance jobs that would never have been practical otherwise, especially when it comes to sanding small and intricate areas of wood before refinishing.

If you’re serious about the maintenance responsibilities in your life, a multi-tool can definitely help.

Steve Maxwell, syndicated home improvement and woodworking columnist, has shared his DIY tips since 1988. Follow “Canada’s Handiest Man” at SteveMaxwell.ca, Facebook or @Maxwells_Tips on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A GoFundMe campaign to support a Stettler couple following a fire has raised more than $3,000. (Contributed photo)
Family pet dies in Stettler fire

GoFundMe page has raised more than $3K so far

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere celebrates after defeating Russia 4-3 in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships, Sunday, January 5, 2020 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

Alberta’s spike in COVID-19 infections and the virus’s infiltration of Canada’s team… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Carolina De La Torre, right, owner of Arepas Ranch in Calgary, poses for a photo with her husband in this undated handout photo. The Venezuelan woman who believes she was used as part of Jason Kenney's argument not to lockdown restaurants in the province remembers her encounter with the premier as a lot less dramatic than he suggested. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Carolina De La Torre *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘No crying’: Venezuelan refugee Kenney cited says interaction was less dramatic

EDMONTON — The Venezuelan woman who believes she was used as part… Continue reading

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani waves to the crowd in a public gathering at the city of Yazd, some 410 miles (680 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. Iran has discovered a new oil field in the country’s south with over 50 billion barrels of crude oil, Rouhani said Sunday, a find that could boost the country’s proven reserves by a third as it struggles to sell energy abroad over U.S. sanctions. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)
Iran nuclear scientist assassinated

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iranian scientist that… Continue reading

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

kkk
Opinion: We’re weary of the wait for COVID vaccine

It’s official: vaccines are the new toilet paper. Justin Trudeau appears to… Continue reading

Actor Johnny Flynn portrays David Bowie in the film "Stardust" in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Elevation Pictures *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Stardust’ is a Bowie pic without his music but that was always the plan: director

TORONTO — Gabriel Range’s controversial David Bowie drama “Stardust” has angered fans… Continue reading

Canadian figure skating champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir come to Penticton Oct. 6 with the Rock the Rink tour. This will be the pair’s last tour as they have announced they are retiring from the world of competitive figure skating. (Contributed)
Ice-dancers Moir and Virtue among 114 Order of Canada inductees

OTTAWA — Champion ice-dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue are among 114… Continue reading

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Keegan Messing performs during the Men's Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won't be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships – if they happen

Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships - if they happen

Most Read