Rotary and oscillating tools are suited to many applications and choosing the right one for your project can be a little confusing. Use our guide to sort it all out.
Both rotary and oscillating tools can handle applications like cutting, sanding, grinding and more, but they function differently.
A rotary tool spins an accessory at a high rate of speed. A rotary tool can handle a task requiring a high level of precision, but you need good control for accuracy. In addition to the applications a rotary tool shares with an oscillating tool, a rotary tool can polish, clean, carve and rout.
An oscillating tool moves an accessory in a rapid, back-and-forth motion. An oscillating tool can tackle larger tasks more quickly than a rotary tool and can be easier to handle. The action of this tool allows it to handle scraping in addition to cutting, sanding and grinding.
Cut-off tools and spiral saws are rotary tools designed primarily for cutting different construction materials. While they don't accept the variety of accessories of other rotary tools, they typically have more powerful motors for heavy-duty cutting.
Rotary and oscillating tools are available in both cordless and corded versions. Cordless tools can be more convenient, but the corded versions are slightly more powerful. If you use an extension cord with a corded tool, make sure it is suitable for the tool. Follow the device manufacturer's recommendations for compatible extension cords and see Power Cord Safety Tips.
Both rotary and oscillating tools can handle a wide variety of projects. To a large degree, the tool type and the available accessories for the tool will determine what you can accomplish, so make sure the tool you purchase can handle the job you want to tackle. Some examples of applications include:
In addition to accessories such as bits, blades or rasps, you can find attachments that help you get the most out of your device. Attachments vary by tool type and model, but here are some you can look for to simplify and enhance your work:
Always follow the tool, accessory and attachment manufacturers' operating, maintenance and safety instructions.
As with any power tool, it's important to understand the features to look for on a rotary or oscillating tool:
Always disconnect a power tool from its power source before servicing, adjusting or connecting accessories and attachments.