Roger Bisby tries out the new Starlock range to see what fits.
It is fairly unusual to see rival power-tool companies collaborating in research and development but Bosch and Fein have done exactly that, linking up to develop the Starlock system for their oscillating power tools. It is an attempt to do what the SDS drill bit did for hammer drills – in other words a simple click lock system that doesn’t require tools and will become the standard. The blades are backwards compatible with other star fit oscillating tools, but you won’t get the new feature unless you purchase a Starlock tool. So, in essence, it is redundant on earlier tools and redundant on other blades.
Let’s be clear, the collaboration is on the star insert of the blade, and not the blade itself, so there is a Fein Starlock, made in the Fein factory in Germany, and a Bosch Starlock range made in that company’s blade factory in Switzerland, which last time I looked was making jig saw and recip saw blades for many global brands.
The price is right
As much as we all love oscillating tools, some people are slightly taken aback by the price of the accessories, although Fein does report that the price of its blades has decreased signiﬁcantly in the last three years after the manufacturer brought a good percentage of the list price down by transferring the manufacturing to same factory in Bargau, Germany as its oscillating multi-tools.
Having bought budget-priced blades in the past, however, I have been persuaded that you get what you pay for, not just in longevity but also in speed of cut. When you look at the fairly narrow arc of the average oscillating tool you can understand why a cheap bit of steel just won’t cut the mustard.
It works hard and it works fast. But it isn’t just the superior steel, there is also much better contact and power transfer from tool to blade when you use the Starlock system and that is particularly important in cordless tools. If you look at the way some ‘universal’ blades fit, with an open U-shaped channel on one side you can see that any kind of movement and flexing on the fixing point leads to a loss of transmission.
This is not only true when comparing Starlock with budget-priced blades but also when you compare the new blades with the older style from the same stable. I would imagine that Fein and Bosch will be looking to phase the older style blade out as the new blades catch on, which is probably why they introduced the entry level grade. I would say the entry level is comparable with the older style blades in terms of price and performance and from there you move up. These performance claims are very difficult to substantiate outside of a laboratory but, having used them on site and counted the cuts, I am fairly sure they stack up.
Changing blades could not be easier. Just place the tool on the back of the blade and press down. You will hear a click which is the spring loaded jaws snapping over the blade to hold it secure. If you want to release the blade flick the lever on the tool and the blade falls out. It is a well-designed system and so it should be with the combined brains of Bosch and Fein on the job.