Nathan Ford, Application Specialist at FEIN, breaks down the oscillating essentials that separate the best machines from the rest.
For many electricians, oscillating power tools have become one of the ﬁrst things put in the van at the beginning of a day’s work. Useful in so many different applications, it can sometimes be difficult to think what tradespeople did without them, but while oscillating power tools might be great, what is it that separates the best oscillating tools from the rest?
Have the power
In reality, the performance of an oscillating multi-tool boils down to three main factors and when machines are compared using these three markers, tradespeople will ﬁnd it much easier to pick the tool that best suits their needs. The ﬁrst is power. Affecting the speed at which a job can be completed and the quality of the ﬁnish of that job, power is very important and often contributes to the ease in which work can be carried out.
Speed is all about work progress and it is power that primarily dictates how quickly a task can be completed – a machine with insufficient power will struggle and take longer with the tougher tasks. While overall power of the motor is important, so is the machines’ ability to transfer this power into
the working accessory efficiently.
“Effective power transfer is primarily the result of the machines oscillating amplitude and the quality of the accessory clamping system. The accessory of an oscillating power tool repeatedly moves from side-to-side in an uninterrupted arc around a ﬁxed point.”
Effective power transfer is primarily the result of the machines oscillating amplitude and the quality of the accessory clamping system. The accessory of an oscillating power tool repeatedly moves from side-to-side in an uninterrupted arc around a ﬁxed point. Modern tools will have amplitude movements of approximately three to four degrees (that’s up to two degrees either side of centre) and will complete around 10,000 – 20,000 oscillations every minute. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the amplitude, the greater the work progress.
With such high rates of work, the accessory mounting is extremely important. With traditional Allen Key systems or low quality clamping systems, the accessory can become ever so slightly loose over time and this has a dramatic affect on the power transfer. Also, using poor quality accessories – particularly cheap universal ﬁtting attachments – will greatly reduce the working progress and can even cause damage to the machine over longer periods.
In addition, an underpowered machine will affect the quality of work that can be achieved with its use. When a machine is struggling to complete a task it is more likely to encourage the user to push harder, not only does this decrease the amount of control and affect the precision of the work, it is also more likely to cause the machine to overheat and damage it. This extra ware and tear is not just restricted to the machine, as an underpowered machine will make tasks much harder to complete for the user too.
It is important to say though, that too much power can also have a negative effect on work quality. For instance, when sawing through plasterboard a machine on full power is likely to chip the board. It is therefore helpful to choose a machine with variable speed to avoid damaging fragile surfaces.
Are you comfortable?
The second oscillating essential is comfort. Oscillating power tools will always vibrate because of the way they work – one of the marks of a quality tool is how it deals with this vibration. Prolonged use of tools that vibrate a lot can have damaging health repercussions such as ‘white ﬁnger’. The best oscillating power tools available use innovative designs to reduce the vibration, with some even achieving a vibration class ‘zero’ (<2.5m/sec) in most applications – this means that the tool could be used for long periods without health and safety concerns.
Not all the vibration however, is down to the machine; part of it will be down to the accessory and clamping system used. The quality of material used to make the accessory’s shank will determine how much it can ﬂex and vibrate. It will also determine how quickly an accessory wares or blunts and this will affect vibration levels as the accessory snags in the work piece.
Oscillating power tools are also well known for their distinctive noise. Prolonged exposure to high noise levels can be irritating to the user as well as damaging, so the quieter the machine is the better.
Change it up
The ﬁnal oscillating essential is the accessory change. As a multipurpose tool, oscillating machines by nature will require the accessory to be changed on a frequent basis and how easy and quick this is has a huge impact on how enjoyable a machine is to use. The best systems are quick and require no additional tools.
By asking how oscillating power tools stack up in terms of power, comfort and accessory change, tradespeople can quickly and easily sift the best from the rest.