The Multi-Tool is a jack-of-all-trades precision power tool that should have a home in every man’s tool bag. Its encyclopedic array of task-specific attachments handles plunge cuts, grout removal, flush cuts, dovetailing and detail sanding with levels of control other machines simply can’t offer. And, thanks to the Multi-Tool’s size and flexibility, few tight spaces are beyond its reach — especially in older, out-of-square homes. In short: it will bail you out of plenty of renovation jams. The question isn’t whether you should have one, it’s which one you should buy. So, with more than a few chores piling up, we put the cordless Bosch 18V Multi-X Oscillating Tool ($229) to use to see if the new high-powered portable was worth the investment.
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The Bosch 18V Multi-X uses a brushless EC motor, which offers extended runtimes and a 30 percent boost in power over its brushed brethren. In fact, equipped with its 4-amp battery, the 18V version has more even more grunt than the company’s corded workhorse. A variable speed dial on the left side of the unit measures output from 1 to 6; how exactly that corresponds to the actual 8,000 to 20,000 rpm that can be doled out is beyond us, but mid-task speed adjustments are a simple affair — provided you’re right handed. The tool-less change lever is sleek (at first glance it looked purely aesthetic) and provides for fast and easy blade swaps. Its 12-point mounting system is designed to smoothly transfer torque to the blade — not the user’s arms — and works with Bosch’s line of OIS accessories, or with an adapter can accept competitors’ blades. The Multi-X also comes encased in Bosch’s stackable and Sortimo-friendly L-BOXX case, which is an ingenious system that, as a standalone feature, could easily sway handymen to move to the blue brand.
Out of the box, equipped with the segment saw blade and Bosch’s Depth Stop Kit ($17), the Multi-X made short work of slicing through some old hardwood to create a smooth and straight transition area from wood to tile — without nicking any of the floorboards, thank you very much. At four pounds fully juiced, the Bosch is no lightweight; but its slim, rubberized grip area and fifty-fifty weight distribution made it easy to wield and kept vibration transfer to a minimum. This — along with its versatile blade, which users can set to any number of rotation angles — allowed the Multi-X to work its way deep into tight areas. Even after finishing the project completely (and playing around at various speeds) it should be noted that the lithium ion battery still held a 2/3 charge, and the teeth on the blade were ready for more.
But the Bosch had yet more to give us; it really earned its keep with trim work. With the ability to plunge and flush cut, slicing down an old window casement in order to make it sit flush with new drywall was completely pain (and plaster) free. Following a straight line, we dialed the Multi-X down to “3″ and made the first pass slowly. This cut out a groove to follow — which is key on longer cuts — and kept things laser straight. After that, it was just plunge and go. We upped the speed to a slightly reckless “5″ and were hanging trim within minutes. Because multi-tools in general are so easily controlled, they never get away from you or kick back the way circular or reciprocating saws can; the added heft and impeccable balance of the Bosch made this control even easier to maintain. That means that anyone, even DIY newbies, can jump into the fray without much to worry about — which is exactly the kind of confidence you want at 20,000 rpm.
METHODOLOGY: We put the Bosch 18V Multi-X to work on a few woodworking projects that had been left a little too long. From there it found its way into a plumber’s kit, tackling an emergency repair job that saw it slicing through pipes, drywall and timbers before being used as a sander, too.
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