Versatile Power Tool Makes Home Maintenance Easier

If you’re fixing an older home, renovating a cottage or refurbishing a boat, there’s a unique power tool you should know about. The Multimaster takes the place of hand tools for many detail-oriented tasks like sanding small objects, polishing metal hardware, trimming wood in tight quarters and removing old window putty. It’s one of the best examples of how an emerging category of tools empowers homeowners like never before.

multimaster_cut_power_toolOver the last ten years, manufacturers from around the globe have tentatively entered what I call the “finesse tool” market with small, hand-held implements usually designed for sanding in tight spaces. Generically called “detail sanders”, I’ve used many of these tools personally. The MultiMaster is currently the best there is.

Made by a company called Fein (pronounced “fine”), it does a terrific job sanding small details, close-quarter sawing, small-scale paint removal, polishing, tile grout removal and coarse rasping. Any of the small tasks usually encountered during home renovations and furniture refinishing are sped up with this tool.

You’ve probably never heard of Fein, and that’s because it developed its reputation serving the industrial market beginning back in 1867. Since then the company has scored an impressive list of accomplishments over the years, including a number of critical inventions: the first electric fire alarm in 1875; the portable telephone in 1885; the world’s first electric drill in 1895; and the first hand-held electric saw in 1928. Recent changes in marketing strategy and plant tooling in Germany has allowed Fein to enter the do-it-yourself market with lower prices and retail dealer support.

If you were to have an array of different brands of detail-tools laid out in front of you for review, the Fein would stand out initially because of its smooth operation and fast output. It removes lots of material without making your hands feel jittery, even after prolonged use. But what really makes the MultiMaster excel in my book are the wide range of accessories it powers. My favourite is the E-Cut saw blade. Imagine you’re pushing a hot knife into a block of butter, tip-first. That’s how the E-Cut blade performs in wood. It doesn’t spin or move back and forth like traditional blades, but does its job with short-stroke vibration.

multimaster_power_toolThis is the same action powering all the operations of the MultiMaster: sanding with the triangular shaped pad, cutting with the round-edge segment blade, grout removal with the carbide-edged rasp, paint removal with the scraper blade, and buffing with the polishing pad. Perhaps one of the most useful operations afforded by the tool is the undercutting of doorjambs when new floors go down. Simply lay a scrap of new flooring on the old, then use it as a guide for supporting the MultiMaster blade as it slices through doorjamb and trim. Remove the off-cut wood, then slide the new flooring underneath. The saw cut measures less than 1/16” wide, and is virtually splinter-free.

The one drawback of the MultiMaster is cost. It comes in three configurations, the starter, the select and the top set. Typical Canadian street prices range from $225 to $400. That’s not cheap. All include with the same basic power tool, with varying levels of accessories. The top set also includes a vacuum port for dustless indoor operations and a metal carrying case. Contact Fein (800-265-2581) for dealer locations.

When it comes to keeping your home in good shape, it’s the little things that count: paint; caulking; flooring; hardware. Trouble is, you can also spend way too much time keeping the forces of deterioration at bay in these areas using inappropriate tools. Somewhere between obsessive/compulsive maintenance regimes and life as a slob lies the wise middle ground. And the new breed of detail tools can bring you one step closer to finding both balance and sanity in your home maintenance responsibilities.

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Posted on November 19th, 2010

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