After the downright onslaught of oscillating tools and accessories that have flooded the tool market in recent years, it’s time to get back to our roots with the company that started it all. That’s right, “Das Original”, the Fein MultiMaster. Back in my formative years of home improvement, my mentor and tool guru Richard described an almost mystical tool. It was from Germany, orange, really expensive, and could do things no other tool could. I was intrigued. That intrigue naturally led to a purchase of my first Fein MultiMaster many, many years ago. Despite it’s age, it continued to serve me well. But that age also started to reveal a few wrinkles; in particular the lack of a tool-free accessory change, and the very frustrating loosening of accessories under load with the original hex-key accessory design. It was time to see what Fein is shipping out their doors these days, which led us to this review of both the Fein MultiMaster Start Q, and their optional Dust Collection Kit.
When Fein sent us their MultiMaster Start Q and some accessories, including their dust collection kit, we were excited to see how it stacked up to recent competition. The Start Q Kit in particular promises an affordable kit that includes some accessories, as well as a storage bag. True to their European heritage, the storage bag sports a non-removable should strap. While the strap might come in handy, we’d guess you’re unlikely to see most US tradesmen transporting their beloved Fein MultiMaster over their shoulder. Man-purse comments are bound to start flying! We’re partial to the original metal case that came with our first MultiMaster long ago. Storage bags aside, let’s talk details on the Fein Start Q Kit, and (later), Fein’s dust collection options.
Start Q Pricing & Accessories
Fein is known for having not only top quality tools accessories, but also really expensive tools and accessories. Their reputation for being spendy led to my disbelief when I discovered Fein is selling the Start Q for just $199 (purchase link from our sponsor Tyler Tool at the end of the review). What?! If you are of the belief that an authentic Fein MultiMaster will necessitate a second mortgage and/or your firstborn, think again. $199 is right in line with the Bosch MX30, and not too far off from some other comparable competitors. It’s still 2-3 times the cost of more entry-level product offering from brands like Dremel, PC, etc.
As with Bosch’s high-end multi tool, the reasonable price point comes at a cost, and that cost is manifest in fewer accessories. You might get really excited when you hear that the Fein Start Q kick comes packed with 23 accessories. However that excitement won’t last long when you realize 20 of those 23 accessories are sandpaper triangles. Basically, you get sandpaper, a sanding pad, bimetal blade and a scraper. Definitely enough to get you rolling on several projects the MultiMaster excels on, but still a far cry from a well equipped OMT accessory arsenal. Even with the scarcity of accessories, we think this is a great value, and one that will hopefully introduce more people to Fein’s quality tools. And if accessories are a must for you, you can always step up to a spendier Fein kit or just buy additional accessories (Fein or otherwise), as needed.
Fein was way ahead of the game when they introduced tool-free accessory changes years ago, and I was curious to see how their system stacked up against recent tool-free competitors. It seemed for a long time, I was practically begging other competitors not to release their new OMT’s without a tool-free system. Despite my protests, many did. Happily, the tide has turned, and most newer entrants to the oscillating market have featured tool-free changes. Despite being far, far, far superior to the old hex key approach, we were a bit disappointed in Fein’s Quick-In design. One, the lever for accessory changes requires a lot of force to move it. Two, the system relies on a bolt that has to be fully removed and then reinserted with whatever Fein accessory you’re hooking up again. Three, the lever snaps back into place with a surprising amount of force. That might break-in over time, but initial use displayed snap-back power that I would guess could cause a pretty serious finger injury. Between the force of the lever (opening and closing) and having to monkey around with a bolt, we preferred the less finicky and less explosive tool-free design found on multi tools like the Porter Cable and Bosch MX30 models.
Performance, Build & Design
This is where Fein really shines. The Fein MultiMaster includes a 250 watt motor (equivalent to about 2.3 amps here in the States). We found the motor to be very smooth and powerful. There’s something about holding the Fein MultiMaster that makes it stand out from the OMT crowd. The sleek body of the tool is smoothly contoured to fit comfortably in your hand. It’s noticeably more svelte and maneuverable than the Bosch MX30. Most of all, the Fein MultiMaster just feels solid, and its performance matches its feel. We haven’t dropped it off a roof (yet), but it’s the kind of tool that feels like it can take whatever abuse you can dish out on just about any project remotely suitable for a multi tool. It’s streamlined and comfortable to use, even on longer projects. It just works, and we’ve never had any Fein MultiMaster let us down. Fein also doesn’t skimp on power cord length, minimizing the need to hunt for extension cords. The Fein MultiMaster does however adhere to the vexing and mysterious tradition of German companies to make their power tools max out at “6.” We’re still waiting for the HomeFixated version of a Bosch or Fein tool that tops out at “11.” I have a feeling it’s going to be a long wait, so if anyone knows the origin of the use of “6” as the top power setting, please let us know in the comments below! Obviously the Fein engineers did not see the movie Spinal Tap either.
While Oscillating Multi Tools aren’t exactly known for kicking up tons of dust, on some projects like sanding or grinding, dust collection can be really helpful. While dust collection is inherently more cumbersome, (you have to tether your tool to a vacuum hose), Fein did a nice job of making their dust collection relatively unobtrusive. Short of routing the DC through the inside of the tool, Fein’s streamlined air passageway is the next best thing. The dust collection consists of a couple key parts.
First, you need to make sure you use the proper sanding or grinding accessory specifically designed for dust collection. The sanding pad for example, has holes machined into it to allow dust to escape the work surface. Of course, along with the pad, you’ll need sandpaper that also has holes. We found the paper to hold up well, despite it’s reduced sanding area thanks to the DC holes. However, like any small piece of sandpaper, expect to replace the paper regularly if you’re on a larger project.
The Fein Dust Collection kit also includes the various parts to create a pathway from the accessory head to your vacuum hose, which attaches at the end of the tool. The installation of the kit varies depending on if you’re using a sanding pad or optional grinding head, with the install for the grinding head requiring a few more pieces than the sanding pad. Once you install the parts, dust is routed through a flattened-out tube that matches the contour of the bottom of your MultiMaster nicely. Installation is quick and painless, thanks in part to a clip that helps hold everything in place.
The dust collection function performed well with sanding (we didn’t have a chance to test it on a grinding application, but would expect similar performance). One issue we did run into several times was the dust collection assembly unclipping and the collection tube then coming loose. We would have liked to see a more positive attachment than just the clip. With that said, we were doing some pretty vigorous sanding at all sorts of odd angles (don’t ask, it’s personal). Actually, we were sanding various nooks and crannies in double-hung window frames. This resulted in a lot of overhead usage and changes of position with the hose hanging off the end of the tool. If you’re doing more mild detail sanding on a flat surface like your workbench, we would not expect the dust collection to break loose. As mentioned previously, you’ll need to weigh the additional bulk of the dust collection system, in particular the vacuum hose, with how important dust collection is in your particular application. If you’re working outdoors or overhead, a dust mask might be more practical.
All in all, “Das Original” Fein MultiMaster is a solid choice in the oscillating tool market, even with all the competitive options out there. It’s power/weight/size combination is right in the sweet spot for most typical jobs suited to OMT’s. While the Quick-In tool-free accessory change and the optional dust collection kit both serve their purpose, we still see some room for improvement, particularly with the Quick-In operation. Getting rid of the detachable bolt to hold the accessories and a lighter action on the Quick-In lever would bring the MultiMaster close to perfection on a tool that is otherwise very hard to find fault with. If you haven’t experienced the joy of using a Fein MultiMaster, the Start Q kit is a great way to get your feet wet.
You can find the Fein MultiMaster 250Q START for a very reasonable $185. The Fein 9-26-02-081-01-0 FMM 250 Multimaster Dust Extractor Kit will set you back about $56, also via Amazon.