Whether you’re a rookie DIYer just starting to put together a basic collection of tools, or a seasoned woodworker or tradesperson, one of the most useful tools you can own is the oscillating multi-tool, or OMT. These versatile tools can be used for scraping, cutting, sanding, grout removal – I find new uses for mine all the time. Pretty much every major toolmaker has one or more of these tools in its lineup. Prices range from around $20 for Harbor Freight’s basic tool to several hundred dollars for beefier units with better accessories. Joining this crowded field, with an offering aimed at tool aficionados who probably DON’T shop at Harbor Freight, is the Festool Vecturo. Here’s a quick look at it:
The Festool Vecturo – A Systainable Design
The Festool Vecturo is the company’s first foray into the oscillating multi-tool market. For our evaluation, we received the Festool Vecturo OS 400 EQ set. The set contains the Festool Vecturo OS 400 oscillating multi-tool, a circular wood blade, a universal blade, a wood blade, two depth stops, and the plunge base. The kit comes in a Systainer, which is Festool’s sturdy, modular tool case. The case is designed to be stackable, and to latch on to its brother Systainers. A separate lidded tray built into the top has adjustable dividers. This provides a handy spot to store spare blades, earplugs, or your secret decoder ring.
The Festool Vecturo itself is a nice piece of Teutonic machinery. At 3-½ pounds, it has a good heft to it, and it’s well balanced. It has a powerful 3.3 amp motor, and there is a wide assortment of blades and scrapers available. It comes with a generous, heavy-duty 13’ detachable cord, which might keep you from having to schlep out the extension cord. Finished for the day? Give the cord a ¼ turn and pull it out. This makes stowing everything in the Systainer much simpler, and prevents damage to the cord.
Taming The Beast
Ready to get to work? A Fast Fix gets you started. No, you don’t have to talk to those shady guys hanging out at the local crack house; FastFix is Festool’s tool-free blade retention system. First, flip the release lever all the way forward. Pull out the retaining bolt, thread it through the end of a blade, reinsert it into the tool, and flip the lever back. It’s quick and easy, and the blade is rock solid when the lever is closed.
Over the years, I’ve owned and used many different OMTs. The Festool Vecturo has a couple of features I’ve never used before: A depth stop and a plunge base. These two accessories are tool-free to install and use, and both make this tool much easier to control.
The depth stop can keep you from making an expensive – or painful – mistake, like cutting too deeply into a wall and slicing into a water or gas pipe, or a live wire. Been there, done that; NOT the high point of the day. The depth stop comes with two options: A rotary stop, to use with standard cutting blades, and a sliding shoe, for use with the round blade. Both work off the same depth stop collar. Just choose the appropriate stop for your blade, and slide it onto the depth stop mounting collar. Line up the arrow on the collar with the arrow on the tool, and slide it into position. The depth stop unit can then be rotated to the desired angle by pushing the green button on the front. The cutting depth can be adjusted via the small green button on the depth stop.
The most novel accessory for the Festool Vecturo is the plunge base. Like a two-year-old, or Lindsay Lohan, OMTs can be difficult to control. The oscillation – 11,000-18,500 Oscillations Per Minute in the Festool’s case – can make the blade want to dance around like a Chihuahua that got a triple shot of cappuccino in its water dish. While the Festool has much less vibration than many other tools I’ve used, the vibration can make it less likely you’re going to get that precision cut you’re after. The plunge base allows you to place the blade precisely where you want to make the cut, then guide it in right on target.
The plunge base mounts the same way as the depth stop; just line up the arrows, click it in, and rotate it until it assumes the position. It’s obvious some thought went into the design of the plunge base for the Festool Vecturo. It’s sturdily made, as you would expect, and it operates smoothly. A rubber pad on the bottom helps keep the base from moving once you’ve positioned it.
A smart touch is the inclusion of a magnet on the side facing the blade. This helps pull the blade in toward the base, keeping the blade from wandering off, in search of girl blades, or whatever.
The one thing that could improve it would be the addition of a depth stop; the plunge base allows around 2” of travel, and that could be enough to plunge you into trouble. Here’s another video from Festool, showing how to install the blades and accessories and use the tool, all set to some good motivational music:
Making The Festool Vecturo Earn Its Keep
Enough yammering; let’s try it out! My first experiment was for a task not traditionally relegated to an OMT. My daughter and her husband are spiffing up their house, and part of that spiffery involves adding some trim to their kitchen cabinet doors and drawers. They bought the trim to do it, and I smuggled it across the border (they’re in Ohio, I’m in Pennsylvania), along with a cut list. I made all the cuts on my Bosch miter saw with a nice finish blade in it, and brought the pieces along on my next visit. Most of the pieces fit perfectly, but there were two that were a tad too long, undoubtedly due to a measuring error on my daughter’s part. (He who tells the tale rules the world). Anyway, I didn’t have any good finish saws along, but I did have the Festool Vecturo kit, so I decided to give it a go.
I set the Festool Vecturo up with the plunge base and the special, longer blade designed to be used with it. The material I was cutting was small and lightweight, about 3/16” thick and 1-¼” wide. I didn’t have any clamps, so I set the trim piece on a scrap piece of 2X4, and hoped the plunge base would keep it from moving around during the cut. I lined up the blade with my marked line, held the plunge base tight against the work piece, and plunged in.
The rubber pad on the plunge base did a good job of holding the trim still. The blade followed the line perfectly, and I got a nice, clean cut. I set up the second piece, and once again got a good, smooth cut. I took the pieces into the kitchen, tried them out, and they fit perfectly. Like I said, not the typical OMT job, but it saved the day!
A more typical use for this type of tool is trimming jambs while installing flooring. I’m in the process of slowly (some would say TOO slowly) installing hardwood flooring throughout an old farmhouse we’re renovating. To get the best look, I’ve been undercutting the door jambs, to fit the new flooring underneath. The jamb on one wall, between the original part of the house and an addition, is almost a foot wide. I installed the wood blade into the Festool Vecturo, laid a piece of scrap flooring down as a spacer, and let ‘er rip.
The Festool was a pleasure to use. The vibration was considerably less than many other OMTs I’ve used over the years. The blade cut smoothly and accurately, and I very quickly had the first jamb cut. I then attached the depth stop, just to try it out, and cut the opposite jamb. Same deal – fast and smooth, and the depth stop let me know when it was time to back off.
For my final test, I decided to try out the plunge base in another typical scenario. I wanted to install an old work box in an existing wall, so I could add an outlet. After tracing the outline for the box, I set up the plunge base, and went to it. It was easy to keep the Festool Vecturo on target. Again, the rubber pad kept the plunge base from sliding around, and let me line up the blade perfectly with the outline. Almost faster than you can say “Nice work, Sparky,” I had my new box in place.
One thing worth mentioning: When making any kind of cut with an OMT, it’s a good idea to start a bit away from the end of the line you’re cutting. The oscillations move the blade from side to side, and it can be hard to judge exactly where the end of the cut area will be. You can see an example of how this can go horribly wrong in the upper right corner of the cut I made, where the blade went slightly beyond the marked line. Naturally, I did this intentionally, for demonstration purposes. You believe me, right? Anyhow, in a case like this, it doesn’t matter, as the cover plate will easily conceal it. If you’re working on a piece of furniture or some other fancy schmancy project, though, that might put a damper on your day.
Want Your Own Festool Vecturo?
So now it’s time for a gut check: Is the Festool Vecturo worth the premium price? All the Festool owners I’ve come across are fanatically loyal to the brand. One of my nephews has his own specialty woodworking business. He has invested in several Festool products, including the track saw, jigsaw, sanders, routers, a dust collection system, and the Domino joiner. He agrees they’re pricey, but he’s a perfectionist, and he loves the quality and durability of the tools, and the precise control they provide. I’ll have to keep an eye on my Systainer when he’s around…
As I mentioned before, there are a slew of oscillating multi-tools to choose from. Some of them are junk; many of them are pretty good. The old adage “You get what you pay for” is in play here. If you rarely use your OMT, you can probably squeak by with a budget model. If you’re a serious DIYer or a contractor, though, and rely on your tool for frequent or more precise work, you’ll likely want to invest in something sturdier. A part of the decision comes down to personal preference. Many users appreciate a high quality, precision tool, and the Festool definitely fits that description. It looks and feels well made, and the attention to detail is obvious.
Another consideration is the attachments. The tool-free depth stops and the plunge base, which is unique to Festool, give the Festool Vecturo a big edge in control over other OMTs. The best way to decide if the tool is right for you is to find a local dealer that carries it, and get some hands-on time with it.
The Festool Vecturo comes with a 30 day, no questions asked return policy, and is backed by a three-year warranty. The Festool Vecturo OS 400 EQ set retails for $595; you can find a local retailer or online supplier through Festool’s Dealer Locator.
Oh, and if you’re reading this in May, 2015, you might just be able to win one FREE in our May Free Stuff Giveaway sponsored by Festool!