Craftsman 12-Volt Nextec Multi-Tool - Review
And why shouldn't Craftsman make an oscillating tool? Everyone else is doing it; Dremel, Bosch, Chicago Electric, Proxxon, even the creepy guy down the street has one half made in his garage. But is there really anything that Craftsman can do to improve on the tool in this quickly saturated market? Well, they were nice enough to send on one of their new 12-volt Nextec Oscillating Tools so that we could take a look and find out for ourselves.
As is immediately obvious from the name, Craftsman has elected to release a cordless oscillating tool. It's part of their new 12-volt Nextec line which also includes the interesting AutoHammer. Because of the low voltage, it's not going to be a testosterone power house. But even so, in our experience, 12-volts can get a lot done.
Over the past few weeks we used the Craftsman multi-tool quite a bit. More than we expected actually. Our first thought was that it would be one of those things we use a few times for reviewing purposes and then it finds a place in the back of the garage and in a few years it might discover a second life propping up an uneven table leg or something. But in addition to providing the power we were looking for, the Craftsman had a few design features that really put it over the top.
First is the dust collection system. What's cool here is not so much that the system works well (it does), but that it is actually built into the handle. Here, the Craftsman outdoes all of the other oscillators that we've used, even the Fein. With the others, the dust collection, if they even have any, is a sleeve that clicks onto the underside of the tool and tends to easily fall off after some use, and usually needs constant supervision in order to keep all of the pieces connected. Not the Craftsman. Here there's just one little vacuum attachment that solidly clicks into the base of the handle.
The dust collection system does thicken the body of the tool, but this dovetails into another aspect of the Craftsman that we really liked and that is the fact that Craftsman has embraced the 'pistol-grip' quality of the oscillating tool. The others sort of force a 'sword-handle' grip, which is fine for cutting, but a bit awkward for sanding. The Craftsman, on the other hand, is molded so that you can easily choke it up at the head, giving you a tremendous amount of control over the tool, still leaving room for a second hand, if needed.
But then there's battery life, which seems to be the Achilles heel of cordless oscillating tools. With the Craftsman, it's not all that bad. We clicked in a fully charged battery and worked it with some extremely aggressive sanding and got just a whisker under 10 minutes with it. It's not a ton of time, but it's manageable, particularly if you're going to be using the tool for small things and are unlikely to have it running for ten minutes at a time.
Another thing that we have to mention is that the Craftsman comes with only one battery. Due to the relatively short battery life, we find this unfortunate. If you have other items in the Craftsman 12-volt line, say the AutoHammer, then you're in the clear with another battery, but if this is your only one, you should be aware that you may have to call a halt to your project while you wait the 30 minutes for the battery to charge. The single battery thing also takes this nice tool out of the hands of contractors, who need the second battery for work continuity and puts it firmly in the hands of the DIYer.
The Craftsman is also single speed, humming away at 15,000 opms. This puts it pretty close to the middle of what the variable speed oscillating tools offer (the Dremel is 10,000 to 21,000 and the Bosch is 5,000 to 20,000). It's a nice speed and if you're not used to the variable speed, you likely won't miss having the feature.
So what's the bottom line with this tool? To be honest, it exceeded our expectations. It's nice to see that Craftsman wasn't satisfied to just speed an oscillating tool to the market, rather they were interested in seeing what they could re-engineer in order to make it better. So it's a nice tool at a good price ($100) and if you've been hearing all about oscillating tools and you don't know which one to start with, it's worth considering this one. Just keep in mind the limitations of the battery.
Read More in: All Reviews | Cordless | Lithium-Ion | Oscillating Tools
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at October 15, 2009 5:40 AM
I bought this tool expecting good things. The complaints about battery life on these kinds of tools are just plain dumb -- anyone who thinks a pint-sized battery will provide all the power and function of a cord is missing the point -- and I needed casual use far from power.
In under 15 minutes of use, the "tabs" on the sides of the batteries wore off, and I ended up having to hold the battery in by hand. Sears replaced the tool and extra battery -- and same result! So I returned it.
Very disappointing, because I really liked the price, fit, feel, function, and the cordless freedom. And I also REALLY liked the treatment Sears gave me on the returns -- no trouble at all!