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I'm a Newbie at DIY. About to buy my first set of (hopefully) good "all-rounder", versatile "staple" tools for my very first tool box.

Have seen a multi tool, but are they really suitable for cutting accurate, straight lines?

can you find attachments that allow you to cut wood accurately, with a guide, using a blade?

Dremle seems to have a "Straight Edge Guide" that does allow for a drill bit to cut guided straight and even circular cuts but the drill bit seems to leave the edge looking somewhat rough on the edges.

Jobs I want to use it for include:

  • Cutting the materials to build a stud wall (mainly wood batons, perhaps plasterboard)
  • Cutting wood to build my own shelves and up-cycle furniture
  • Possibly chase a wall (although I have heard that the multi tool might not be up to it)

Any thoughts or suggestions?

  • Mototools are usually underpowered for serious wood work. if I can't use my table, cutoff or circular saw, I'll go at things with a RotoZip, sort of a small router with lots of ready made jigs. A Sawzall makes a good tool if you plan to butcher things. It's sloppy. For some things, nothing beats a hacksaw or a woodworker's rectangular saw. – Wayfaring Stranger May 11 at 22:27
  • If you end up getting a table saw, make sure you watch all the safety videos on kickback, riving knives etc. I speak from experience as a noob that those things should come with a training course. – Frank May 12 at 4:25
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    A circular saw and a drill cover 95% of what I need to do. I have many other tools, but they're what I'm reaching for first most of the time. – isherwood May 12 at 12:51
  • Yeah, a circ saw, a saw guide, and some clamps are probably all you need. Sometimes, for repeated cuts of slats, eg, you need to craft a jig to hold the workpiece, but that's job-specific. – Hot Licks May 12 at 17:29
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    Something that just occurred to me (I can be a little slow): see if you can rent/borrow some tools from a local retailer or tool lending library. You can try them out with minimal investment to see which ones work really well for you and that you like using. For that option it's worth taking some time up-front to research how to use them safely and effectively before renting to maximize your time with them. – Colin Young May 13 at 2:19
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The problem with 'All-rounder' tools is that they are rarely actually very good at anything. Sure they'll let you cut a wavy line in tile, but how often will you be doing this?

My advice would be to buy good-quality tools as, and when, you need them. An SDS drill, battery drill-driver, and decent hand-saw will get you a long way. If you'll be cutting sheet material, then a circular saw would be useful. Later on, you might want to get a mitre saw, jigsaw and a router.

One point on buying power tools: With the exception of the drill/driver - don't get cordless, unless you have a very good reason; When the batteries die, they are expensive to replace, if you can even get replacements, although this is less of a problem nowadays as Li-Ion batteries typically last much longer than NiMH / NiCad. As noted in the comments, they are also often less powerful than their corded cousins, unless you pay a lot of money.

For your requirements:

  • Wood - hand saw
  • Plasterboard - Stanley Knife for straight cuts, padsaw for curves
  • Chasing wall - SDS drill with chasing chisel bit
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    Good point on the batteries being expensive or unavailable. Like ink cartridges for a printer...+ – JACK May 11 at 19:42
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    @Peter -- it's not clear that the OP is referring to an oscillating tool. – Aloysius Defenestrate May 12 at 1:35
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    Not only are batteries expensive, battery-powered tools often have less power. So you'd need a bigger budget for an equal workforce. So the tools themselves are already more expensive. – Mast May 12 at 8:44
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    I would suggest if you are going with battery tools, start with a drill, and choose one from an established brand that has a significant investment in tools around that battery. Those batteries are more likely to still be around in a few years. Once you have more experience, you will know which other tools might benefit from a battery, based on how you use them. Or, just buy the cheapest possible cordless drill until you decide you like power tools and plan to recycle it and upgrade later. – Colin Young May 12 at 17:12
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    My goodness, there's a lot of hate for cordless tools 'round here! I have a rather large collection of them, all the same brand and a good supply of batteries & chargers. I've mostly purchased sets that come with batteries and a charger. I've ended up with multiples of some tools and wondered what I'd ever do with them - I end up using them. All. About the only corded tool I ever use now is a miter saw (Love it so much, I've got 2!). My old NiMH batteries lasted many years and will still hold a charge. I expect the newer Li-Ion ones to last even longer. – FreeMan May 13 at 17:21
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I do not know what "multi-tool" you are referring to.

Best DIY all-rounder cutting tool for straight edges?

It depends on what you are cutting and how long the cut is.

There is not one tool that will do every job well. There are some tools that will do several jobs well and other jobs in a pinch if you do not have the correct tool. ( having the correct tool is always better and more satisfying. ) There are times when you need a tool designed specifically for the task at hand.

Cutting the materials to build a stud wall (mainly wood batons, perhaps plasterboard)

You can cut studs to length with a circular saw ( or a hand saw ) with a speed square accurately with practice. ( A circular saw with speed square for cross cuts and a long straight edge for rip cuts. ) A track saw is awesome for long rip cuts but expensive, i made a long straight edge guide for long rips.

A Miter saw is better for cross cuts and will do angled cuts with precision. Plaster board ? If you mean drywall or Sheetrock this is cut with a razor knife and a metal straight edge, you score it and snap it, an oscillating saw or a rotary tool is good for cutting out holes. ( i use an oscillating saw for many tasks and find it to be a very useful tool but not for long straight cuts )

I would suggest that you watch several YouTube videos on how to build things to get an idea of the tools used. Do lots of research and you will get a better understanding of why the tools needed for a job are the best one for the job.

I have a mix of corded and cordless tools, there are times when the cordless is convenient or absolutely necessary. A cordless drill/driver is VERY convenient and a necessity, IMO.

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I have one of those vibrating multi-tools, and although I have used it for several projects, I've always come away thinking that it does the job about 2/3 as well as I'd hope. It slow to cut/sand/buff/whatever, but it does a better job at getting into tight places with decent control than other tools I own. Kind of a jack of all trades, master of none.

You didn't mention your budget, but if you budget would allow, I might suggest going with a multi-set of tools that use a common rechargeable battery system. I won't mention specific brands here, but several manufacturers appear to offer multi-tool sets that include a small circular saw, a couple of drills, flashlight, sawzall, vacuum, etc. along with a rechargeable battery or two. But that's if you want to get a bunch of tools all at once.

As @SiHa has said, typically buy tools as you need them for a specific job, and if possible, don't skimp on quality. You probably don't need to go to a professional grade, but if you buy a cheap tool, don't expect it to last very long. I also agree that with the exception of my cordless drill/driver, all of my tools are plug-in. Just not worth the hassle of batteries and trying to keep them charged. Also, cordless tools often just don't have the torque that corded tools tend to be able to provide.

As a point of reference, I've been a homeowner now for about 25 years through 3 houses, and have acquired a bunch of tools through the years as I've done a bunch of different renovation and improvement projects. Here is an approximate list of power tools I own, in order of how often I use them (or at least how important they are to have in my collection):

  1. Cordless drill (with extra batteries)
  2. Jigsaw
  3. Compound miter saw (12" blade is much nicer than the more common 9" - can get a lot larger pieces cut with a 12" blade)
  4. Circular Saw
  5. Sawzall
  6. Belt sander
  7. Hammer drill
  8. Shopvac (both large and small)
  9. Corded drill
  10. Random orbit palm sander
  11. Heat gun
  12. Router
  13. Table saw (no longer own, and don't really miss it as it took up a bunch of workshop space and didn't use all that often)
  14. Drill press
  15. Vibrating Multi-tool
  16. Dremel

And this isn't counting a ton of hand tools I have that aren't included on this list...

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  • it does the job about 2/3 as well as I'd hoped, +1. It's a get 'er done tool; if esthetics are the question, you'd better know how to use it, and willing to be satisfied with 2/3 of what it could've been. – Mazura May 12 at 23:32
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    I'd agree - buy the best tool you can afford for the task at hand - build the collection as need determines. Buying a couple of tools expecting them to "do it all" is a recipe for sadness. Sometimes you have to make something work because an immediate need for a fix doesn't coincide with the availability of cash to purchase the "perfect" tool for the job, but it will work out in the end. – FreeMan May 13 at 17:26
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Are multi-tools (e.g. Dremel or similar rotary tool) good for cutting straight lines? No.

My rules of thumb:

  1. if you are cutting long, skinny things into shorter, skinny things, use a mitre saw (a.k.a. chop saw)
  2. if you are cutting long, skinny things into long, skinnier things, use a table saw
  3. if you are cutting sheets (not drywall) into convex polygons, use a circular saw and straight-edge guide (available from good tool suppliers)
  4. if you are cutting sheets into complicated, concave shapes, use a jigsaw
  5. if you are putting fancy edges on things, use a router
  6. if you are cutting drywall, use a utility knife

You can do #1 with a circular saw easily (with a guide), and #3 also. You can also do #2 with a circular saw and a guide clamped to the saw base. It's not fun, IMHO. You can do #1 on a table saw if it has a large enough table and a shop-made sled. You can also do #3 on a table saw with a large table and/or a helper and in-feed and out-feed rollers, and being very, very careful.

For home construction-type projects I would prioritize a drill + circular saw, table saw, mitre saw, jigsaw (if you are sure you are never going to cut something that isn't easily portable, you can swap mitre and circular saw positions). A reciprocating saw (sawzall) is indispensable for demolition work.

If you are doing more craft/furniture type woodworking, it would go: drill & table saw, mitre-saw, router, jigsaw.

You will also need one or two hand saws. I recommend Japanese saws.

You'll note that a drill is at the top of both lists, and the table saw is near the top of both. That's just my opinion. Others may differ, but when you learn how to really use the table saw, there isn't a lot you can't do with it. Here are some images from a Greenland-style kayak paddle I am building out of scrap wood I found around the house: collage of paddle parts All cuts were made on a table saw, with the exception of the cross-cuts for the parts I assembled the stock out of (2x4s ripped and cut up to eliminate the worst knots, and I could have easily done those on the table saw except that I have access to a mitre saw and it was quicker to skip the setup), and some touch up with a Japanese hand saw.

I think you will find using a multi-tool will be frustrating to get good results (I know, I know, poor carpenter, tools, blame, but I'm not claiming to be a good carpenter), but I own and still use a Dremel. It's about 20 years old, but while I use it much less now that I've built up my collection of other tools, there are still jobs I'll pull it out for because it really is the best (or easiest) tool for the job (or at least the best tool in my toolbox).

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  • Agree with the usefulness of a table saw with a skilled operator and the right blades. It's just a piece of equipment that takes up a lot more workshop space than other power hand tools. So if storage space is at a premium, might not be as useful overall than other hand power tools from a workshop storage space standpoint. – Milwrdfan May 12 at 18:37
  • @Milwrdfan agreed, You need to adjust based on what you actually want to do a lot of to figure out if a table saw is what you want. OP is just starting, so yeah, hand tools are best to start with. And you can always rent one from your local big box retailer. Or if you're lucky enough to have a tool lending library in your town. – Colin Young May 13 at 2:14
  • Also, you can go through a lot of quality circular saws and cutting jigs before spending more than you would on an average table saw. And the average table saw will produce average results... – FreeMan May 13 at 17:28
  • @FreeMan I'm now convinced my answer really should have been "No. And rent several tools to see which ones you like to use and get work you are happy with out of." I just don't like circular saws. I can get better work out of a dodgy table saw than I can out of a good circular saw, but that's just me. I'd argue to splurge on better blades before spending too much on a high end saw though, no matter which tool it is. – Colin Young May 13 at 18:29
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If you are talking about an 'oscillating multi-tool' like this:

enter image description here

They are great for plunge/flush cutting. I bought one from harbor freight for about $20 and I've used it a handful of times. For things like cutting a nice square hole in drywall or cutting out rot etc. For those tasks, you can't beat this kind of tool.

Other than that, I would use something else, including hand tools. Japanese-style pull saws are a nice addition to any peg-board.

The blades for these oscillating tools get dull pretty quickly and you don't want to use dull blades because it will take forever and burn (literally smoke) like crazy. Assume you'll need a new blade for every task and they are maybe $5 each for a cheap one. They also shake the hell out of your arm and make a really loud buzzing noise that dogs and children will hate.

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  • When you say "the blades get dull fast" are you talking about the pictured tool or Japanese saws? I assume the former, but the wording made it a little confusing. – Colin Young May 13 at 2:07
  • @ColinYoung Updated. – JimmyJames May 13 at 14:00
  • Yup. That makes it easier for people like me to read correctly the first time around :) – Colin Young May 13 at 14:11
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The router is probably the most versatile tool, but it is not necessarily efficient at all tasks.

For example with a cutting wood to length you can use a straight bit on a router but you'll probably have to make several cuts of increasing depth and the router bit will create a much larger 'kerf' than any saw.

But you can use a router to cut to length (saw), cut dados (saw), cut laps, cut dovetails, cut free form shapes (jig saw), round edges, cut complex profiles, 'drill' holes (from about 1/4"-and up), straighten edges (jointer), etc. I'll add others when I think of them.

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I generally agree with Colin's breakdown, but if you want the short and sweet version for versatility: I recommend a sliding 10-or-12" mitre saw* as your first saw, and then put the circular saw and jigsaw tied for second. A table saw provides straighter cuts than a circular saw but isn't quite as versatile.

Avoid non-sliding mitre saws or those that don't provide a bevel cut (when the blade is angled as it comes down into the wood).

When I got my first fixer upper, my uncle told me a good mitre saw would be the most important tool to get, and this has proven true over and over again. In nearly every circumstance, it's a secure and straight cut, and it handles angles much better.

You may want/need another saw for ripping sheets like plywood, and then a table / circular / (even a) jigsaw can be the backup.

A multitool is useful at times, but not if your focus is on a straight cut. As others have said, it's usually not as effective as other tools. The most effective use I've had for a spinning multitool was cutting grout out of tile joints and for a vibrating multi tool was scraping adhesive off floorboards. I've done both of these things once.

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  • I don't disagree with this, but those sliding mitre saws can get pricey. A tool guide is the best investment for making long, straight cuts with any of the hand tools. Even the router suggestion. Actually, especially for the router option. – Colin Young May 13 at 2:13
  • I've found in the last year or two, decent ones have come way down in price, though it may depend on your definition of pricey. It seems like if you can wait a few weeks and watch the adds, there's always a homeowners-grade brand running for under $200 (Craftsman, Ryobi). I also got my Hitatchi/Metabo with a stand for under $200, but that was Black Friday ;) – Kevin May 13 at 12:33
  • Admittedly I haven't looked for a few years. I've got friends who loaned me theirs and aren't in a hurry for it to take up space in their garage again. I've had some bad experience with Ryobi that has permanently turned me off their products, perhaps unfairly. – Colin Young May 13 at 14:10

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