The initial response to the proposition of doing 100-inch straight cuts with a cordless oscillating saw will be "are you mad?", but I still wonder.

I'm just starting out in DIY and decided to get a jigsaw for versatility. It can do flexible, it can do long straight cuts if you clamp on a guide (although it will be slow), etc.

And then a friend suggested I consider an oscillating multi-tool. It's far from ideal for the job, he said, but it adds a whole bunch of other features that a jigsaw can't do. And so it might be a much more versatile initial purchase. Even with 2x 100-inch MDF cuts needed in an upcoming project. Although he guesses it would be painful to do those long cuts, I would be left with a much more versatile tool he thinks I will end up using more than a jigsaw. And given the fact that I don't know how serious my DIY-ing will be in the future, it might be a better purchase.

I'm wondering what you guys think about this proposition. Does his rationale make sense?

6 Answers 6


The oscillating tool is NOT the tool for the job that you describe. Neither is the jig saw. The proper tool for long cuts like you describe is a circular saw with a straight edge guide clamped onto the work piece. Even better would be a table saw but that is clearly not applicable here.

Get the right tool for a job. Why compromise the craftsmanship with shoddy crap cuts made by tools that are not made for the application. Invest in the right tools, do quality work and be proud of the result. If you cannot give it that then hire someone that can provide it for you. There is nothing worse than a kludged up mess.

  • Completely understand where you are coming from, I do. And if we were discussing something in my field, then I would probably make the same types of comments you are making. It isn't the right tool. But I've also used a screwdriver and even a ballpoint pen to open a box, not the right tools but they did the job. The long cuts I'm looking to make can be shoddy as all hell, because the cuts will be out of sight. Aug 17, 2016 at 14:38
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    So it sounds like maybe you don't really want to hear the answer to your question? I used to think similar things to what you've expressed, but I learned that buying the right tool is worth it 99% of the time. If it's a one-off, maybe find someone you can borrow it from, or buy the tool and then sell it used if you don't use it again within a year or so. It will save you a world of frustrations, and make you feel much more satisfied when your project is done, rather than having a feeling of "I hope I never have to do that again". Also, instead of circular saw, I'd recommend a track saw. Apr 22, 2020 at 13:12
  • I have an oscillating multi-tool, jigsaw, and a circular saw. If I were making long straight cuts in MDF, I would choose the circular saw. If I had to make cuts that meet in a corner and was concerned about overcutting, then I might finish the corner with the jigsaw. I would not touch the oscillating multi-tool for this project.
    – Glen Yates
    Jul 13, 2022 at 15:31

Look, if you want to go at this inexpensively as your prime criteria, buy a handsaw and have at it. Unless you buy a pre-dulled one from the fleamarket and don't sharpen it, it will be faster than an oscillating tool, and despite MDF being miserable crap, you'll still have a usable saw after 200" of MDF cutting if you buy a new one from a store or a sharp one from the flea market.

Otherwise (if you are dedicated to "all tools must have a cord", or you want it done quicker - but you still want it cheap) find a decent 7-1/4" circular saw used from craigslist or a fleamarket, or buy a terrible one new from harbor freight (one of the options will probably last longer and thus be less expensive in the long run, but either should get the job done for a low starting price - keep the receipt from HF just in case if you do that.) If you never have a use for it again, sell it on CL.

  • No second hand market of anything here in Bangkok, I'm afraid. Thanks for your thoughts. Aug 17, 2016 at 15:14
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    Not quite true, though I don't see any circular saws today. There is a 4" disc grinder. bangkok.craigslist.co.th/search/tla
    – Ecnerwal
    Aug 17, 2016 at 15:17
  • Second hand markets work well in societies where there is a decent middle class. Thailand has a very small middle class, although it is growing. Classifieds are up and coming, but most of the stuff being sold on there is absolute crap. I've tried it in the past. But let's not go off topic here. Welcome to come visit, I will buy you a beer! 😀 Aug 17, 2016 at 15:20

It is actually possible to use an oscillating saw for long cuts in a pinch.

If you are going to use an oscillating saw, make sure you get the best one that is available. The cheap versions are utterly horrible, and do not cut very well at all. They typically come with very cheap blades that get ruined during the first cut. The teeth on them are weak and basically wear or shear off, even on softer woods. All of the teeth eventually go, and you end up causing a fire because you essentially start to burn through the wood instead of actually cutting.

The best ones on the other hand, are quite good. I purchased one after owning a very cheap one from Harbor Freight, and there is no comparison. I did a fair bit of cutting with it, and the original blade is still in decent shape. It also has a universal design for the blades, so you can use a variety of different ones with it.

Obviously, the better tool for the job would either be a handheld circular saw, or a table saw. An oscillating saw does not make a very clean continuous cut. They are best used for small intricate cuts in tight areas such as undercutting door casings, etc. to install flooring.

  • Thanks for your answer. I think I've made up my mind and think I will get the oscillating tool, and if after the first 20 inches I really think it's not going to work then I will get a circular saw. I plan to get the DeWalt, as batteries would be interchangeable with my drill and a tool like this makes sense to have in a cordless version. I think it's a fairly decent one? Aug 18, 2016 at 2:41

I see the OP asked this a while back, but also for anyone else looking, the answer actually depends on your budget, criticality of precision cuts, and an understanding of how the tool operates and wears. For instance, the oscillating multitool is very versatile, especially with the variety of blades/attachments available. However, the oscillation is very fast (10k OPM and higher), so there's the potential for a lot of heat that not only can mar what you're cutting, but quickly dull your blades, and even shorten the life of the tool's motor, if you use the wrong blade for your cut. The standard blade that comes with it is usually one used for stabbing cuts (notching out, etc.), not very wide, so unsuitable for the longer cuts in the OP's question -- you'd generate so much heat and wear with that blade after a bunch of longer cuts, you could dull it before your project's finished. You can get a circular wood-cutting multitool blade, which dissipates the heat, plus is not as maneuverable, which you want on longer cuts since the wider shape within what's already cut helps keep it cutting on a good line, and that plus a straight edge to go by could be an option. But you wouldn't want to batch out production runs with it, due to replacement blade costs.

A jigsaw is workable, but due to the blade shape, you want to watch out you don't flex the blade (easy to do with a long, narrow blade that's only attached to the tool at one end), resulting in a wandering cut both in direction and angle. It can be done, but you'll want a straight edge for a fence, and a lot of patience to develop a feel for it that prevents blade flex.

A circular saw is the best inexpensive tool for the job as described, but if the cost is prohibitive, you can as someone suggested get a hand saw or Japanese pull saw. Keeping in mind a few techniques, such as long shallow cuts along the line to establish a shallow 'steering' cut, alternating with steeper cuts to get through the material faster, as well as others easily found online, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily a sharp saw will get through your project.

But keep asking, and researching. And if you can make a bit of money off the fruits of your labors, you can use that to fund further tool purchases of the proper tool for each job. Good luck!

  • I have since purchased a circular saw and a jigsaw, and chuckle at the thought of making cuts as described in the original post. My approach to new hobbies tends to be to skimp on investments initially, which is the phase I was in when I posted this. And then subsequently I usually go overboard. I don’t use my tools nearly enough, but I know if cared for they’ll last me the rest of my life. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Bill. And I must say, I never expected a man of your means to be so knowledgeable about these matters! ;-) Jul 14, 2022 at 1:30

This is a very opinion based question and response, but whatever.

I rarely use either of my jig saws (one corded, one cordless). I might use it for a true curved cut in thin stock like an interior hole or a curved arc in plywood,.

For long straight cuts, I use a circular saw with a clamped rail to guide it. That's if I can't get the material to my table saw. If I felt rich, I would buy a track saw.

When I first found the multi-tool, I thought I had gone to heaven. For tight cuts, trimming moldings in place, shaving small excess, it can't be beat. For demolition, it is so much more precise than a Sawsall type machine.

While it can be used for long cuts, and can be slid along a track to guide it, I would be reluctant to use it for your project, especially if you need a fairly straight (unrippled) cut.

  • Thanks for your comment. The cuts don't need to be straight as they will be out of sight. How painful would it be in your view to do this? I just can't get over the idea that I don't see myself doing many long cuts in the future but would see using the multi-purpose tool for odd jobs around the house; the circular saw would just be sitting around after these cuts. Aug 17, 2016 at 14:42
  • In addition to how painful, any thoughts on how many blades I would go through on a 100-inch cut through half inch MDF sheet? I read people commenting about how fast they go through blades. Aug 17, 2016 at 14:43
  • You'll spend a small fortune on blades with use like that.
    – User95050
    Aug 17, 2016 at 17:23
  • How many DeWalt blades do you think I would need for a 100-inch cut through 10mm MDF? Aug 18, 2016 at 2:39
  • @RobdeJonge you've long since completed this project, but there's no requirement to use DeWALT brand blades in a DeWALT brand tool. The DeWALT (I own one) has a very standard blade mount system that will take almost any brand blade on the market. Dremel & Bosch have a rather unique mounting system that won't fit the DeWALT (or most other brands), but otherwise, you're free to buy any brand you'd like.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 13, 2022 at 14:50

If all you have is the oscillating multitool and jigsaw, The jigsaw would be the faster and easier choice for long straight cuts in MDF. Just clamp a guide on the board and use the coarsest shortest blade that can make the cut.

And depending on the saw, you may need a vacuum or blower to remove the dust from the cut so it does not clog the teeth of the blade as fast.

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