I bought my first oscillating multi-tool, a corded Fein model MSxe 636 II, in 1996 for scraping and sanding old windows and fairing handrail easements. As oscillating saw blades grew more advanced and affordable, though, it became one of my prime remodeling tools, handling everything from delicate material removal to finishing touches. My crew and I have now been using two of these tools for years, and they’re both still going strong.
In September when JLC asked if I’d like to field-test the new Bosch brushless model MXH180 18V Multi-X oscillating tool, I didn’t hesitate to accept. It’s one of several 18-volt models on the market that promise to perform like a corded model, and I couldn’t wait to see if its cordless convenience would make a big difference on the jobsite.
The 18V Multi-X is sold only as part of the MXH180BL kit. The user-friendly kit includes a modular L-Boxx-2 case that, for easy storage and transport, can be stacked with and locked to other L-Boxx cases and components in Bosch’s Click & Go line. Inside the case, an Exact-Fit tray conveniently holds the tool with the battery and an accessory installed, houses two extra batteries and a charger, and even provides a dedicated space for the charger cord (thank you). The case also contains a removable plastic box that stores and organizes your accessories—a welcome feature that keeps everything neat and accessible.
The batteries and charger are sold separately. If you’ve already bought into Bosch’s 18V lithium-ion platform, you’re good to go. I haven’t, so Bosch also sent me its SKC181-101 lithium-ion starter kit ($100), which includes a 4 amp–hour battery and a charger. The tool also accommodates Bosch’s compact 2 amp–hour battery and older batteries in the platform, but Bosch recommends using the 4 amp–hour battery for remodeling because it is more powerful and delivers the longest runtime.
Until recently, most oscillating tools required the use of an Allen wrench to swap accessories. The MXH180 lets you swap them at the flip of a lever, which is a blessing. Bosch makes a wide range of cutting, grinding, sanding, and scraping accessories, all of which mount to the tool using the company’s 12-pin Oscillating Interface System (OIS). This interface prevents the accessories from slipping and allows you to orient them in 12 different positions for optimal access and maneuverability.
I tried several of these accessories with good results. I love the slight curvature of the OSC114F wood-metal blade, for instance, because it makes plunge-cutting and cutting into corners much easier. Also, Bosch’s plunge-cut blades have a helpful depth scale along one edge. (Other manufacturers, including Fein, also make some accessories that fit this tool.)
According to Bosch, oscillating multi-tools typically spend about 80% of their operating time making cuts and, as it happens, I used the MXH180 almost exclusively for cutting. One reason I didn’t also use it for sanding is that Bosch doesn’t offer a vacuum attachment for this tool (not having such an attachment makes some sense for a cordless). Dust removal not only keeps jobsites cleaner and remodeling customers happier, but it also makes sanding more efficient and extends the sandpaper’s life. Our corded Fein tools do have vacuum attachments, so we continued to use them for detail sanding.
On site, I used the Bosch to remove a section of rotted crown molding at the rake and to trim some existing moldings in place to accommodate a new chimney that passed through the edge of a roof. The tool was an excellent choice for those jobs because I didn’t have to drag a cord up the ladder to get the precise cuts I needed. Indoors, I made cuts in plaster, plywood subflooring, hardwood flooring, and other materials. I also used the tool to scribe the bottom of a long bench seat to a hardwood floor.
Through all of this work, the tool was at least as powerful as my corded models, and the 4 amp–hour battery had plenty of runtime to complete each job. A fuel gauge on the battery indicates when its is time to recharge.
Runtime can vary dramatically, of course, depending on the workload. For what it’s worth, when we fully charged the battery, mounted the Bosch OSC312F wood-metal blade that was included with the tool, and let the tool run full-throttle at room temperature until the battery quit, it ran for 41 minutes and 27 seconds. After that exercise, the Bosch’s metal gear housing was too hot to touch, but that probably helped dissipate heat—the battery was only slightly warm.
The MXH180 weighs almost a pound more than our old Fein corded models (including their 16-foot-long cords). It also vibrated more and was a bit less comfortable to grip. Not a big issue, but when using the tool I often gripped it with both hands.
The Bottom Line
As much as I like my corded oscillating tools, they sometimes stay in the van simply because we don’t want to drag out another cord or there’s no place to plug in another tool. I constantly reached for the Bosch just because it’s cordless. However, it’s also powerful, has all the runtime I need, accepts plenty of useful accessories that you can quickly swap out, and has a great case. I recommend it to anyone who frequently uses a corded oscillating tool.
Motor type: brushless
Weight (with 4 amp–hour battery): 4.35 pounds
Oscillations per minute: 8,000 to 20,000
Included in kit: bare tool, saw blade, L-Boxx-2 case with removable accessory box
Warranty: One year, 30-day money-back guarantee (register for free three-year ProVantage plan)
Bosch / 877.267.2499 / boschtools.com
Steve Demetrick is a residential remodeling contractor in Wakefield, R.I.