Friday, February 5, 2016

The Power Tool I Didn't Know I Needed -- Until I Did

Rockwell RK5140K 3.0-amp Sonicrafter

Apparently every well-equipped DIYer’s workshop needs an oscillating multitool – at least that’s what the BigBox stores told my wife when she was shopping a couple of Christmases ago. That’s why she gave me a Rockwell Sonicrafter kit that year. 

I’ll be honest: I looked at the thing, took all the pieces-parts out of the handy carrying case, and then shoved it under the workbench with several other power tools that only come out for special jobs, like a palm nailer and an angle grinder. I pretty much forgot all about this tool until starting my latest DIY job, remodeling the powder room in the new home. After pulling all the fixtures and removing the molding, my next step was to pull up the cheesy-looking sheet vinyl floor in preparation for laying ceramic tile. I’d started that rather laborious process by hand, using a heat gun and a scraper, before I remembered the multitool sitting unused in the workshop. Yippee! Not only did I have a chance to use the new toy, but I had a much faster way to strip that crummy flooring!

My Sonicrafter is a 3.0-amp corded model labeled Sonicrafter X2, which came with a handful of accessories in a Rockwell RK5140K kit. Besides the tool, I got a stiff scraper blade, a carbide grinder, a power scissors head, a sanding head, a grout-remocel tool and a couple of different saw blades. I put the scraper to work immediately.

Once I’d pulled up the flooring and the plywood underlayment, I also needed to cut the bottom off the door moldings. As luck would have it, the saw blade packed with the kit was exactly what I needed. Again, yippee: not only did I have a chance to use my tool, but I also got to see its versatility. 


Any Sonicrafter from Rockwell features their toolless, quick-change Hyperlock system for the attachments; which Rockwell claims is universal – I haven’t had an opportunity to test this claim, since all I’ve used is the attachments included in the kit. Like all Sonicrafter models, mine has a continuously variable speed control using a knurled knob on the body of the tool. It’s noisy as all getout – the dogs run for cover immediately – but it gets the job done.

The tool isn’t perfect, of course: the 3.0-amp model is now Rockwell’s lowest-powered version (it replaced a 2.3-amp version) with a maximum force of 21 pounds; the F30 takes 30 pounds of pressure and the newest 5.0-ampF50 stands up to 34 pounds. As the power gets higher, so, too, does the oscillation angle – that increases speed of cuts, grinding, scraping, and the like. Sure, you’d prefer – to quote Tim the Toolman Taylor – More Power! but for a job the size of mine, it definitely gets the job done.


I definitely like the Hyperlock system except for one problem: my handle continually pops open while in use, so I have to always hold it down. Fortunately, that’s pretty much the natural grip position. Another problem, at least for me, is that the owner’s manual says almost nothing about the variable-speed aspects. It would have been, shall we say, “instructive” to have some guidelines. What speed should I be using for cutting metal, removing grout, or cutting wood? Personally, I would have liked some suggestions. That’s a quibble, though – overall, the Sonicrafter RK5140K has proven a more than welcome addition to the toolbench.


Plus: versatile, multiple uses, easy to change attachments
Minus: Locking lever keeps popping open, poor instruction manual
What they’re saying: I concur: every dedicated do-it-yourselfer should have an oscillating multitool, and as far as we’re concerned a Rockwell Sonicrafter sets the standard for consumer models.

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