Oscillating Multi-Tool vs. Jigsaw: Which to Use?

Oscillating Multi-Tool vs. Jigsaw: Which to Use?

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If you are getting into woodworking of any sort, whether you are renovating an old house, building a new one, constructing a shed or birdhouse, or anything in between, two of the tools that you will most likely run into are oscillating multi-tools and jigsaws.

Both are very useful and versatile, but of course, they are not at all the same things. As such, let’s take a closer look at the two tools: at what the differences between them are and which one is better for your needs.

Oscillating Multi-Tools and Jigsaws: The Basics

Before we get into talking about the major differences between oscillating multi-tools and jigsaws, let’s first figure out what exactly both of these tools are.

What is an Oscillating Multi-Tool?

Oscillating Multi-Tool First off, we have the oscillating multi-tool, which is often considered one of the most versatile power tools around. In terms of its shape, it features a long and cylindrical body of about 15 inches, with a 90-degree bend at the front, which is where the head of the tool is. More or less, you can just imagine the letter L.

The head of the oscillating power tool features an oscillating motion, which means that it works by moving the tool head side to side very many times per minute, up to 20,000 times in general.

The neat part about oscillating multi-tools is that they can be used for a wide variety of tasks, and it is all thanks to the fact that they can accept many different attachments and accessories. These can allow for sawing, grinding, cutting, polishing, and more, all with a single tool and a few attachments.

These tools can be both battery-powered and corded.

What is a Jigsaw?

Jigsaw A jigsaw is a type of power saw. Specifically, it is a type of reciprocating saw, which means that the blade moves back and forth very quickly, or in the case of the jigsaw, up and down.

The jigsaw is a relatively small and handheld power saw, with the main purpose of it being to cut a variety of shapes and irregular curves into various materials including wood, metal, and other similar materials.

In terms of the shape, you can imagine a jigsaw looking almost like an iron that you would use to iron clothing, but instead of heat and steam coming out of the bottom, there is a serrated blade that moves up and down at very high speeds.

These tools can be both battery-powered and corded and can be equipped with a variety of blades.

Oscillating Multi-Tool vs. Jigsaw: What Are the Differences?

Now that you know what both of these tools are, let’s help you figure out which one to choose by taking a closer look at the main differences between them.

1. Motion

The first major difference between these two tools, although it might not make a huge difference to you, is the way in which these two tools move their blades or attachments.

An oscillating multi-tool features an oscillating motion, or in other words, the head moves side to side in a very quick manner. On the other hand, a jigsaw features a so-called reciprocating motion, which means that it moves back and forth.

Now, the difference between oscillation and reciprocation is not all that pronounced, but it is a difference nonetheless.

Oscillating Multi-Tool in Use

2. Speed

Related to the above point, what also needs to be said here is that an oscillating multi-tool, not only has a different motion than that of a jigsaw, but it also moves much faster. The range of motion on an oscillating multi-tool is very limited, but it can move at up to 20,000 oscillations per minute, which makes it feel and look more like vibrations than anything else.

On the other hand, a jigsaw blade has a much wider range of motion, but it moves much slower, generally between 300 and 3,500 strokes per minute.

Both of these first two differences between these two tools do in part determine what their functions are. It does not necessarily mean that the jigsaw is slower at cutting than the oscillating multi-tool, though. In fact, the opposite is true in most cases.

3. Size and Weight

The next major difference between these two tools has to do with their overall dimensions and weight, with oscillating multi-tools being the longer and thinner of the two, and jigsaws being shorter, bulkier, and heavier.

That said, generally speaking, both tools are light enough to use with a single hand. Oscillating multi-tools are the lighter of the two, usually topping out at around three pounds, whereas jigsaws can weigh almost twice as much.

In terms of horizontal space, due to the length of the oscillating multi-tool, it does not always perform well in tight spaces. That said, due to the wide range of heads or accessories an oscillating tool can use, it is still generally the more versatile one.

Jigsaw in Use

4. Durability and Longevity

What needs to be said about oscillating multi-tools is that they are not always the most durable, particularly their accessories or heads. Sure, you can expect to get two or three years out of a good oscillating multi-tool, but that said, jigsaws are still far more durable.

In general, jigsaws are just built much tougher.

5. Cost

You can find entry-level models of both of these tools for just under $100, but when it comes to the high-end models, you can expect to spend quite a bit more on a good jigsaw than on an oscillating multi-tool.

You can find a high-end oscillating tool for around $120 to $150, whereas a high-end jigsaw can easily cost twice that.

6. Applications

The biggest difference between these two tools has to do with their applications and capabilities.

Jigsaws have one purpose and that is to cut wood, specifically to cut curves and irregular patterns into thin sheets of wood. Some jigsaws, depending on the blade being used, can also cut through metal, plastic, and other such materials.

Now, an oscillating multi-tool can use a saw attachment to saw, but that said, sawing is really not what this tool excels at, although it is certainly capable of it. The cool thing about oscillating multi-tools, as the name implies, is that they are multiple tools in one. Depending on the attachment you get, this tool can polish, sand, grind, cut, saw, and more.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

It is really quite simple.

If you need to saw wood or other materials, particularly curves into thin stock, then a jigsaw is the way to go. For small cutting jobs, polishing, grinding, sanding, and everything else, it is the oscillating multi-tool that you need.


As you can see, although both of these tools are power tools, they are not the same at all. Both perform very different tasks.

When it comes down to it, a jigsaw is a great lightweight power saw for cutting curves and patterns, whereas although an oscillating multi-tool can also saw, it excels more at grinding, polishing, and sanding.

One is a saw, and the other is for everything else.

How Do Multi-Tools and Jigsaws Compare with Other Tools?

See how oscillating multi-tools compare with: angle grinders | Dremels | reciprocating saws

See how jigsaws compare with: bandsaws | circular saws | circular and reciprocating saws | coping saws | reciprocating sawsrotary saws | Rotozips | routers | scroll saws