Review By Dean Bielanowski  I-Drill Website - http://www.idrill.com


I-Drill 12v (
1i-osc) Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

Reviewed 5th June 2011

Well, this is my first review for a LONG time... too long in fact, but alas, I am returning to the review process with a very cool tool to describe, at least... the new I-Drill Oscillating 12v Multi Tool.

This new tool is actually described as a "saw" by its manufacturer, but it is much more than a saw, and can do much more than just cut things. This type of tool is not new. Indeed similar tools have been around for many years now, but this model offers all the benefits of an oscillating multi-tool in a convenient cordless package.

This is just one tool from a line of tools with the I-Drill name, and we hope to offer reviews of the other items in due course but I wanted to kick off by looking at this particular tool, since I have always wanted one, and because it is so versatile, and a must for any home renovator, handyman or remodeler.

The I-Drill 12v Oscillating Tool
As mentioned previously, this type of tool is not new, but I'll review it in detail for the benefit of those who may have not come across a similar tool previously, and because I haven't reviewed a similar tool on this site before, and I always like to make my reviews as informative as possible, by explaining tasks that can be achieved by using the product and how best to use it etc etc.

First and foremost, you will notice this product has no cord. Its a cordless multi-tool. While oscillating tools running off mains power are fairly common, cordless varieties are a rarer breed, although now there are probably half a dozen or so on the market. What sets the I-Drill version apart from some of the others is that is universal in terms of its power supply and where it can be used. All I-Drill products can be used and are approved for use anywhere in the world. No more needing specific power supplies for specific countries. The I-Drill battery chargers are supplied with plugs to fit outlets in almost all countries in the world, and the chargers can handle a wide range of input voltages, again that match the power supplies used in most countries on Earth. Perhaps the "I" in I-Drill stands for International? Whatever the case, knowing you can plug your new "I-Drill" brand tool into your local wall socket and not worry about whether the charger can handle your local electrical supply is a breath of fresh air. You can also have confidence in purchasing anything from the range for a friend or relative overseas and not have to worry about whether it will work in their country or not.

The Oscillating Tool ships in a nice suitcase style pack, inside each component is located in its own shaped section cut from the hardened foam case insert. The package includes the oscillating tool, battery charger with 4x clip-on plug adaptors to suit most countries around the world, 1 x 12v battery and numerous attachments which I will describe later.

All tools in the I-Drill range use the same 12v 1.3Ah Lithium Ion stick batteries, so if you have multiple tools from the range, you can switch batteries between each tool as required. This means less hassle finding a battery and only one charger required for all the tools, keeping your storage requirements for battery chargers to a minimum - leaving more space for other cool tools! The batteries feature quality Sanyo Lithium Ion cells. Now, you might argue that all Lithium Ion cells are created equal, but sadly this certainly is not true. Just look at any budget line of cordless power tools. Chances are that if the tool is cordless, and it is rediculously cheap, it is likely going to have poor quality batteries. If you are going to go cordless, quality batteries are a must, otherwise your tool wont deliver good performance, and the only "good" thing it will deliver is a "good" dose of frustration, something which should be avoided! Thankfully the Sanyo cells have proven to be of good quality in other applications in the past, and they should also prove of high quality in these I-Drill tools. Of course it is too early in the product's life for me to verify this is the case, but so far the batteries appear to be holding up very well and certainly deliver a great amount of continuous power, which is necessary for a tool like this. Given that most tasks this tool undertakes places the tool under constant load (which generally draws more power from the battery cells than when under no load) the batteries are working just fine in my opinion. The batteries are not large in size or heavy in weight by any means, so you cant expect them to last forever under high load, but they do appear to be delivering a suitable amount of battery life per cycle all things considered. You can often tell almost right off the bat if you are using inferior batteries or cells. They don't deliver much power to begin with, and even after numerous charge/discharge cycles, they don't improve either.


Universal charger and I-Drill battery.

On the side of the oscillating tool is a battery charge level indicator featuring three blue LED lights. Once the tool is powered up, these lights illuminate to show an estimate of the current charge level. Three blue lights means a full or near full level of battery charge. Two lights means roughly a half full battery and one light means a low battery charge (battery should be charged before continuing to use it). With Lithium Ion batteries, it is best not to run them down to a near empty charge state if possible. It is worse to store these batteries with little or no charge. They should be charged regularly and fully charged before storing for any length of time. Because there is no real memory effect with lithium ion batteries, you can recharge them at any stage without harming the battery, so I would recommend putting them on the charger after you have finished using the tool for the day so the batteries are charged up, in case you don't use the tool again for a month or three.

The batteries are charged using the supplied charger. Because it is a universal charger, just attach the clip on plug that suits the countries wall socket you are in before you start. Attach this to the charger plug before plugging the cord into the electrical outlet. Turn on the mains power. The charger will show a green light. Insert the battery into the charger (it can only go in one way). Once inserted, the green light goes out and the red light illuminates to indicate the charging cycle has started. Once fully charged (around 45-60 mins for a full charge from a low or flat state) the red light goes out and the green light illuminates for easy identification that charging is complete. If the lights flash, there may be a charger/battery problem or the battery pack may be too hot to charge. Check the manual for further instructions. So far the charge process has been flawless for me. No problems noted.


Battery during charge. Note the red charge light is illuminated.

At the front of the tool is a LED worklight. This lights up whenever power is applied to the tool. It is useful in dark areas to help illuminate the work area. Its a handy little addition that is becoming more commonplace on cordless tools these days, and why not... LED lights consume so little power for the amount of light they can produce that there is little reason NOT to have them on the front of tools.

On top of the tool is a standard sliding ON/OFF switch to control power to the tool. Below this on the side of the tool is a variable speed control. Variable speed is crucial to control speed of cut during cutting processes or to help control material removal rate when sanding or during surface preparation operations, among others. Cutting speeds may also need to be slowed depending on material being cut. Some materials, for example, are more prone to heat generated during cutting than others. The oscillating tool provides an oscillation range/angle of +/- 1.4 degrees and a variable rate controlled by the variable speed wheel of between 5,500- 15,000 rpm.

Rubber overmolds cover all the major grip surfaces on the tool and the battery plugs in at the rear of the tool and when attach just about perfectly balances the tool in your hand so its not heavier at either end. This is a good feature as tools like this work with an oscillating motion and do generate a fair amount of vibration, and vibration mixed with a weight biased tool in one direction can cause fatigue. The even weight and centre of gravity located under the center of your hand when gripping the tool normally should help reduce this effect.

And now onto the working part of the tool. The accessory holder is where all the various cutting, grinding, sanding and scraping tools are attached. Because the head oscillates within a very small angular range, it does not spin in the same manner a drill head or router collet does. Still, care must be taken when the various cutting or grinding accessories are attached. I'll go through these individually so you get a good idea of what this tool comes with out of the box, and what these accessories can be used for in common applications.

Firstly, the various accessories/application tools appear to be quite universal in design, so some other manufacturer's parts may fit the I-Drill oscillating tool (I will have to verify this with the manufacturer). This is probably necessary as the I-Drill accessory range is probably not as readily available as others from the more well established brands. They do include a Dremel accessory adaptor so that is proof that Dremel branded attachments for the Dremel oscillating tool will be able to be used on the I-Drill oscillating tool using that adaptor. Each accessory attaches to the holder via two pins, which is then secured by a hex bolt. Some other similar tools feature a tool-less accessory holder/change procedure, but the one bolt is not difficult to add or remove in any case. What I would like to see on this tool, however, is a place onboard the tool or molded into the tool casing to hold the hex wrench for easy access, and so it is harder to lose. I, like many others I suspect, have a habit of misplacing the wrenches needed to change the blade or attachment on these types of tools. I usually try and add some kind of wrench holder to the power cord of many of my power tools, but this cordless tool doesn't have a cord to attach anything too! I'll just have to be vigilant and put the hex wrench back in the case or in a draw in my shed :) The other thing with the attachments is that they can be positioned on the tool is 6 different angles, so you can locate the blade at just the right angle to suit the position of the work piece or for clearance issues of the tool itself.

 Now, onto the accessories:

1. Bi-Metal Straight-Edge Flush Cut Blade - This straight edge blade is probably the most useful type for many users. It can cut wood, plastic, drywall and soft metals. Because the blade is offset it can be used for flush cutting, and these oscillating tools really excel at that. Think of undercutting door trim to tile underneath or cutting into the middle of existing baseboard trim. You can't easily get a hand saw onto that, and a circular saw is out of the question because you will damage either the floor or the ground next to it. An oscillating tool is the ideal solution. Just plunge cut in right where you need to make the cut and you can control the cut depth with ease and accuracy with a little care. I used this blade on the I-Drill oscillation tool to cut out a clearance hole in my drum sander's plastic top drum cover to fit a larger 4" dust port. The I-Drill oscillating tool was the perfect tool for the job and the bi-metal blade did the job quickly and cleanly. I have also used it for baseboard and trim undercutting or flush cutting as mentioned above, and also of cutting access holes for new electrical wall sockets. Another handy use is flush cutting dowel or plugs close to the surface. Although a flush cutting pull saw does do a better job, the oscillating tool will do it faster, but may require a little more sanding time, and there is a greater risk of damaging the surface surrounding the plug with a power tool. Another very handy feature of this blade is flush cutting copper pipe or plastic pipe to a wall surface. I haven't had the need to do that yet but there are videos showing it being done and it is impressive! Cutting out holes in plasterboard is easy as there is no need to drill pilot holes in corners for other blades to access, or risk injury using a jab saw to plunge into the material with force. The ability to plunge cut square to a material surface also makes it the ideal blade for cutting bench tops around shed wall framing or for fitting shelving around fixed obstructions. The list of possibilities is almost endless! You will likely use this type of blade the most as it is the best suited style of blade for an oscillating tool.

2. Circular Saw Blade (high speed steel) - This is a rounded edge blade with small steel teeth, much like the straight edge blade just with a different shape. It is not offset like the straight blade so it cannot undercut. It can cut similar materials as the straight edge blade, with the exception of some metals. It is listed as being able to cut thin sheet metal but there is likely other tools better suited to that need. It can be easier to cut wider material in a straight line than the narrower straight blade so it does give better results in these applications (as long as undercutting is not required). The other advantage is that it is easier to start a plunge cut with the rounded blade than with the straight blade so it is also a useful blade for a lot of different tasks.

3. Carbide circular blade - This "blade" is more of a grinding tool or grinding wheel than a cutting blade. It is best used on the I-Drill to undertake grout removal tasks, to help remove or make shallow cuts in plaster or clean up plastered edges (not ideal) or it can also be used on porous concrete and masonry. These latter tasks if anything that a small quick job would be better suited to another tool. For grout removal in shallow grout lines, this carbide wheel is ideal and does quite a good job. Of course how well can be determined by the type of grout used and even the composition of the grout. Some grout sets harder than others, and harder grout will be more difficult to remove, or at least take longer to remove. Set the I-Drill tool to max speed and plunge into the grout line. Be wary not to plunge the "blade" too deeply as you may cut into the backing material behind the tile and damage the board or backing surface. Keep the tool moving and make several shallow passes to ensure depth of cut into the grout is controlled. Because there is one flat side on the rounded blade, you can get right now into corners or joins without damaging the mating surface. This is a great feature are makes it the tool of choice for tough insitu jobs like this. Similar method can be used for making cuts into porous concrete or masonry, but to be honest, I can't think of many concrete/masonry cutting tasks this tool would be practical for? A grinder with a diamond wheel is the go here.

4. Carbide triangle rasp - This triangular shaped attachment has a bottom surface coated with carbide grit which is very coarse for rapid material removal. It can be used on wood, masonry, hardened adhesives and thinset, among other materials. It is best used on flat surfaces or edges to shape or removal material. If you want to round the sharp edge of a board or garden lumber, this tool will do that. It is excellent at removing thinset from previously tiled areas or to remove it from a lifted tile to repair and replace. The very course carbide grit is quite aggressive and handles this task extremely well. For removing plaster around a crack in a plasterboard sheet to properly repair the damage, the carbide rasp is excellent and makes quick work of widening the area or removing plaster around the crack to allow a decent amount of new topcoat to be applied and smoothed over. Certainly an accessory you will often find new uses for around the home or in the workshop.

5. Steel scraper blade - This is a nice little offset blade that does as its name suggests, it scrapes. It is great for removing old and flaking paint, for lifting vinyl, cork or lino tiles and can also remove old tile adhesive quite well, at least rubber modified flexible tile adhesive which is what I used it on during testing in my house, and for this it worked quite well. For removing paint or varnish, the surface should be close to smooth or flat for best results. The scraper blade does have a bit of an edge on it that can dig into surfaces if care is not taken and the right scraping angle used for the sub-surface material you are trying to remove the painted or varnished coats from. The blade supplied is a rigid blade as opposed to a flexible one. Flexible scraping blades are better used to remove silicone sealants, caulking materials or glazing sealants or putty. The rigid scraper blade is great for cutting carpet, even though you may think it is not suitable for it. You can readily plunge cut into carpet to accurately remove a piece or trim it to fit around wall structures or obstructions. It also cuts marine carpet very well too as I discovered. If you carpet has been glued down, once the piece is removed, use the same blade to scrape off the carpet adhesive and residue from the surface. It's very easy and the tool is a joy to use for purposes just like this.

6. Sanding plate - This triangular sanding plate accepts triangular shaped hook and loop backed sandpaper which is readily available. 12 pieces are provided, 4 each of 60, 80 and 120 grit paper. The motion of the oscillating I-Drill tool is similar to that of a 1/4 sheet or 1/3 sheet powered sander so the tool doesn't deliver very aggressive sanding, but more finish-style sanding, although with a 60-grit sheet attached and a high speed, you can remove material quite rapidly. Obviously sanding is most common on wooden surfaces but is equally useful on metal to smooth surfaces prior to applying a finish, or removing existing finishes. The triangular shape of the plate and sanding sheets allows the operator to sand into tight corners with ease. For larger areas, obviously this tool is not the most suitable because of its small sanding plate surface. It will take time to sand any large areas, but for patch sanding or finer detail sanding of smaller areas, the sander works very well. I used it to sand filler in nail holes used for fixing baseboards, to sand in the corners of door panels I have just finished assembling for a storage unit, and to help remove surface rust on some metal outdoor posts before repainting. It can be used well for small tasks where finer sanding is indicated.

7. Dremel accessory attachment - I don't own any Dremel oscillating tool accessories so I can't confirm this attachment works, but there is no reason it wouldn't as it is simply an adaptor. I believe it is included as I-Drill branded or distributed accessories may not be as readily available as Dremel accessories, so with an adapter such as this included, you can use any Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool accessory on your I-Drill oscillating tool, and Dremel accessories are available just about everywhere around the globe, and certainly everywhere online as well.

 Do you need this tool?
This is the question. The tool is certainly very handy to have as most people will have a need for at least one of its functions at some stage or another. But like a Dremel rotary tool, it is limited to small jobs mostly. If you want to work on large projects using it, you certainly can, but it will take longer than using dedicated tools for that specific job, and for large tasks you might be better off with a corded version that doesn't rely on battery power. For the home renovator the tool is ideal and certainly a must have item and for the odd job, the ability to just grab it and go and not worry about extension cords or access to mains power is great. For fitting and trim work the tool will most likely be used regularly, and is also handy for plumbers working with copper pipe and plastic pipe, or plasterers or electricians cutting into plasterboard. The tool is certainly versatile, there is no doubt about it.

At the end of the day, if you are undertaking or plan to undertake any of the above jobs or tasks mentioned on a fairly regular basis and have no other specialized tools for those jobs that work as well or better, then you will find value in the I-Drill oscillating tool. It is one of those tools (just like a Dremel rotary tool) that you tend to find new uses for once you own one yourself.

The I-Drill 1i-osc oscillating tool retails for USD$129.95 at time of writing. Check the I-Drill website for availability of the product from a retailer near you - www.idrill.com

I-Drill 1i-osc Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


The I-Drill 12v Cordless Oscillating Tool


Variable speed available by the speed dial


The compact 12v battery has a 1.5Ah capacity


The battery indicator here showing a full charge


LED light on the front of the tool


Plunge cutting into drywall to prep a damaged wall for repair


Sanding filler used to cover nail holes in baseboard


Grout removal is perfectly suited to the I-Drill oscillating tool and the circular carbide blade


The triangular carbide rasp has many uses; here I am knocking off the sharp edges of the entry posts to a kids cubby house


The scraper blade knocks off dried rubber modified tile adhesive with little effort@

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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