Here at We do everything by our own hands, the only power tool I use is a Mac computer. The real editors fire up their tools, build the projects, generate the dust and write their stories. As the copy editor, I fire up my Mac and—on a good day—succeed at translating their articles from Constructionese into something resembling real English.
I confess that I’m also “tool phobic,” convinced that if I actually pick up, say, a circular saw, as soon as I squeeze the trigger, I’ll either ruin something expensive (“sorry about the cherry cabinets, dear!”) or maim myself or anyone near. “You’ll shoot your eye out” zings around my brain like a pinball.
But if I’m going to blog occasionally, I’ve got to expand my tool repertoire beyond my Mac. I looked around the house and saw the Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool I bought my husband for his birthday last year. I spied the crumbling 16-ft. grout line along the back of our kitchen counters. It covers the inside corner where the granite tops meet the tile backsplash—a joint that’s subject to movement and that should have been filled with flexible caulk instead.
At the hardware store, I picked up a regular grout saw for $5, safety glasses—and coward that I am—some 1-7/8-in.-wide Frog Tape to protect the wall tile and the granite. Back at home, I taped off the area and first gave the grout saw a try. Scraping the grout by hand was tedious and slow. I switched to the Multi-Max, and flinching, I flipped the switch and touched the blade to the grout line. It was a little loud at the recommended medium to high speed, but it was easy to hold and control. Using the tool in a back-and-forth motion wears a groove in the grout, and making several passes in an area cleans it all out.
The Multi-Max made the work go much faster (not quite instant gratification, but a lot closer!). I was able to remove an 8-ft. grout line in about an hour, but that included scraping the grout behind the faucet and other dispensers by hand because the space was a bit too tight for the Multi-Max. As a rookie, I didn’t set any speed records, especially because I was trying to shoot a blog photo with my iPhone in my other hand. My prediction: You could remove grout a lot faster!
The Multi-Max is also designed for cutting, scraping, sanding and grinding. I can’t vouch for its sanding and grinding abilities, but Gary Wentz, one of the real editors here, says it excels at making cuts other tools can’t. He used it to cut a notch in a floor joist where his reciprocating saw wouldn’t fit between copper pipes. My DIYer husband found it indispensable for finishing the window cutouts in the siding for the playhouse he built last summer.
My first DIY project with a power tool: Job done, expensive tile and eyeballs intact. A good day. And the next time I tiptoe outside my comfort zone, it’ll be to apply my first bead of caulk on that very same joint. I’ll get to use one of my favorite low-tech tools—my finger.
You can buy the Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool ($120) and Frog Tape ($11) at home centers and through our affiliation with Amazon.com (see links below).
Many other companies—Ridgid, Bosch, Craftsman, Fein and more—also offer oscillating tools, at many price levels. Check them out.
– Donna Bierbach, Senior Copy Editor