The Craftsman 12V NEXTEC Multi-Tool is based on the same lithium-ion platform that is behind tools such as the Craftsman Hammerhead Auto Hammer, their 12V Compact Impact Driver, and their Dual Position Multi-Saw. These tools are extremely lightweight and are designed to provide lots of power in a small package. In the case of the Nextec Multi-Tool, Craftsman has entered a competitive field since the expiration of the Fein patent for oscillating tools and we were excited to see how well their implementation of this technology fared against other multi-tools we’d tested.
The first thing we noted about the Craftsman Multi-Tool is that it encloses the gear housing with the same one-piece plastic housing as the rest of the tool – a departure from most of the competition, and similar to another popular cordless multi-tool we tested this month. This body is wrapped, in part, with a soft-grip handle that allows easy handling with either one or two hands. The grip seems secure and I don’t expect the tool to slip, either when used with greasy or gloved hands.
The tool came boxed in an impressive retail package. Once we opened it up, however, we were somewhat disappointed in the provided case. Rather than a bag or molded case, Craftsman has provided a smallish flat zippered pouch that cannot fit the tool (as designed) without first removing any accessory that might be attached. The bag does have elastic and hook and loop straps to secure the tool and accessories. In our opinion this dramatically reduces the convenience of the bag and we’d recommend purchasing a standard mini tool pouch to replace what Craftsman has provided.
You activate the tool by using the large red switch on the topside of the Multi-Tool. It’s easy to operate and fits nicely under the thumb. Since there is no speed adjustment (an odd oversight or cost-cutting measure) the tool always operates at 15,000 OPM (oscillations per minute) making it about 3/4 as fast as most of the other tools on the market, which typically work at ~20,000 OPM. On the front of the tool is a single LED bulb that angles down to illuminate the work area – an excellent addition for this type of tool and unique among all the different models we’ve tested. While the Nextec Multi-tool is cordless like the Bosch PS40-2A, we don’t feel that it is based on the same platform. Motor speed, lack of speed control, battery life and weight are only some of the differences, not to mention the presence of a dust collection system on the Nextec model.
The 12V lithium-ion battery slides directly into the back of the tool and is extremely lightweight. There is only one battery included with this kit and presumably Craftsman hopes you have more than one Nextec product on hand (they all use the same 12V battery form-factor). Unloaded, the battery lasted a full 30 minutes (almost exactly) in our testing, more than twice as long as the competing cordless Bosch 12V Multi-X tool.
True to form, the lithium-ion technology works at nearly full capacity until it dies suddenly. The battery retains a small charge which keeps it healthy and retains its full ability to hold a complete charge. As such, it’s important to not attempt to continue to use the tool in short spurts once the battery dies. When the battery dies, the LED blinks as if to say “Hey, Stupid, charge me up!” Very helpful. The charger that comes with the tool re-charged the battery in roughly 30 minutes. If you have another Nextec product (and thus another battery) I see no reason why you can’t near have near-continuous use of the tool.
The Nextec 12V Multi-Tool comes with a nice assortment of accessories. Like most other tools it comes with a combination Wood & Metal blade (more on this below) and an assortment of sanding pads that fit onto the hook & loop pad. The Wood & Metal blade comes with laser etched markings for depth – a nice feature that we learned to appreciate in oscillating multi-tools.
It also comes with a hardened steel scraper blade, carbide circular adhesive removal blade (for grout removal), carbide triangular rasp, and a steel high speed circular saw blade. Each accessory has a unique central flange that allows it be placed in any position within the 360 degree radius in 30-degree increments. This holds the blades or sanding attachment secure during use so it doesn’t slip and allows precise control over the angle of the accessory.
Author’s Note: According to one Craftsman Product Manager, the company is looking to bring around a dozen new accessories to market quickly and is aware that this is an important need with respect to this tool.
We found the accessory system of the Craftsman to be pretty easy to use. It is designed in such as way as to hold the accessory in place while you secure the flange bolt and integrated washer. From what we could tell each of the raised locking pins has a slight lip, which grabs the accessory when placed flat onto the drive shaft. Craftsman includes a small rubber o-ring that keeps the washer secured to the top of the flange bolt. We’ve seen better ways of securing the bolt, but it does work and we encountered no problems in the time we used the Multi-Tool.
Testing and Use
Testing a cordless multi-tool is fun. You can go anywhere… do anything… it’s like an accident waiting to happen – albeit a fun one. We used the Craftsman to cut out some notches for a swinging door and also to do some work on an interior bathroom remodel. The cuts worked and the tool never bogged down, even when we pushed it to move it a long during the job.
What we quickly found was that the Nextec Multi-Tool tended to cut rather slowly. Once we took a look at the blade we understood why. The combination wood/metal accessory blade isn’t really designed well for cutting either wood or metal. The teeth are on the smallish side, making wood cutting a slow process. Additionally, they are not properly aligned for metal either. I could find no place online to purchase a different blade for the tool – only a replacement flush cut blade (for $12.99). This will be a big drawback for those expecting to cut through significant amounts of wood or anything harder than soft pine baseboard. We took the Multi-Tool and set it to work on a 1/2 diameter copper pipe.
After several minutes we finally gave up and moved on to some other tests which furthered our opinion that this tool is very versatile, but not one of the fastest cutting tools you can find on the market. One thing to keep in mind is that this is more of a statement about the accessories, and not so much a condemnation of the 12V Nextec Multi-Tool. Since the motor never showed any strain, it’s our opinion that if Craftsman can innovate some better accessories they will breathe new life into this tool.
Like the other cordless multi-tool we’ve been able to test, the Craftsman Multi-Tool is lightweight and easily used with just one hand. At 1 lb 14 ounces, this is a tool that won’t cause any strain, even when used overhead or in cramped quarters. Noise was also very tolerable at just 85 dB when measured from 3 feet away.
Craftsman has done a great job of balancing features, performance and value in the Nextec 12V Multi-Tool. In terms of bang for the buck, this tool does stand out as a competitive product with lots of excellent features. At a retail price of $99, the Multi-Tool is positioned as the cheapest cordless multi-tool on the market. Because of its reduced speed and mediocre cutting blade, it’s not the fastest working oscillating tool you will find nor does it strike us as a professional’s choice. The Craftsman Nextec 12V Multi-Tool is, however, most certainly a product that demands to be recognized. If getting cordless functionality is a must and you want to spend as little as possible, you should definitely consider this tool.