Fein Multimaster is the top brand of multi-purpose power tools. Based on its sales and marketing material, as well as from word of mouth, it's supposed to be able to do everything from cutting doorjambs to lifting linoleum to degrouting and polishing. While this is partially true, where it truly excels is making precise custom cuts and other finishing jobs which normal power tools cannot handle. Despite this limitation, every professional and DIY home remodeler salivate over Fein tools. Until they see the price tag ... which sends them running for the hills.

With the price of the Fein Multimaster power tool on its own listed around $270, the default package with accessories (a standard collection of blades and other finishing tools) listed at $400, and each additional accessory starting at $15 and climbing ever higher, it becomes natural to look for other more affordable multimaster tools.

Still, before you start looking at different brands or knock-offs, it might be wise to consider factory-reconditioned Fein tools. These Fein power tools were returned to the factory for various reasons - sometimes cosmetic, sometimes it didn't do what the buyer expected, sometimes a wrong model was delivered - and then repaired or reconditioned. These are, for all practical purposes, brand new Fein Multimasters that sell at 30% or better discounts. Your best bet to finding these gems is to look at Fein's website or check with the authorized dealers for your area.

Another good source of cheap Fein Multimasters is eBay. Of course, these units will be used goods and not new. Amazon is another source of used Fein tools. In the past few years, they have started selling used goods as well. Why would anyone sell off perfectly good Fein power tools? Who knows - maybe a contractor is going out of business, maybe the owner of the Fein needed money, maybe it was a gift that was lying around gathering dust? Regardless of the reason, there is a possibility of picking up a good deal.

But what if 30% off the list price of a Fein Multimaster is still not affordable? One possibility is the relatively new Bosch Multi-X. It is cordless and Bosch seems to be having teething pains with the battery life. But at only half the price of a Fein, you can easily stock up on a few spare reconditioned batteries and chargers. And while it does not come with as many accessories, the Bosch blades and other attachments are 10% to 40% cheaper than comparable Fein Multimaster blades.

Yet another alternative to Fein tools are the Rockwell Sonicrafter range of power tools. The Rockwell package that is most comparable with the Fein Multimaster Top (this is Fein's most comprehensive package) comes with 20 accessory blades and tools (compared to the Fein's 6 blades and tools) sells for one quarter the price of the Fein ($400 for Fein, $120 for Rockwell).

The cheapest of the existing Fein Multimaster "clones" comes from Dremel. The Dremel Multi-Max sells for $100. The quality doesn't seem to be as solid as Fein, but should still be good enough for the casual DIY enthusiast. However, for a beginner DIY-er, or someone who just needs to make some emergency repairs, there is something even cheaper - the Dremel Multi-Pro costing $40. It uses an older technology, and lacks a number of features that a true DIY enthusiast finds useful.

Two major issues of multimaster tools (all of them, not just Fein) are the fragility of their blades and the high cost of replacing them. The new oscillating motors they use forces certain design constraints on the blades. You could say that the fragility and high cost are the prices you pay for the ability to make more precise cuts. This means that multimaster tools are not suitable for large volume work. For example, if you need to cut a lot of wood, you should grab a Sawzall instead. Another point is that you should not force the blade against the working material when using a multimaster tool with an oscillating motor. You need a feather-light touch for greatest effect, quite different from normal power tools using rotary motors. As a nice bonus, this also helps to preserve the life of your blades.

Until Bosch gets its act together, Fein Multimaster tools remain the king of the hill when you need long-lasting absolute reliability and quality ... if you can only afford it. Fortunately, if you do not need perfection, both Rockwell and Dremel provide perfectly adequate multimaster tools at a quarter the price.