Makita has come out with a new 18V StarLock-compatible cordless oscillating multi-tool (XMT04ZB) as part of their SubCompact line.
Bosch and Fein’s StarLock oscillating multi-tool interface has been around for more than 5 years now, with more cordless power tool manufacturers building their tools with compatible interfaces. Metabo came out with a Starlock multi-tool earlier this year, and now Makita has joined the party.
The thing about StarLock blades and accessories is that most if not all of them are compatible with many other brands’ universal or Bosch OIS-compatible interfaces. However, StarLock tools are not backwards-compatible with other styles of blades.
Bosch, Fein, and other brands have been making StarLock-compatible blades and accessories for a couple of years now, and the last I checked they’re no more expensive than comparable universal-interface style accessories.
If you are in the market for a universal-style oscillating multi-tool, corded or cordless, you have two main choices to make today – you can go with Bosch and Fein’s StarLock interface, or universal-style open-ring blades.
StarLock tools usually feature very quick and easy to use tool-free blade change mechanisms.
Bosch, Fein, Metabo, and now Makita have Starlock-compatible tools, while Dewalt, Milwaukee, and other makers have non-proprietary universal-style interfaces. There are pros and cons to both.
There are 3 types of Starlock accessories – StarLock, StarLock Plus, and StarLock Max, with each tier corresponding to different power and performance requirements. With this being a StarLock Max tool, it should would with any StarLock style of accessory.
Makita StarLock Brushless Oscillating Multi-Tool Specs (XMT04ZB)
- 10K-20K OPM
- 3.6° oscillating angle
- 276mm (~10-7/8″)*
- Weighs 4.4 lbs with battery
- Soft start motor
- LED worklight
* The similar international model, DTM52, is said to measure ~10-7/8″ without battery (add maybe another inch for the battery). Makita USA’s press materials list a 17-1/8″ overall length, which cannot be accurate.
The similar Makita DTM52, which launched internationally several months ago, features anti-vibration technology with no more than 2.5 m/2^2 of vibration.
Price: $229 for the bare tool
The StarLock Max interface is worth paying special attention to, as there are few options compared to StarLock Plus, at least with respect to cordless powered tools.
Fein has a cordless SuperCut, which is StarLock Max compatible, as well as StarLock and StarLock Plus, as each next-higher level of the interface is backwards-compatible with the lower accessory tiers as well.
Since power draw depends on the task, this should mean that the Makita SubCompact oscillating multi-tool is capable of being used with more demanding SuperCut-type of accessories, and hopefully without any compromise to runtime when used with popular StarLock or StarLock Plus accessories.
Most users will likely use StarLock accessories exclusively, but it’s good to be able to use StarLock Plus and even Max accessories if needed.
Makita seems to have a couple of different StarLock blade options (via Amazon), but I have never seen them in stores, where Bosch, Fein, and Diablo tend to dominate. The online pricing for Makita-branded accessories seem fair. When looking at their plunge-cutting blade, images of the packaging show that it’s made in Switzerland, presumably by Bosch.
This would make sense – Makita is likely licensing the StarLock interface tech from Bosch and Fein, and it’d be far less expensive for them to contract with Bosch for accessory manufacturing than to set up their own factory. If Bosch is indeed Makita’s accessory OEM, shop according to price – Bosch’s blades are excellent regardless of the brand name that’s etched into them.
Makita USA doesn’t show this in their press images for the XMT04ZB, but the identical-in-appearance DTM52 features a removable stud type of tool-free blade change mechanism. All of the cordless StarLock Plus tools I’ve tried from other brands don’t have this – their clamping designs do not feature any removable parts.
This is important because it will slow you down compared to blade changes with other brands’ StarLock-compatible tools.
I thought that perhaps this type of blade change mechanism was necessary for the StarLock Max interface, as I have only used StarLock Plus tools with the tool-free and stud-free blade change mechanisms. However, Festool’s 18V Vecturo cordless StarLock Max oscillating multi-tool also does not have a stud.
Is Makita’s stud-based tool-free blade change mechanism a deal-breaker? Absolutely not. But, this little detail is disappointing.
There are two things I like about Bosch’s StarLock multi-tools. First, it’s so much faster to change blades, especially when you don’t have to worry about a clamping stud. Second, it allows me to change out blades without burning my fingers or having to wait for a blade to cool down first.
The Makita XMT04 seems like more of a StarLock-compatible tool, rather than one with a StarLock-style of blade clamp.
I use non-StarLock tools fairly regularly, and there’s hardly a difference unless I’m changing blades out frequently. Meaning, if you want a Makita cordless oscillating multi-tool that works with StarLock blades, go for it, as long as you understand what you’re getting.
What confuses me is that you can use StarLock blades with most brands’ universal-style tool interfaces, except for StarLock Max. So couldn’t Makita have stayed with a universal-style interface and still be fully compatible with StarLock and StarLock Plus blades and accessories?
I suppose that the StarLock Max interface opens up compatibility to those larger SuperCut-type of accessories. But you can have StarLock Max tools with spring-action clamp.
With a stud-based blade clamp design, you don’t have the ease of blade changes as with other StarLock tools, and you also don’t have the accessory compatibility of a universal-style interface.
So with this tool, you have a proprietary interface, but with what benefits?
The tool itself seems to be fairly compact – going by international specs for the Makita DTM52 – and vibration-reducing tech is always a plus.
Looking at a video of Metabo’s StarLock Plus, they also have a removable stud, and so Makita isn’t alone in this.
Here’s what Bosch StarLock blade changes look like.
Since Makita’s tool has a stud-based clamping design, blade changes aren’t going to be any faster than with many universal-style tools using the same StarLock and StarLock Plus accessories, although you do gain StarLock Max compatibility. As mentioned, it’s probably not a deal breaker in my opinion – especially if you’re a Makita 18V user who has been waiting for an upgraded brushless OMT – this is just different than what I had expected to see.
Why did Makita launch their 18V brushless SubCompact multi-tool with a slower stud-based clamping design instead of the spring-loaded clamping mechanisms similar to the ones featured in Bosch, Fein, and Festool StarLock tools? Am I missing something? Maybe this was a condition of their licensing arrangement? Might Makita be planning to launch a 40V Max (36V) XGT version of this tool with a faster stud-free StarLock blade clamping mechanism?