Skip to main content

Tops In Tools

  • Author:
  • Updated:

I recently had a job to do onboard Betty Jane that seemed virtually impossible. There are a couple of seven-foot-long cosmetic trim pieces over each of her fuel tanks and I needed to remove each of them so I could get at and replace the hose clamps on the fuel fills.

The pieces were well back toward Betty’s hullsides, difficult to reach because each piece was squeezed lengthwise between the top of each tank and the overhead, and too thick to break and then remove.

What to do? There was no way to cut the pieces with a saw—there simply wasn't room for a saw of any type I could think of at the moment. Moreover, there was no way to make a cosmetically appealing, vertical cut with a drill bit or hole saw.

As usual, my brother was the one to energize the faltering light bulb that typically floats, cartoon-wise, over my head, dark and unattended, for whole months at a time.

“What about an oscillating saw,” he theorized.


In short order, I broke out my Fein MultiMaster. As you can see from the photo below, the saw attachment (one of many, varied attachments, by the way) sticks straight out of the tool's  head and oscillates back and forth (just 1.6 degrees on either side of center, to be precise) at a blurry rate of speed.


Cutting has more to do with the sharpness of the blade’s teeth and its oscillating speed than it does with the blade's length of travel, a consideration that's so important with handsaws, for example. And, as you can see, cuts can be made in corners, straight into recesses in bulkheads, and in lots of other places that are inaccessible to virtually any other kind of tool.

How did I remove the seven-foot-long trim pieces?

After using a pencil to draw two vertical lines on each, exactly two feet apart, I simply pushed the MultiMaster (on its side, more or less)  into the narrow space between the tank top and the overhead, aligned the blade with one of the lines, applied a little gentle pressure, and let 'er rip. Then I repeated the procedure three more times. 

Removing the 2-foot-long segments that resulted let me easily get to both fuel fills and replace the hose clamps

Once the job was done, I screwed thin 4-inch battens to the ends of the 2-foot-long segments and used steel screws through the free ends of the battens to fasten everything back together again.

Today, except for the interconnecting battens, the seven-foot-long cosmetic trim pieces look just about like they did when Betty was new. But whenever I want to access the tops of my fuel tanks in the future (to check for corrosion-causing water dripping down from the deck fills above—a problem older Grand Banks vessels with black-iron tanks are infamous for), all I have to do is remove a few screws, temporarily remove the segments, and aim my flashlight. All thanks to my nifty Fein MultiMaster. And my brother, of course.