Dremel 6800-01 Trio - Review
Dremel recently released a funky looking tool called the Trio (and were nice enough to send us one to review). In the great Venn diagram of power tool abilities, it seems to overlap with 'rotary tool,' 'router,' and 'RotoZip (aka spiral saw).' We're generally wary of tools that try to do too much (seems like they usually end up doing not too much of anything) but because of our very high regard for Dremel, we had hope and were looking forward to digging into the Trio.
As it turns out we found some good and some bad. Unfortunately, more of the latter than the former...
Update: we heard from Dremel and as it turns out, we were using the Trio in an incorrect manner. We've updated the review with some clarifications. Amazing, eh? We write a post about tool safety and then rip this thing out of the box and start using it without reading the instructions...."
The Trio, due to its hinged body, either looks like a mechanized mosquito or a mechanized maraca. It's sort of a jigsaw configuration in one mode and a laminate trimmer in the other. We were initially disappointed to find that those are the only two positions for the handle, with no stops in the middle, but when we started thinking about it, any other positions would probably be useless anyway.
So, like a rotary tool, it's functionality is dependent on the bit that's currently in the chuck. The Trio bits boil down to a spiral saw blade, a mini-router blade, and a micro-drum sander. We'll take a look at each.
Our experience is that spiral saws simply don't work in wood. If you're lucky, you'll get six or seven inches of a cut before the blade starts smoking and burning the workpiece. While they might be better than a jigsaw at tight curves, the longevity, to us at least, just isn't worth it. Drywall is a different story, and that's where spiral saws excel. The powdery material is a perfect match for the action of the blade. The Trio is really no different than any other spiral saw in this regard other than the fact that is has less power (Trio: 2 amps, RotoZip, 5ish amps).
Update: We were using the Trio with 3/4" pine. According to Dremel, the Trio is good with wood up to 1/2". It seems a bit limiting, but the functionality is there without the smoking.
But the Trio touts a plunge cutting ability that interested us. At least until we tried it, then it irritated us. A lot. For Dremel to really even call what this tool does a 'plunge-cut' is a bit suspect. In a normal router, the plunge cut is a spring-loaded affair, allowing you to easily lower the tool in a very controlled manner. There is also no side-to-side wiggle because the placement of the plunge cut usually needs to be very precise.
The Trio behaves nothing like this. The plunge-cut happens when you loosen the depth gauge on the footplate to a point where it's all loosey-goosey and wibbly-wobbly and then you're expected to just lower the spinning blade into the workpiece.
That's like saying that a circular saw has plunge-cutting ability because you can loosen the footplate and drop the saw into a piece of wood (sure, people do it, but do tool companies say that the saws can plunge cut?). It's bizarre to us that a company that has built its reputation on precision and detailing would have something so sloppy and volatile in one of its tools.
Update: Thankfully, our faith in Dremel has been restored. When Dremel referred to the Trio making a 'plunge cut,' they are referring to simply activating the tool and stabbing it into the material (wood, sheet metal, drywall). We took the meaning to be along the lines of a 'plunge cut' saw, which operates by activating the tool and lowering it from a stable base into the workpiece. We would be pretty red-faced about it, except that a few other carpenters we know thought the same thing.
Using the Trio in router form, we were very impressed with the control; we had no problem maneuvering the tool and no line-of sight issues. That's the good part. The bad part is that the Trio only takes Trio bits, which limits it greatly. Again, it also isn't that strong at 2 amps (most laminate trimmers are in the 5s). We'll talk more about the bits in a moment.
This is the strong point for the Trio and the function that we were really impressed with. We did some scroll work with the spiral saw function and because the wood ended up all burnt, we had to sand it down, so we used the sanding feature. We liked the control that the Trio gave us and it was comforting knowing that the sanding was being done at a perfect 90 degrees to the face of the workpiece. As with all of the recent Dremel rotary tools, the sanding is fast, powerful, and very effective.
And like we said earlier, the Trio is only compatible with Trio bits, so your stockpile of rotary tool bits aren't going to cut it due to their inability to stand up to the more powerful Trio motor. It looks to us like RotoZip bits will work, but we let someone borrow ours so we can't confirm this. RotoZip and Dremel are both owned by Bosch, so you'd think there would be some compatibility there, but we thought the same before we used the Bosch and Dremel oscillating tools (zero compatibility there).
And, sadly, we need to mention the case. Dremel, once again, has given us a blow-molded case with seemingly bottomless pockets in the 'blow.' There is little on earth we find more frustrating than these Dremel cases. The tools all have tiny bits and little sanding pads, and tightening screws, and teeny wrenches, and here's the case with these mystery openings that lead to somewhere near oblivion. At least give us a plastic case for the accessories so we're not constantly having to shake the case out.
So basically, if you're looking for a router, you might as well spend the money to get a router. It'll be more powerful, you'll have universal access to bits, depth selection will likely be easier and more precise, and tilt, offset, and (real) plunge bases will probably be available depending on the model (The Bosch Colt is particularly nice and DeWalt's new one - with a plunge-cut base - looks great as well). The spiral saw feature works as well as any, but if you're going to be doing a lot of drywalling, a RotoZip's extreme durability and added power might do you better. As a sander though, the Trio shines and if you're a serious hobbyist looking for a good one and you'll take the other features as is, then maybe the Trio is a good tool for you.
There has been one on display at the local Home Depot for quite some time, so we recommend heading out and getting your hands on one before making the purchase.
Update: So because we did come down pretty hard on the Trio (we think it was the case that sent us over the edge), it seems fair to include a last word from the folks at Dremel regarding our conclusions: "The Dremel Trio is designed as an amazingly versatile DIY tool. This tool does not replace the professional performance of individual professional grade routers or jigsaws. However, it offers an innovative option for DIYers who aren't willing to handle the cost or excessive power of these products for their needs."
$100 at Amazon.com
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at September 16, 2010 1:00 PM