The Ridgid Tri-Stack Compressor really impressed the hell out of us when we first heard about it a few months ago. It's a 5-gallon compressor that splits apart into two smaller units that can be used all sorts of ways. But seeing something on the internet or reading a press release about it is very different from actually using one first hand. So Ridgid sent us one to test out for ourselves. Since about mid-December we've had one that we've used around the shop, in the house, and on a bunch of other projects we've got going on. Does it still impress us? Read on....
In a word, yeah, it totally impresses us. Big time. To us, this is a big development in the compressor world (and what an exciting place Compressor World is!). The details of the tool are thus: it's a compressor that consists of three tanks. The two lower tanks total 4-1/2 gallons (two 2-1/4 tanks), and the third upper tank is a 1/2 gallon. The upper tank has a single outlet with a pressure regulator and the lower tank has two outlets with a pressure regulator (click any images to enlarge).
Where it gets strange is that a quick release system lets you separate the upper tank from the two lower ones giving you a 1/2 gallon tank bundled with the compressor motor and the two lower tanks. The release is simple and can be done with gloves on. Just pull this big knob and give it a twist. You also need to make sure to disconnect the air line that connects the upper tank to the lower ones, but this is easy as well. Turn a little shut-off valve and release the hose just like you would any other air hose.
So what exactly does this mean to the working carpenter? First of all, it makes it a whole lot easier to carry. As a single unit, the compressor is very heavy...77lbs, but split apart and with one piece in each hand, it's far easier to lug around than the average 5-gallon unit. Both pieces of the Ridgid have nice, beefy handles.
It also means that you can use the compressor a number of ways. First, as a 5-gallon unit with three outlets (and two regulators), just like you would any other compressor. But here, you can also split the units and you've got 4-1/2 gallons of compressed air that you can use if you need to head upstairs to case out a window, or you have a 1/2 gallon tank with a compressor motor. Lastly, you can plug in the 1/2 gallon unit, and run a hose from it to the 4-1/2 gallon unit and run your guns off that one, essentially using the larger unit as a surge tank and isolating the compressor noise away from where you're working.
To us, the real glory of the item is with the 1/2 gallon tank by itself. Doing as much trim work as we do, we're huge fans of the smaller 1 and 2 gallon compressors (thus far, the Maxus 2-gallon is our favorite), but even though the Ridgid has a smaller tank, it surpasses all of the others. Why? Because the compressor motor is built to power a 5-gallon tank, so when the tank calls for more air, it's there in a real hurry. After a few nail shots, our 2-gallon compressor has to sit and fill up for what feels like an eternity. The Ridgid, while, it has to fill up fairly often, does its work in seconds resulting in no downtime for us.
This is a great item and one that any carpenter would appreciate. It costs about $279, which is entirely reasonable for a 5-gallon compressor, and a great deal for one with this kind of usability.