Dremel Trio Review – Triumphant or Trivial?

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Dremel is at it again—this time with the Dremel Trio.  Dremel kicked us one of their Trio tools to try out and I ran it through my usual Home Fixated torture tests.  This little guy is touted as being a tool with “360 degree cutting technology”.  Meaning:  You can cut in any direction regardless of how the tool is oriented.  Confused?  Me too.  It’s early.

The Dremel Trio is kind of strange.  It is a bit jig-saw, a mini-router, and a sander.  I’ve used it for all three applications and it will do all, it’s the how well—and to what use that had me wondering.

The facts, straight from Dremel:

  • Cut: With powerful, 360-degree cutting technology and plunge-cut ability, the Trio makes quick and controlled cuts in wood, plastic, drywall, metal and wall tile
  • Sand: The Trio allows users to go where they can’t with most other tools to manage intricate sanding and shaping details
  • Rout: Add finishing touches, such as round or beveled edges, or cutout wording on a wooden surface without changing tools

I had to make a kind of goofy, arc-ish cut on some 1/2’’ plywood.  Not really a problem for the Trio.  I was getting a bit of “walk” with the cutting bit until I figured out to let the tool do the work.  Working “smarter, not harder” often takes me a few tries.  It’s the smart part that bothers me—as no one will accuse me of working too hard.

Once I let the tool do the cutting, I didn’t have any trouble following my line.  When you are taxing the cutting bit—you’ll know.  The tool will begin to go places you didn’t intend for it to.  Which brings me to the power of the Trio.  At 2 amps, it’s not likely to trip any of your circuit breakers, but it’s also got enough juice for relatively light-duty jobs. RPMS are on Dremel’s usual “1-10” switch and run from 10,000 to 20,000.  It’s nice and light too, coming in at just under 3 lbs…so it is certainly a tool that won’t leave you with aching arms.

Here’s a video from Dremel showing the Trio in action:

Some features that I liked: 90 degree pivoting handle. (Way cool—it could double as a mini-drywall router or Roto-Zip).  The non-marring base shoe, and the lock-on button feature.  The telescoping base shoe was also a nice addition—but I’d like to see it a bit more stout.  When extended, I felt like I was losing some accuracy in relation to the bit being true to my work piece.  Call me crazy—but I hate getting out my square to double check settings on my tools.

I have a hard time relegating DIYers to their own category.  Sure—you have real jobs (well, the lucky ones), and do your DIY projects when time and money allow—but in a lot of ways the work that DIYers do is just as hard and trying as the pros.  The difference is—DIYers pay for the privilege of working on their houses and projects.  Which leads us to main my main concern with the Trio.

The Dremel Trio is not going to replace a good jig/sabre saw, a router, or a dedicated oscillating (sanding) tool like the Fein MultiMaster or Dremel’s own Multi-Max. I don’t think Dremel intended to either—but the problem lies in the versatility.  Yes, it is a three in one tool.  No, it is not as good as the three tools it (sort of) can replace.

The 3/16’’ collet initially had me a bit torqued as well, since I couldn’t use my existing 1/8’’ already owned Dremel bits in the Trio.  Fair enough—the Trio exerts enough power to snap the 3/16’’ bits like twigs if you’re not careful.  I would hate to think what would happen to the bits meant to be used in my rotary tool.  Before this comes off as an indictment of Dremel’s Trio bits:  I have not broken a one.  I have read about it happening—but all of the bits I have used with the Trio have held up, and another thing to keep in mind:  With tool reviews for Home Fixated, I am playing with House money.  Often I will try to do things the tool was never designed for to see how it holds up.  Yes, it is awesome.  No, I do not ever recommend doing these things with your own “house money”.

The Dremel Trio definitely has its place in any DIYers armory.  You just have to decide if its slightly underpowered 3-way versatility is worth it.  (Versatility: Cool.  Underpowered: Not cool).  The cutting bit allows you to make plunge cuts easily, and left to its own power will make those cuts just fine.  The sanding drum is a bit…meh for me.  I don’t often find myself having to sand scroll saw type cuts.  Your mileage could of course vary.  The mini-router feature is what is cool to me.  If you don’t have a lot of experience with a router—but have wanted to play with one, the Trio would be a great way to refine your skills before taking the “plunge” on a full-sized, loud, scary router.  Think of the Trio as a router with training wheels.

dremel Trio cutting circlesHaving said all of the above:  owning a jig-saw and a router–I’d be hard pressed to reach for the Trio in most circumstances.  Where I found this to not be true–is when I had a use for both of those tools in a short amount of time.  Strangely enough, it can happen.  I had the opportunity? to cut out a round hole for a dust-evac hose in the bottom of a cabinet for a quickly constructed router table.  Rather than get out the jig-saw, and the router–I simply used the Trio and its included circle gauge and bits.  It worked great.  I then used my router in the table as I intended:  locked into the cabinet, for a production run of parts and pieces for some Adirondack chairs.

The Trio would be a bit silly for the more heavy-duty work you’d typically use a regular router for:  but that’s not what it’s designed for anyway.  The Trio is built for versatility–just as I used it.  I am not one of the brain-wizards at Dremel–but if I were–and if they told me to combine three very different tools:  The Trio would be as about as close as I could come.  (Granted, you’ll need to suspend disbelief for the sake of this article and assume I could achieve “brain-wizard” status at Dremel).

Props to Dremel for making the Trio in a kit that will get you started.  Sanding drum, router bit, cutting bit, edge-guide and the vaunted circle jig.  The case is well marked, and strong enough to get tossed into my toolbox without damaging the tool.  That is a feat enough in itself. If you’re into home crafts, small woodworking projects—and light to medium DIY you can’t go wrong with the Trio.  Just don’t expect to super-size your project and have the Trio do it all.  It can’t.

You can find the Dremel Trio Rotary Tool Kit at Amazon for around 99 bucks.

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