Problem Solving Products: Issue 27

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This article is from Issue 27 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Sidekick Air Carrier For Nailers & Staplers

THE PRODUCT: JacPac Regulator Kit
Made by: Jacmorr
WHAT IT DOES: Portable carbon dioxide cylinder and regulator to power air tools.
PRICE: $109.99
TESTER: Robert J. Settich

Many woodworkers have a love/hate relationship with their air-powered (pneumatic) tools. They love the speed and convenience of brad nailers and staplers for cabinet assembly, but hate the time-consuming compressor setup/takedown procedure and hefting. 

Enter the personal JacPac Portable Power System. Here, you simply clip the 31/2 lb tank and regulator to your belt and tote your air tool anywhere. And while your clunker compressor fills with air, you’re already driving fasteners.


Providing the muscle of the JacPac is a CO² cylinder that holds carbon dioxide in liquid form at 1,500 psi (pounds per square inch). Having the CO² in its liquid form is significant because it expands by a factor of five when released as a gas. That means that the cylinder can deliver far more firepower than if stored as a gas under pressure.

Due to shipping regulations, the CO² tank comes empty, but there are some easy ways to fill it. Your operating cost depends upon whether you can find a local recharger or you rely on the more widely available tank-exchange program. A 9 oz. tank costs $3-5; the 20 oz. tank costs about $6-$9. A paintball store is one potential recharging source; check the Internet or telephone directory for others. Blue Rhino (, originally a propane gas exchange company, now handles CO² exchange programs in Lowe’s home centers as well as some Wal-Mart stores. 

With the tank filled, screw the regulator onto the tank, clip the assembly to your belt, and fit on the quick-connect coupler for your coiled hose and air tool.


I stacked some poplar boards onto my workbench and hauled out three air tools: a headless pinner, brad driver, and finish nailer. Running at 40 psi, the pinner fired at a normal working pace. When I cranked up the pressure to 60 psi for the 11/4" brads, I noticed that it took the gauge about two seconds to return to full pressure after firing. The delay increased to about 10 seconds when I shot 21/2" finishing nails at about 70 psi. At first, I found the delay a bit annoying, but then remembered that I’d saved the compressor’s setup time.

The owner’s manual recommends using a 20-ounce cylinder with larger guns. The 20-ounce size converts the gas more quickly than the stock 9-ounce cylinder, resulting in faster cycle time. The larger cylinder adds only about 11/4 lb in carrying weight.

And while the 9-ounce cylinder will drive about 675 1"-long brads or 338 2"-long finishing nails, upgrading to a 20-ounce cylinder will more than double those capacities.


In the shop, the JacPac saves time and offers convenience when you need to drive a few fasteners to assemble a jig or a small project. Around the home, there’s no comparison between this lightweight system and carrying a compressor up a flight of steps. One more benefit: you eliminate the noise of the compressor’s motor.


 I’ll admit that I initially had reservations about carrying a cylinder at 1,500 psi on my hip. (This is more than six times the pressure of a propane tank, which is typically filled to 240 psi.) That extreme pressure definitely gets your attention because damage to the tank’s valve could turn the cylinder into a dangerous missile. Reviewing the owner’s manual, though, I found straightforward guidelines for safe handling.

Unlike a compressor’s tank, the cylinder doesn’t gradually lose pressure during use. Instead, it will suddenly refuse to fire when the CO² is depleted. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep a spare cylinder on hand.

The JacPac won’t make me junk my compressor, but I’ll definitely reach first for this time-saver for small jobs.

Drum Roll For A Super-Safe Sander

THE PRODUCT: Sand-Flee Portable Drum Sander System
Made by: R.J.R. Studios, LLC
WHAT IT DOES: Performs smoothing tasks too difficult on other sanders, jointers, or planers.
PRICE: $699.99
TESTER: Dirk Boelman

The Sand-Flee is a unique, open-faced drum sander that can be outfitted with additional sanding accessories. Most of us have seen it and marveled at how well it smooths parts, boards, and plywood, then marveled at the equally impressive price tag. After years of wanting one for my shop, I decided it was time to take the plunge and determine if it could earn its keep as a safer, time-saving smoother. As you’ll see the investment paid off. 


The assembly and setup proved easy. It took about 15 minutes to install the motor and adjust the tabletop. The hook and loop sandpaper strips attached quickly to the 18" drum. The nine available grits range from 60 through 400 and come in 3"-wide rolls. To install a strip, I measured the piece to length, cut the end using the included template then wrapped the strip around the drum.

If desired, you can divide the drum into three sections and wrap each section with strips of a different coarseness. This lets you feed a piece of wood across each section, from coarse to medium to fine, without refitting the drum. It takes patience to measure, cut, and install the three separate strips to fit. After cutting and angling ends to establish a good fit, I use the worn strips as guides to cut replacements. Note that the 6"-wide grit sections limit the size of the part you can sand on the multi-gritted drum.

Despite the manufacturer’s claims, I found this side-heavy, 60-pound machine to be marginally portable. To save your back, I recommend keeping it on a sturdy mobile stand with a solid top and providing access to clean out captured sawdust.


I was impressed with how smoothly and quietly the sander ran. The powerful 1/3 hp motor did not bog down or stall under any condition.

Although powerful, the sander proved safe and easy to control. Because the drum rotates toward the user, it doesn’t pull the wood out of your hands. And as soon as you remove hand pressure, the drum gently pushes the wood back toward you onto the infeed side of the top. In theory, a very small piece of wood, something measuring 1/8" thick by 1" long, could be yanked into the gap between the drum and tabletop, but larger boards are impossible to kick back or catch.

When running stock over the drum, I learned to keep it moving; holding a piece in one spot can gouge and ruin the workpiece.


As a surface sander, the Sand-Flee works great to smooth out humps, bumps and imperfections. Over several months of use, I sanded wide rough-sawn planks and slabs, removed scratches from tabletops, and touched up poorly-fitting corners on frames and other projects. I was able to remove imperfections on plywood without sanding through that thin top veneer. This level of control is all but impossible with most other sanders.

As a scrollsawyer, I was most impressed by how well the Sand-Flee excelled at sanding off tear-out on the bottom face of sawn projects. Many of these were too short to run through a drum sander, and too thin to safely sand on a sanding belt.

I found that the optional fence enabled the sander to work much like a jointer. For example, when the bottom edges don’t line up on the sides of a box or clock case, simply hold the project section against the fence, and run it over the drum to level and finish-sand the surfaces in one step. 


The Sand-Flee isn’t cheap, but by shaving hours off my sanding routine, it’s earned its keep in less than a year. Price aside, this tool performs tasks that I was unable to do with a belt, disc, or portable sander. If you’ve found that less expensive portable and benchtop sanders aren’t making the cut, you need to check this one out.


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