Problem Solving Products: Issue 28

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This article is from Issue 28 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Palm-Sized Driver Packs a Surprising Punch

THE PRODUCT: Triton Lithium-ion Driver 3.6V

MADE BY: Triton Manufacturing and Design Co. (Australia)

WHAT IT DOES: Compact rechargeable screwdriver for project assembly and hardware installation.

WOODCRAFT: #148942

PRICE: $39.99

TESTER: Robert J. Settich

For years, cordless drill manufacturers have been in a battery-powered arms war. After years of equating better with bigger, somebody figured out that most woodworkers don’t need 36-volts or want to lug around a 17-pound brute. Taking a different approach, several manufacturers have employed lithium-ion technology to create palm-sized drivers. Triton’s palm-sized 3.6V driver is one of the smallest and least expensive in this new batch. Does the $40 mini-driver earn pocket space in your shop apron? Is it time to retire your manual screwdriver?


The driver arrives uncharged, so you’ll need to plug it in for three to five hours. Then it’s a simple matter of pressing a bit into the 6-mm hex chuck and pulling the trigger. The tool’s molded storage case is fitted with 18 bits in a variety of drive configurations: straight-slot, Phillips, hex, Torx, and square. The 1"-long bits are great for reaching into tight spaces, but you can also use the included 21/2"-long extender for extra reach. The standard-sized chuck should handle most of the driver bits you already own.


I used the Triton for installing hardware and assembling jigs and cabinets. I typically rely on my 12-volt drill/driver for these chores, so I was skeptical of the capability of a 3.6-volt tool. But the Triton was a pleasant surprise. Its torque and control make it useful for a number of shop operations, particularly for hardware installation, where its compact size is a major asset.

With a bit, the Triton driver weighs 13 ounces—half the weight of my 12-volt drill’s battery. The compact size (about 51/2" from bit tip to the back of driver) means that it will fit into snug spaces while letting you see what you’re doing.

I noticed that the Triton spins more slowly than my cordless drill (I estimate its no-load speed at about 180 rpm). This difference might be a drawback for some, but I found that the slower speed provided more control. This helps prevent the bit from stripping a screw head, driving a fastener too deeply, or slipping out of the screw and marring your workpiece.

The 3.6-volt driver provided decent torque (turning force). The manual lists the torque at 39 inch-pounds—enough to drive a #6 × 11/4" screw into a doubled thickness of 3/4" Baltic birch plywood without the benefit of a pilot hole. I was able to drive 52 of these screws on a single charge. You expect better “mileage” when driving screws into pilot holes. The driver has an automatic shaft lock, which means that you can use it to manually drive screws for extra leverage or greater control.


The Triton is ideally suited for working in tight quarters, such as installing drawer slides and other hardware. Its compact size also rivals the tight-quarters capability of a right-angle driver, which often costs three times as much.

Lithium-ion batteries hold a charge for a longer period of time than other battery types, so you’re not likely to find it dead, even if you’ve been out of the workshop for a couple of months.

The friction-fit chuck holds driver bits well enough, but it did not fare well with hex-shank drill bits. Pulling back on the driver would leave the drill in the wood.


The lack of a quick-release chuck virtually disqualifies the tool for use as a drill. (Other compact drill/drivers sport quick-release chucks, but to be fair, also cost several times more.) That said, the Triton doesn’t advertise itself as a drill/driver, simply a driver.

The driver is quite useful for installing hinges, slides, and knobs, and this one can do that for a reasonable amount of time. It might also be a boon for folks with wrist problems who have a tough time using a standard screwdriver. At $40, the Triton driver is worth stashing in a kitchen drawer or shop apron.

Small Shop Cyclone Catches Chips & Dust

THE PRODUCT: Deluxe Dust Deputy

MADE BY: Oneida Air Systems

WHAT IT DOES: Traps chips and chunks before they reach your shop vacuum.

WOODCRAFT: 5 Gallon #149162; 10 Gallon #149161

PRICE: #149162 $149.99; #149161 $199.99

TESTER: Don Hamrick

Like many woodworkers, I used to turn to my shop vac at the end of the day, or when the chips and shavings hid my sneakers (whichever came first). Now that most power tools have built-in dust ports, my vacuum sees much more use, and my workshop is a lot easier to keep clean—provided that the vac sucks like it should, and dust doesn’t spill all over when I dump the tub.

Unfortunately, most shop vacs suffer from two common weaknesses: they lose efficiency when the filter becomes caked with superfine dust, and they’re awkward and messy to empty. Enter the Deluxe Dust Deputy. This mini-cyclone claims to be a dust-arresting vac saver and easy-emptying back saver as well, but is it really worth buying? I tried the 5- and 10-gallon units in my shop to find out.


The 10-gallon model has a steel container with the lid held in place by a compression ring and gasket. The 5-gallon model is furnished with a standard 5-gallon plastic bucket. Both employ the same 12"-tall welded steel cyclone.

To use the Deputy, simply connect your tool to the 11/2"-diameter port on the side of the cyclone, and the 2"-diameter top port to your vacuum. You may need to buy or cobble together some sort of hose adapter to connect to your present vacuum hose, as there seems to be no industry standard for sizes.


I tested these units with three different vacuums. Both performed equally well as I tried them with my random-orbit sander, router table, jointer, table saw, and belt/disc sander. I also used an 8' hose and floor sweep to clean up sections of the shop floor.

I found the manufacturer’s claims to be accurate; both units trapped over 90% of anything I sucked through the hose. Based on my use, I estimate that I wouldn’t need to clean my shop vac’s filter for a year or more. In addition, emptying these straight-walled containers was an easy task. While I was initially reluctant to surrender floor space, I wasn’t bothered by the extra bucket. Both fit conveniently under my table saw’s extension table. To provide a little more stability and mobility, you’ll probably want to build a wheeled base to fit your vacuum/Deputy combination.


The 5-gallon system would probably be best suited to sanding, power carving, or similar applications due to its small capacity. The larger size with its 10-gallon drum could be used throughout the shop and would be limited only by the hose size. Of course, care must be taken not to use these products with any explosive dust or metalworking particles.


 In these days of complicated gadgets I was impressed with the simplicity of design. Containing no mechanical or moving parts, this cyclone unit will work for you until you’re ready to step up to a whole shop dust-collection system. The Deputy costs about as much as a full-fledged shop vac, but it might pay for itself by extending the life of your shop vac motor and/or filters, especially if you do a lot of sanding. And it certainly would be a nice upgrade for a cheaper shop vac, significantly improving its efficiency.

Of the two, I preferred the steel 10-gallon can because it was larger, and the heavier can was more stable and less likely to tip. But to save money, you could place a weight in the 5-gallon bucket to achieve the same effect.


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