The Dremel VRT1-1/5 is the archetypal Father’s Day present. It’s exactly the sort of thing an unsuspecting child or spouse would see and think, “Hey, Dad has a shop vac. He sands wood. I bet that’s a big mess. This would make things a lot easier for him! He’ll love it!”
Kids, spouses, take my advice. Dad will not love this. I don’t know if Dad will be able to feign loving it.
I picked this up at Lowe’s for 9$. It looks like they are clearancing them out, though I don’t know if that is because pinewood derby season is over (under?) or if it’s because they are no longer going to carry this thing.
The complete kit contents.
The VRT1-1/2 kit comes with:
- The Tool Itself
- Dust Collar / Depth Collar
- Two Coarse Sanding Drums
- Fine Sanding Drum
- Engraving Burr
- Drywall Bit
I decided to try to use it for each of the applications associated with the included kit. In addition, I have a regular dremel with some cutting disks so I also mounted a thin-cut cutting disk in it to attempt cutting some steel later on.
The build quality on the tool is actually fine. It feels reasonably solid for what it is. The casting is not rough, and it doesn’t feel like it would break if I dropped it onto the concrete floor. For the price you can only expect so much in the way of niceties.
The packaging says that you need a shop-vac with at least 110 CFM air movement capability. I was thinking going into the test that maybe this is why other people had a bad experience. Maybe their shop-vac was just too wimpy and the tool is actually fine. To eliminate that possibility, I hooked it up to my larger 2-1/2″ hose shop-vac. It is spec’d out at 192 CFM. Even if shop-vac was very generous and Dremel was on the low side we’d be good. I had almost 2x the required air flow.
100$ worth of shop-vac to run a 9$ tool. This is looking great already!
Also since my shop-vac has a 2-1/2″ hose, and this tool requires a 1-1/4″ hose I had to use an adaptor. Don’t use the stupid one from Home Depot that I used. Get one like this that’s a lot smaller and more direct:
Shop-vac 906-85 2-1/2″ to 1-1/4″ Conversion Unit
First Test: Sanding
It turns out it would be faster to just rub the drum back and forth by hand. More effective too!
Sanding with this tool is a long and painstaking process. If you apply any force more than none, the drum will come to a complete stop. With some trying I was able to barely break the corner on this piece of framing lumber. Since this tool is being sold near the pine wood derby cars, it seems like they are implying you could use this for some shaping of your car body. There’s really no way this tool could accomplish that without some sort of super human patience.
Sadly, even though it barely did any sanding. It did still leave a little mess. The vacuum does not pick up the sawdust generated with the sanding drum.
Second Test: Engraving
This was the big surprise of the bunch.
After that first dismal test, I was very surprised by the performance here. It almost kinda works! It does make a mark in the surface of this vice grip clamp that would be readable with the naked and or clothed eye.
Can’t you read it? It’s my gang’s tag: ¡De La Calle!
I tried to bear down a little bit and the bit would not stall. However, it also didn’t really remove much material. The engraving was visible but was not deep enough to feel. In addition it’s next to impossible to do any precision work with the giant hose hanging off of this tool. For cheaper than this tool you can buy one of the crappy little electric engraver kits that will come with many bits and probably can’t work worse than this one. I know they’ll be a lot more comfortable and easier to use.
Third Test: Cutting Drywall
You can do it little Dremel! Be good at something! Don’t believe in yourself, believe in the me who believes in you!
I was holding out hope for this application. A tool that cuts drywall and cleans up the mess at the same time? It’s a great idea. Sadly it’s just an idea though and not this product. It couldn’t make any progress poking a hole through drywall let alone cutting it.
Can you spot the Dremel bit shaped failures in the picture? Let’s count them. One… One failure… Two… Two failures… ~~ Six Dremel bit shaped failures! Ah ah ah…
Trying to plunge cut was not going to happen. Push the bit against the wall and it instantly comes to a dead stop. I think I could have poked through the drywall at that point but I could do that with a pen… I don’t need vacuum powered plastic to do that. As for cutting in a pre-established opening it didn’t do much better. With the tool spun all the way up you could get it to take off a tiny bit of drywall and that’s what the little half moon shapes in the drywall edge are from. Once again apply any force at all to start making progress though and the bit stops. You basically have to rely on the inertia of the bit to do any cutting because the air just cannot keep it going once there’s any load.
Final Test: Cutting Steel
This one wasn’t a serious test, but it is something I’ve used my electric dremel for in the past. With a good quality thin-cut cut off disk a Dremel can be a reasonable tool for cutting small shapes in sheet metal as well as cutting down tubing, shafting, threaded rods and exposed bolts/screws.
It should be no surprise that it failed at this task as well. The mandrel and cutting disk mounted in it cost more than the whole vacuum rotary tool kit!
This test went just like all the others. The bit will spin up but as soon as you touch the work-piece it comes to a complete stop. In this case it did manage to scrape a little bit of metal off and so was actually able to shoot a few small sparks. Make no mistakes though, there’s no way you are cutting through anything with this. After about 10 minutes of screwing around tapping it to the tube this was the result:
It kinda looks like someone was gnawing on it more than trying to cut it.
I did take a long exposure shot of shooting some sparks for a minute just so it could imagine the day it is a grown up Dremel tool. Unfortunately that day will never come.
The internet should thank me for not using that as the cover photo. Talk about click bait. Sadly that’s still not even close to the sparks thrown by a normal electric Dremel tool. One that’s not even particularly great at cutting steel anyhow!
With that, our review/test draws to a close…
I came away from this test with more questions than answers. I can understand the tool not being able to cut steel with a cut-off set that wasn’t included. Why can’t it accomplish the tasks that are on the package though? What part of the equation am I missing here?
When the Dremel engineers first built a prototype shouldn’t they have known this thing wasn’t going to fly? It’s one thing for a marketing division to embellish some claims. It’s another to say that the 2017 Mitsuhondota Clydesdale can fly and produces gasoline when you drive it. Right on the front of the clam-shell there’s a shot of someone stripping paint off a table leg with the sanding drum. I think you could probably strip the paint off faster by just rubbing it with your hands or not even hooking it up to a vacuum. Just hold the spindle lock and use it like a really weird sand paper holder.
It couldn’t make a dent in the drywall either. I know that the drywall was thicker in my garage than typical because it’s a firewall but it wasn’t a matter of being slow or poor at the task. It flat out could not do it. I doubt it could get through nearly any thickness of material.
I’m sort of hoping that if enough people start posting about this tool and asking questions, maybe Dremel will make a statement. I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong with my setup so I could actually use this thing. Like I said earlier I was downright hopeful that it would work for drywall because I hate the mess that working with it makes. I was rooting for this thing and it fell flat on it’s face and then it’s pants somehow fell down while it was down.
Don’t buy this thing. Unless you have some really special weirdo low speed application that your current Dremel tool is too convenient and good at.
Dremel Tools VRT1-1/5 Vacuum Powered Rotary Tool
This is an affiliate link too… so I’ll know if you bought it! Prepare to be silently judged.
Check out this followup where I fix it!
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