A rough patch is undesirable – be it in life or on a piece of wood! In any case, the goal is to smooth it down ASAP! Can’t help much with the rough patch in your life regrettably; but the Portable-Cable 352 Variable Speed Belt sander claims that it can smooth out your piece of wood E-A-S-I-L-Y Well priced,  this product has an average rating in contrast to the claims made by the manufacturer. Out of the 76 reviews I could find on Amazon, I selected the one by a Larry, from New York. The reason being, his very clear listing of the merits and apparent defects in the machine. It makes it much easier to get an objective view of the tool.

Handling

Larry mentioned that the sander is well balanced and well-weighted. The Porter Cable 352 has an alloy body, excepting the handles and the motor belt cover which is made of plastic. The plastic used in making the handle is hard and ergonomically placed with a comfortable grip. ‘Ergonomically placed’ translates comfort, control and better handling when it comes to sanding vertical surfaces. Though the front handle may sometimes prevent a close sanding while using on a vertical surface, you can always unscrew it and voila problem solved! The tool weighs a good 10.8 pounds which is weight enough and not weight too much to sand closer to the surface; you will hardly break a sweat handling this one.

Maintenance

Larry also thought that changing the belt was easier on the Porter Cable 352. This is accounted for by the fact that a plastic cover fastened by two screws is the only thing that covers the motor. Once you have unscrewed the cover, you have uninhibited access to the belt and taking it out or putting it in is only a turn away. Another point that makes this tool worth it is the variable speed control. It gives you complete control over the speed of the tool and this means you can adjust it as per the surface and the need. The speed control knob is conveniently located near the grip handle. Apart from this, I think the plus point for this sander is the centred placement of the belt, which is due to the metal frame that holds it in place. In other sanders, you may find yourself fiddling with the belt too often to keep it centred.

Cons

From the negatives, Larry mentioned that the tool is quite noisy and most users agree with the fact. Best to cover your ears as the Porter Cable 352 one belts out its wood peeling music is my suggestion. Another common woe that appeared in the reviews, also mentioned by Larry, was with regards to the dust bag. Where is a classic dirtbag when you need one, eh! They find that it isn’t very good at collecting the dust (the makita is a lot better at this) and comes in the way too often when used horizontally. Larry also complained about overheating of the body, which could burn fingers surely. This is because of the metal casing. Though it adds to the strength and durability of the tool, it also is a drawback. The design of the tool is made such that the heat is distributed in a way that is meant to overheat the belt and the surface. But Larry says he burned his wrist more than once – proof enough!

My Conclusion

From the overall gauging of the tool, I can understand why the Porter Cable 352 has been given an average rating. However, the design and the power that the tool possesses makes it one of the best in its category. There are small flaws that may be overlooked; it is a steal at the price for which you get this tool on Amazon. It can be handy for woodworking, cabinet making, and remodelling, sanding old wooden furniture before polishing or painting. I recommend this tool for those who are looking for a handy and portable sander for small and medium projects.

Still, i would urge you to read this comparison, to see what Makita has to offer…

Or visit this page to learn more about belt sanders in particular.

This is a NYtimes article about belt sanders i have enjoyed.