REVIEW: PC 352VS 3x21 Belt Sander

Here goes:
I've been restoring a small old wooden building for the past few weeks, and have been putting some pretty heavy hours on this Porter Cable 3x21inch belt sander, model PC352VS. The bulk of it has been removing paint from timber after having heat stripped it. I've also done a couple of doors inside and out. Probably 30 hours or so on it in the past couple of weeks I'd say.
Tracking Adjustment: sorta sucks - you kind of get the hang of it after a while, but when you turn it a little the belt continues to drift in/out after you've stopped turning so you have guesstimate how much to twist the nob. Also, the belt seems to wander fairly easily - requiring frequent readjustment of the tracking.....which sorta sucks.
Power cord: doesn't bother me at all coming out of the top like that.
Dust Collection: the location is not a problem at all - just spin it around if you need to. Now the acutal efficiency of it is a bit suspect. When you sand, for example, a table top, it seems to do pretty well - I don't really notice too much flying dust/debris. I'd say it probably only gets maybe half of the overall waste (maybe). When you sand holding the sander above you or at shoulder level, you really notice the sh** flying through the air, and it seems as though it bags just a small fraction of the total waste. Overall though, if you wear a good mask and eye-protection, I'm comfortable with the dust collector. It's easy to pop on and off and easy to empty.
Overall Power: this is a tough one to answer, as I've definitely been able to make it bog down when I really lean into it. However, when you're belt sanding at chest/shoulder level for hours at a time, you'd probably prefer not to be lugging *too* much weight around. This unit weighs 10.75 pounds. I'm a pretty fit 5'10" 170 and believe me I feel it after a while! The next step up (if you want variable speed) is the 3x24inch 360VS at 13.5lbs. This has a 12amp motor vs. 8amps on the 352. Not sure what it all means, but there are times when I'm flat sanding when I wish the 352 had a little more oomph, but vertical sanding it feels pretty good to me. You really need to figure out what you'll be using it for mostly. If I were to have just one BS, I'd think hard about a bigger unit.
Balance: I've heard some complaints about the motor placement, but I've had no trouble keeping this unit flat. Even one handing it.
Size: I sort of feel like a longer platen would be much better for flat sanding, as when you approach an edge you need to be pretty careful of rocking. If the bulk of your use will be flat finish sanding I'd go with a longer unit.
Belt Change: Simple and quick with one lever. Tracking is another issue though.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you only plan on getting one belt sander, I'd go with a bigger unit. I'm happy overall with it, as it's serving a purpose for me right now. But it's just a little small and a little underpowered for me, and the tracking is annoying. My verdict is if you're a smaller guy doing a bunch of vertical sanding, this is a good unit. Otherwise I'd go bigger.
Jay Pique
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The 361 is a hog and will last for years. I very rarely have to touch the tracking knob and then generally stays where I leave it. Also you should not be applying pressure with a belt sander it works at peak efficiancy with its own weight. Apply pressure and it will take off enough material to clog the paper.

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On Fri, 14 Nov 2003 19:44:27 -0700, "George M. Kazaka"

Yeah - that sounds about right. <grumble> When vertical sanding, though, you do need to lean into it a *little*.
Forgot this one last time....
Trigger Lock: The conspiracy against lefties continues.... And, also, when you accidentally yank the power cord out you may want to think about disengaging the lock before you plug the thing back in. DAMHIKT.
JP ********************* HEADS UP!

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I try not to use the trigger lock for that one reason,

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wrote:

A little twist on your subject, Jay...and a little late, too...but...
Yer might be using the wrong tool(s)...and/or procedure...to accomplish what you want to do.
I'm in the process of refinishing our kitchen cabinets.
I took the doors outside...and used the RotoMate on them. I did 4 large doors...both sides...in 1 hour. Each door had about 6-10 layers of oil base and latex paint...and it came off with no effort at all. Used 1 sanding disc for all this...and its still not worn out. All the doors were then 60 grit sanded (another 8-10 minutes per door)...then 220 sanded (less than 5 minutes per door).
The inside frames my wife did with ReadyStrip. No fumes...no mess (it comes off dry)...but it did take 2 coats. Afterward, it took a quick hit with 220 paper...and was ready for the linseed oil.
For anyone lurking...just another way to skin a cat.
With all the new advances in woodworking technology, I think a belt sander has pretty much become obsolete...at least for me.
Have a nice week...
Trent
Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity!
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Curious -- what is a RotoMate? Tried Google and came up dry.
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On Mon, 24 Nov 2003 12:02:14 -0800, "Pat James"

Its the sanding/grinding attachment for the RotoZip.
Have a nice week...
Trent
Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity!
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wrote:
<snip>

This particular belt sander is starting to become a PITA for me. The tracking adjustment REALLY won't stay put - especially when you try to use an oval shaped sanding pattern.
Were I to do it over, I'd definitely consider some of the chemical strippers out there, followed by some sanding for sure.
JP
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