See January 2004 Consumer's Reports ratings of sanders for
performance, features and specific details. Ratings are based on
speed by type, controls, dust capture, handling, and noise. Within
types, listed in order of overall score.
RANDOM-ORBIT Most versatile; 5-inch-diameter can handle some rough-and
Craftsman (Sears) 27957
Ryobi RS241 (CR Best Buy)
Porter Cable Quicksand 333
Craftsman (Sears) 11623
FINISHING Good for corners; 1/3-sheet models are best for larger
Makita BO3700 (1/3-sheet)
Porter Cable 340K
Black & Decker FS350 (1/3-sheet)
Craftsman (Sears) 11632 (1/3-sheet)
Black & Decker FS500 (CR Best Buy)
Craftsman (Sears) 11627
DETAIL Strictly for finish-sanding tight corners; you'll need a
random-orbit or finishing sander for most other work.
Ryobi CFS1500K Cat
Craftsman (Sears) 11680 Mouse
BELT Best for quickly sanding large or uneven surfaces; not meant for
finishing or extended overhead sanding.
Porter Cable 352VS
Black & Decker BR400
Just received my Jan 04 CR yesterday and read this article. Amazing
that the Sears 5" ROS came in first, ahead of Dewalt and Porter Cable.
They didn't really provide any details about why, though.
I'm sure this will produce plenty of CR bashing here; "They should
stick to toasters..." etc, etc. I am usually a defender of them,
although I take some of their ratings with a grain of salt. They
actually are pretty good for appliances and things, and their
integrity and objectivity seem sound to me. For cars, I think they
are reliable when comparing Honda Accords to Toyota Camrys etc, but
not so much when they are rating "sports cars." I remember a review
of a Mazda Miata where they criticized the trunk space, the glare from
the silver bezels on the instruments, and the fact that the door
handles were too small. In other words, They just didn't get it.
Seems like their ratings don't translate well to things one might be
passionate about. So, maybe for average homeowner consumers, their
ratings of sanders are useful. But many here, like myself are
passionate about tools. I suspect that for many of us who love tools,
we're going to be pretty skeptical that Sears sells the best 5" ROS.
Indeed. I considered it a "woodworking maturity point" when I could take
SWMBO to a Borg and Sears and be able to demonstrate to HER satisfaction
*why* the Craftsman tools were not as good as the alternatives. "Notice how
the jaws of this clamp go out of square when I put pressure on?"
When I started serious woodworking I thought Sears was all anyone would ever
need. Through experience I learned the value of a DeWalt 621 router over
anything with a Craftsman label on it -- but it wasn't until I had enough
skill that my inaccuracies were less than my Craftsman. The Craftsman
router was more accurate than I for a long time. It did quite well in my
router table for a long time.
For similar controversies in another field, find a traveling concert pianist
and discuss Kurzweil pianos versus acoustic. <g> Especially 5 years ago
when the differences were more pronounced.
I've been a CR reader for almost a decade now...and you've hit the nail
on the head!
I consult CR religiously for stuff I don't know much about - and don't
_want_ to know about. For stuff I care about (tools, electronics, cars),
I go to better sources of info (e.g. rec.ww).
Exactly. When it's time to replace the 12-year old dishwasher, I head
straight to it, scan it for five minutes, and stick it in my back
pocket as i head out the door to the appliance store. I don't know of
a better, more thorough, unbiased source of information, and after
all, we're talking about a dishwasher.
For Things I Really Care About, and may therefore know something
about, I may still include them as a data point, but their
recommendations become far less important.
Hmmm, those three categories are the same ones I was thinking of...
On 11 Dec 2003 20:07:48 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (brad) wrote:
I bought a vacuum cleaner last week using CR's ratings and I'm
thrilled with it. I also bought a dishwasher 15 months ago, based on
their best buy rating, and got away cheap and happy. In both cases, I
would have paid double to get the quality I got, if I hadn't checked
I don't consider them all that valuable for high-end or specialty
stuff, like pro quality tools.
CR is a bit of an oddity: if you're an enthusiast, you can usually judge far
better than they just what you want in a particular item. As examples, for
photography, I'd go with my experience and feelings without even looking at CR;
woodworking (and almost all other) tools, the same; computers and most
peripherals, the same (I'm not an enthusiast, but on occasion I write about
them, so HAVE to keep up). For things like a new refrigerator, dishwasher,
washing machine, dryer, maybe even water heater, they might serve as the last
word. For things like a new heating system, I'd start some heavy studying after
checking out CR--but the would probably provide the line of study I could most
When you start checking through today's home, it's something of a marvel that
one company can develop enough expertise to even cover the major items: I
looked around I fairly simple kitchen (and I'll bet I leave something out)
started with an electric can opener, a blender, two mixers, a toaster, a
convection toaster oven, a microwave, an electric range, a range hood, the
dishwasher, the refrigerator, the kitchen faucet, the filter on the kitchen
faucet, the electric fan overhead, two behind the cornice fluorescent light
fixtures, a coffeemaker, a coffee bean grinder.
And my kitchen is simple compared to many. Too, I didn't list my wife's array
of pots and pans which might be deserving of testing at one point or another,
nor the knives of several kinds...it just seems to go on.
So, in total, I think CR does a good job, but with some exceptions, I'm going
to add my research to their's...which is the way it was originall intended,
anyway, I think.
And these days, I might even use them to help select a car...sigh.
"In the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy as a prisoner's chains."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Pots and pans are tools. If you go to a SERIOUS cooking store--I'm
thinking of Chef's Central in Paramus (SWMBO and my favorite) (Kinda
like Woodcraft, only with knives)--they carry the equivalent of FWW that
has reviews that someone who knows cooking might actually read and
Too bad they don't rate them on finishing performance, but I'm not sure I'd
trust their judgement even if they did. Oh well, leave it to CR to come up
with more head scratching rankings based on ancillary criteria.
I used a Ryobi and PC ROS (100 and 150 grits respectively) just yesterday.
Gosh, the difference was incredible. The PC sanded faster despite the finer
paper and with less vibration. The Ryobi was a POS. Leave it to CR to give
it a best buy.
I have the PC 333. Brand new the canister kept falling off. I called
PC customer support and they sent me out a new canister. So much for
engineering design. My Ryobi 3x21 belt sander is a work horse, never
a problem over many years of use, plus it has a flat top and square
sides which is more useful than you might think. I put a lot of
points with how the sander feels and handles, then how well it
collects dust. Other WWers want fast sanding.
FYI: The 333 has a little rubber band/o-ring on the canister mount;
unfortunately it is quite fragile and mine only lasted a month or
two. Once it breaks the canister readily falls off. Now I stretch
a couple of large rubber bands from the mount out to the end of
the canister and back again. Some correctly sized O-rings would
probably be better.
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