Belt sander built for scribing
Compact belt sander, model 371K
• Manufactured by Porter-Cable
• 800-487-8665; www.portercable.com
• Cost: about $120
One of my recent jobs involved scribing both sides of a 60-ft. cherry box beam to a ceiling with an irregular surface. To fit the beam, I used my ancient 4-in. by 24-in. Makita belt sander, which weighs close to 20 lb. After a few rubber-armed drives home, I was wishing for an easier, lighter way. This new little sander from Porter-Cable just might be it.Although it looks like a toy, the 371K belt sander is a workhorse. The machine runs quietly, but the stout 5-amp motor refuses to bog down in normal use. Unlike heavier full-size belt sanders, this 5-1/2-lb. tool is held cupped in the palm, much as you would hold a random-orbit sander. The tool also has a low center of gravity, so in almost every use, I can hold it with just one hand and still accurately follow scribe lines. For situations when I need two hands for a secure grip, the removable front handle is comfortable. The front roller’s small diameter even allows the sanding of fairly sharp curves. At first, I was concerned about finding 2-1/2-in. by 14-in. replacement belts to fit the tool, but I was pleased to discover them widely available in grits as coarse as 60 and as fine as 220.
This tool won’t replace a traditional belt sander when it comes to surfacing, but it’s well worth its asking price when it comes to scribing.
Photos by Krysta Doerfler