Feeding the Addiction: Porter Cable 2-1/2 x 14″ Belt Sander

The orbital sander is doing a decent job at the stair refinishing project, but right now I’m seriously short on time, because the house is going on the market in 4 days.

I learned the difference between an orbital and belt sander when we refinished the hardwood upstairs on Garrison, and there is one word I can use to differentiate the two: Speed.

So when things weren’t progressing fast enough I knew what I had to do. It was difficult, but you know, I’ll sacrifice for my art.

I don’t know what the rest of you do during your lunch breaks, but I go to Lowe’s.

I spent about 30 minutes in the sander aisle looking up products reviews on my iPhone. (New iPhone App Idea: Instant Reviews by Tool Name)

To be honest, there wasn’t one that stood out as a good buy.

The Black & Decker cheap one is known to eat belts (but it does have a dust bag.)

The Dewalt was effing huge and about three times as expensive.

So I settled on this mid-range Porter Cable, which is small, light, and looks oddly like an armadilla (yeah, with an a) sitting on my basement step. It doesn’t come with a dust bag. There is an optional one, but it’s not sold at Lowe’s.

And here’s the thing. I was excited to get home and use this baby. I want to love it, which would be a lot easier if after 5 minutes of use it didn’t CATCH ON FIRE.

Okay. There were no actual flames, but there was a lot of smoke coming from the gearbox, and literally an hour later it was still hot to the touch.

Ugh. So it was back to orbital sanding. Last night I adjusted the settings on the PC and tried it again (you see how persistent I am?) I also read more product reviews to make sure this thing wasn’t going to spontaneously combust in my hand. What I found was that reviewers all say this baby gets hot, but only one mentioned the gearbox wearing out after one use. Hardly any mention flames. I almost never return power tools because, like cats, I fall in love with them pretty fast– Don’t judge– but I’m not looking for a hundred dollar sandpaper weight, so I’m thinking about taking this one back.

Based on subsequent research I think the Bosch version might be a better buy, but the Lowe’s I was at didn’t carry it.

Kind of looks like a tank (or something from the eighties) but it does come with a dust catcher and lack of reviews about the flesh melting off your fingers with regular use.

Overall Summary of the Porter Cable:


  • Even with my little hands I can use it one handed
  • It gets into the tight space (front handle is removable)
  • It looks like roadkill and scares my cats


  • It gets hot, and possibly catches on fire.
  • Lowe’s doesn’t carry a wide variety of 2-1/2×14″ belts. You get one option.  3×21 are much more common.
  • It has some tracking problems, but if you spend a little time with the adjustments you can fix it.

Should you buy it? Only if the Bosch isn’t available.

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