June Sales
Find out Which 3x21 Portable Belt Sander Comes out on Top in This Belt Sander Review
posted on by
Small Belt Sander Line-Up There are a lot of portable belt sanders on the market, our expert picks the best.

Ever switched from driving a large SUV to a sporty compact coupe? That’s kind of how it feels to switch from a brutish 4x24 belt sander to a lithe 3x21 model. Although you might miss the power and wide “road coverage” of a 4x24, you’ll delight at the 3x21’s maneuverability and handiness — and their slightly lower price tag. To provide you with a better idea of what’s happening in the world of 3x21 belt sanders, Woodworker’s Journal made sure I had eight of the top models currently available. While half of these models are conventional in overall form, a couple sport innovative designs and features. I was anxious to see how these compared, and whether the newer designs bested the classics. I spent about a week running each sander through a bevy of common woodshop belt sanding tasks: flattening large panels, smoothing smaller parts, evening up solid-wood cabinet face frames with plywood cabinet sides, and more.

DeWalt's Unique DW433 Power Sander
Black & Decker DS321 Portable Sander
Bosch's 3x21 1274DVS Belt Sander
Makita 9903 Belt Sander
Hitachi SB 8V2 Power Sander
Porter-Cable 352VS Power Sander
Sears Craftsman 11726 Power Sander
RIDGID R2720 Power Sander

Picking a Winner

Now that the dust has settled, and I’m left contemplating the eight 3x21 belt sanders I’ve just tested, I’m reminded that statistical numbers, such as motor amperage and belt speed, don’t necessarily provide the truest measure of a good belt sander. In this case, the chart topping RIDGID didn’t seem to sand as aggressively as models with lower motor amp and belt speed ratings. Nor did Bosch turn in a bad performance, despite its lowest-in-class motor amp rating.

My two top picks in this review are the DeWALT DW433 and the Porter-Cable 352VS. I’d happily choose either of these impressive machines as my “daily driver,” for tackling any of the milieu of different beltsanding tasks that regularly crop up in my shop. Both sanders display an excellent build quality, too, so I’d expect them to survive an occasional crash and last for years without need of costly repairs. But since there’s only one “Best Bet” award, I’ll have to give it to the Porter-Cable. I like the 352VS’s controls and dust collection just a bit better than the DeWALT’s, plus it’s more than a pound and a half lighter. And that means a lot to me, especially since I don’t have forearms like a WWE wrestler, but I often do have miles of cabinet face frames to belt sand.

posted on October 1, 2011 by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
previous post next post

13 thoughts on “Find out Which 3x21 Portable Belt Sander Comes out on Top in This Belt Sander Review”

  • dpelim

    I've owned the PC 352vs for 6 years and have to say it performed decently for a 3x21. But can't imagine it outpaced all the brands in this review. In those 6 years, i used it only to refinish 6 hardwood floors, (12x10 rooms). Last 2 of those the sander started to squeal sporadically. Motor? OR pulleys? Recently, it started to slow down, loose torque, spark and then die. Brushes look new so leads me to believe the motor. Since i was in the middle of a refinish, i went out to get another........ within 2 hours, the same thing was happening with the squeal. I returned it promptly and is the reason i'm searching this site for reviews.

    I'm still looking.... any help out there?
    Festool, AEG, Bosch

    regards, Dpelim

  • Gary "Wiz" Burns

    I have been using a Bosch for 10 years and it is just starting to go. I have been happy with how light it is and how I can see on both sides. But if I was doing floors, I would probably go with a 4x24 sander. I have had a PC 3x24 for years. I don't use it much anymore but it is a good sander.
    I have a couple of Festool tools. I have used the Jig Saw for 7 years pretty hard and it is still an amazing tool. It will be worth rebuilding. I have a random orbit sander and small plunge router and they are very well thought out!!
    Hope this helps.

  • Steve Nolan

    Just "had" to retire a 25 year old Craftsman 3x21 due to it not surviving a 12' fall to concrete. Prior to that had only changed out brushes twice and it had many thousan board feet of use.

  • Charley

    Brand new PC352VS ran less than 2 hours. After taking it apart the motor compartment was full of dust. The spring on one of the brushes was broke and looked as though the manufacturer just stuck 2 broken springs behind the brush. Poor design and no quality control. Still waiting for a call from Porter Cable.

  • Ryan

    I use bosch 3x21 and 3x24 every day of my life They are great sanders. The 3x21 is very light and easy to use. It has plastic upper housing so it will crack if it falls to much. The 3x24 is an animal. We call it the eraser lol. This sander will rip thru material quickly so it takes some getting used to. Little heavier than 3x21 but it is vicious hope this helps. Oh and they are pretty expensive new try for a used one works just as good.

  • Marsh

    Purchased a PC 352VS Type 7 for use on cedar materials. Ran sander for less than a half hour. Experienced squealing when sander heated up. Took back to store and exchanged for another PC 352VS. Same problem occurred about 10 minutes into job. Decided to forget about warranty-Disassembled sander and found it had no lubrication in roller bearing on outside armature shaft roller bearing. Lubed bearing-sander runs noticeably quieter and no squeal upon heating up. PC quality control is lacking. I have a 20+y/o PC 352VS Type3 sander that has never exhibited this type of problem. Likely will not buy PC tools in future because of lousy QC.

  • J. R. French

    2 years ago I purchased a Black & Decker "Dragster". I only use a belt sander about once a month, and that's only for short durations. This particular sander is loud (you definitely need an ear muff or plugs), and it runs hot (poorly lubricated bearings). Last week the switch malfunctioned, so I had to repair it. This week the brushes went bad, so it burned up. Definitely not a good machine. I found out from another website that it's made by the same company that makes Crapsman...enough said.

  • J Shanley

    I have had a Craftsman 3X21 Model# 315.11720 since i was 19. It was the 1st power tool I purchased. I purchased it to use in the manufacture of marionette handles at the time. I am 57 now and will need to get a new Belt Sander after all these years. I do home repairs and remodeling as a living. This sander has been a GREAT TOOL all these years. It still runs but will not keep the drive belt on due to wear. I had to change the inexpensive metal bottom once because it wore through that. I was amazed I could even find a new one.

  • R VanB

    I have a Bosch 1274 DVS. Past the Platten Plate needing semi frequent replacement, and Bosch service centers no longer being customer convenient (last I used one, which has been awhile ago).

    My Big Complaint is how NOISY mine is. It Scream's. If this is not the norm, then mine has something worth delving into, because other wise it has been a great sander.

    Light enough not to wear me out doing siding, and it has done a lot of sanding house siding paint.

    It is light enough to use one-handed for a bit, without undue strain.

    Flat sided so that it can be gently held in a vise, or clamped, to used as a small stationary sander.

    Flat Topped, so with an available accessory, it may be held to a bench or similar clamp-able surface, and used stationary.

    Removable front hand-hold so it will get closer.

    But the high decibel aspect; it would be nice if I had a meter to measure it. I bought a 3X21 and a 4X24 Makita, which I believe have the same motor. So Much QUIETer,, but the 3X21 is a killer to use vertically, or vertically sideways. The Makita's are much heavier.

  • Jimmie

    I had a HF brand belt sander that only lasted about a month before it burned up. I bought the BD dragste ra year year ago and love it. It is quiet and seems to run cool to me. I use it upside-down as a stationary sander and love the small end it has for shaping.

  • Dave

    I am a finish carpenter and have a small cabinet shop. Over the past 20 plus years I have had 3 Mikita model 9920 3X24 sanders. 2 are still in use. I use them in my shop and on site. I love the low center of gravity that helps in staying flat to the wood especially on vertical surfaces. It gets in to tighter places then the porter-cable. Dust collection is ok but I'll sacrifice that for the being more nimble. I'm still looking for a better sander and have not found one that can do better yet.

  • rob

    I am currently refinishing my deck, 340 square feet of cedar. I did not have a belt sander so my neighbor let me borrow his craftsman 315.11720 which he proudly said he purchased in 1962. It was a little dusty and heavy, but is an amazing sander. It was light enough to do the vertical frame boards with ease, but had a nice heavy center for going across the floor boards. It started up without any issues or need for further lubrication. It truly is a remarkable tool and I can only hope craftsman gets back to that quality one day.

  • andy mather

    I am a full time renovation contractor been in business since 1988. I have owned the craftsman belt sander that died. Bought the porter cable 352 3x21 and found the cord always wound up in the belt. This machine died too. Didn't replace this because I found the cord getting tangled all the time was frustrating. Good sander. Bought the Makita found it too cumbersome to get into tight areas heavy. Took it back. Bought the Dewalt burnt it out within six months sanding deck boards and took it in to get repaired and they don't make the sander anymore. I too am looking for a good belt sander had a lot of luck with Bosch and Hitachi so this is where me and my wallet are heading.

Leave a comment