While American power tool powerhouse Porter-Cable lately seems to be gutting its model lines, downgrading many tools to compete with inexpensive home centers and department store brands, it’s nice to see that they’re still making high quality belt sanders. The Porter-Cable 352VS is a hefty tool, with an all-cast-alloy body — only the handles and motor belt cover are plastic. This is a machine that can take a bruisin’ and keep on cruisin’. Although the 352VS’s belt drive overhangs the left side of the body, I found it to be better balanced than most other left-hand-belt-drive sanders.
The Porter-Cable’s hard plastic handles are well placed and comfortable to grip. The front handle overhangs the body enough to prevent the unit from sanding as close to vertical surfaces, but you could temporarily unscrew it as necessary. The variable-speed dial is mounted below and to the left of the handle, where it’s very easy to see and set. The Porter-Cable’s belt tracking and release mechanism is made from pressed steel, with a release lever that’s easy enough to operate but a little hard on the fingers. Its heavy steel platen is overlaid with a traditional cork pad and stainless steel cover. The sander comes with a large capacity canvas dust bag with a less-than-ideal bottom mounted-bottommounted zipper. But its top-mounted metal dust port is well-located, so the bag stays well out of the way during sanding. The port also accepts a vacuum hose without need for a special adapter.
The Porter-Cable’s power delivery is as smooth and ample as the DeWALT — not surprising as both sanders are driven by 8-amp motors. In stock removal aggressiveness, the 9903 is subjectively just a hair behind the DeWALT, perhaps due to the DW433’s larger platen and higher maximum belt speed. But the 352VS is also lighter, which makes it more maneuverable and easier to heft.