Reviewing the Porter Cable 371 K Compact Belt Sander
There are very many good belt sanders on the market, but one quality they all seem to share is a bulky size and somewhat hefty weight. When used on a horizontal surface, a sander’s size and weight often go un-noticed and may even be beneficial depending on the project. However, with a major exterior paint project looming, I was looking for a smaller belt sander that packed plenty of oomph, but could be easily used while working off of a tall ladder. The result of my search was the Porter Cable 371 K compact belt sander.
Porter Cable Tools
While I have tools from many different manufacturers in my personal collection, those from Porter Cable, Milwaukee, and Bosch are my favorites and get the most use. They have high-quality construction and whether being used on a jobsite or around the home, seem to provide many years of dependable service. My initial opinion of the 371 K’s build quality is that it lives up to Porter Cable’s reputation.
The tool is sold with a handy carrying case which might seem like a minor point, but makes transporting the tool to jobsites a breeze. The 371 K has a recessed on/off switch to guard against accidents and a long power cord. There is a rubber grip that provides good control of the sander even when wearing gloves and an auxiliary second grip is also included in the case.
Using the Porter Cable 371 K Compact Belt Sander
I have several standard belt sanders so the 371 K’s small size and light weight were immediately noticeable when I first began using it. My project was removing old paint on the exterior of a wood clapboard house that hadn’t budged during pressure washing. I was able to sand while on a ladder and in many cases the 371 K could be controlled with just one hand – something that’s very difficult to do with a standard sized belt sander on a horizontal surface. After using the sander for several weeks, I consider these to be its strong points:
- Build quality – the sander has primarily metal components and should last a long time with proper maintenance.
- Design – the flush sides allowed me to get right up to the edges of the beveled siding and eliminated the need for any labor intensive hand sanding.
- Size – as mentioned above, this sander feels much more compact than most standard sized belt sanders, but doesn’t seem to give up anything in the way of performance.
- Versatility – sanding belts of all types of grits are available for the 371 K – I had good luck with belts from Mirka, but I’m sure other manufacturers’ products will work just as well.
Of course, no power tool is perfect so the 371 K does have a couple of minor flaws. Other reviewers have mentioned that the belt tracking on the sander needs to be adjusted fairly frequently while in use. In my experience, all belt sanders require tracking adjustment on occasion and maybe I got lucky, but my 371 K seemed normal in that regard.
However, I will agree with other reviewers that the sander can get very hot when used for long periods of time. I almost always wear leather work gloves when using a sander so it was never really an issue for me, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The Porter Cable 371 K compact belt sander turned out to be the perfect tool for my project. It took care of a lot of the rough sanding the siding required and I was able to finish up with a small orbital sander. The 371 K can be purchased for about $110 at Amazon, Acme Tools, and many other tool vendors.