Review of the Porter-Cable Orbital Sander Model 333

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Review by Mark A. DeCou posted 01-19-2008 07:23 PM 28288 views 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Review of the Porter-Cable Orbital Sander Model 333 No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

To be blunt, this will be my last Porter Cable Model 333.

It is my third.

The only one I like was bought in 1997, and I still use it.

The one I bought in 2005 is dead.

The one I bought in 2007 stinks.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I “used” to love anything about a Porter Cable tool. My first warning sign was my laminate trim router I bought in 1997, and every P-C rep I talked to denied ever hearing about the problem with the collet getting crimped onto the bit shaft and not coming off.

Then, it was a new P-C trim nailer I bought.

Then, it was a router that I bought.

Then, another router that I bought.

Then, the sander in 2005.

Then, this sander in 2007. I’m done with P-C folks.

I don’t like anything about this sander, it’s use, it’s weight distribution, it’s dust collection, or anything else I can think of.

When comparing models, apparently the old P-C sander got merged into the Dewalt Sander line, just with the old Gray color from P-C. In the process, they have compromised this sander to the point that it is not any good.

When trying to sand, it wobbles around, and doesn’t run smooth.

The dust collection system shoots dust all over the place, and if you are unfortunate enough to be using it with the canister system, you will be greatly dissappointed.

This week, I had to use the canister again as my shop vacuum died. In the course of one hour, I had the dust canister shoot off of the sander three times, and blow dust all over me, my face, and my project. I can excuse the dust on the project, but covering my arms and face with dust is just inexcusable.

Doing it three times in hour is just plain about to get it shot with the shop varmit rifle, the big one with the long magazine of NATO rounds and the big 50mm scope.

I even had blue masking tape wrapped around it after the first time to hold it on, and it blew off again. More tape, and it did it again. Next time I will use duct tape, if the sander lives that long.

When this sander is dead, or I win the lottery, I will be buying a Festool.

Thanks for reading,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5208 days

20 comments so far

View rookster's profile


67 posts in 4953 days

#1 posted 01-19-2008 07:48 PM

Have you tried a Festool? My impression is that they make marvelous tools all around, but I’ve never encountered on in person.

-- Rookster, (

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4959 days

#2 posted 01-19-2008 10:51 PM


I share your pain buddy; I had an extensive collection and line of porter cable tools in my shop previously.

I will let that sentence speak for it self. It is what it is.

Notice the following picture. If you look closely you will see the cut out portion. It is where the UPC code used to be. The box has never been opened.

Hopefully, it never will have to be either.

I cut out the code to get the rebate for some promotion that was running at the time.

I used the money I got from the rebate to buy good sanders, it was either that or mental health counseling.

I used to have 6 porter cable sanders. Last spring my sister had a garage sale and asked if I wanted to or had any old tools for sale.

Yep, you guessed it.

All six went for 5 bucks apiece.

I still feel bad for who ever got them.

I now have 11 sanders ( I like to have different sandpaper on each one) it is a production thing and none of them are porter cable.

The lesson learned for me in this experience is just because a tool company has been good in the past, doesn’t mean that all the tools they make will be good or their isn’t other tools out there that are better for less money.

I no longer have ”blind” loyalty to any brand.

May porter cable rest in peace.

I had fond memory’s of porter cable in their hay day.

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5117 days

#3 posted 01-20-2008 09:56 PM

Looks like we need a support group for the exportacable faithful. My shop is full of the dark grey and I’m at a loss as to what to use next. I loved the simpleness of portacable routers and belt sanders. Too bad they have turned to crap.

View FrankA's profile


139 posts in 4582 days

#4 posted 01-22-2008 02:30 AM

It seems to me that after the 2004 aquisition by Black & Decker our grey and black friends have the same innards as the orange and black, (Got it for fathers day sits on the shelf never used) stuff.

-- Frank Auge---Nichols NY----"My opinion is neither copyrighted nor trademarked, but it is price competitive."

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4793 days

#5 posted 01-24-2008 01:51 PM

I still have the same model and the same complaints. It feels very awkward in my hand and I can never find a comfortable hold. That dust container is the worst though. Mine kept coming off blowing that fine dust everywhere. I installed a couple of small screws to hold it on but find that attaching a shopvac works best.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 4683 days

#6 posted 01-24-2008 03:53 PM

oh yes , im the owner of one of those little sweethearts ! much like mark im itching to have a little target practice with it . im convinced companies like festool is in all of our futures , as most of the tried and true tool co.s are selling thier quality and good reputation down the river through corparate buyouts and investor greed . for my shop im thinking ill switch to air sanders . they take a lot of air so its not everyones option . if you have air enuff you might for fun check out autobody sanders they work just as well on wood and are good quality i own a lot of them . just thought id throw out an option some may not be aware of thx

View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4685 days

#7 posted 01-24-2008 04:08 PM

Sad but true.

I just had to post after seeing your comment on the laminate trim router and the bits getting stuck. It is just awful. After spending time on a site about CNCs, I can point you to a couple of dozen other guys who think the same thing.

I have a DeWalt sander with the same problems. Sigh…

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View satchmo's profile


4 posts in 4567 days

#8 posted 02-04-2008 09:11 PM

I also feel your pain as I fell victum to the lure of having a P-C tool. That used to be a good thing.
I’m going out to find a drive belt today which I really don’t mind to much since I have used the 333 a ton.
My biggest problem was with that stupid “dust collector/spreader”.
I purchased the my 1st 333 from HD and with the first use had the dust collector blowing off. Took it back to HD and was assurted this was a freak incident – they replaced.
2nd 333 lasted about a half dozen projects and then “dust collector/spreader” blew off.
I have since canned the “dust collector/spreader” and only sand when weather allows it.
It is a P-C though. Gotta Love it!

-- I'd rather have a bottle infront of me than a frontal lobotomy.

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

500 posts in 4585 days

#9 posted 02-04-2008 09:37 PM

I thought it was just me. The first 333 lasted a long time. 2nd not so long. 3rd was junk from the get-go & will be my last. I did fix the sawdust spreader problem with a small self tapping screw thru both parts. Festool’s price still grates. I LOVE quality tools, but do they really warrant that kind of $’s?


View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4726 days

#10 posted 02-05-2008 05:29 AM

I feel your pain Mark,
I to am disappointed with P-C I have the 891 router mounted in a lift and the bearings are starting to scream after only a little over one year. I wish I had not used it a lot, maybe only used it on 4 – 6 projects. I am looking at other brands I hope it holds up until I can afford to buy another one.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4547 days

#11 posted 03-06-2008 11:07 PM

I guess it’s not just an isolated case of a lemon in the bunch. Maybe I have the exceptions. I have a 333 that I bought in 1998 and another that I bought as a backup in 2007. The older one has had several pads replaced, as well as the belts and I replaced the lower bearing when it started freezing up, after 9 years of almost daily use. The new one has had the pad replaced once and the belt. I use my older for sanding the trim in my house and the newer in my shop. I had trouble with the vacuum hose coming off, but two wraps of electrical tape made the connection tight enough to solve that problem. I bought the first one thinking, for $45 if it last a year, I’ll get my money out of it. Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes more. I’ve been happy with the few PC tools that I have.

View lukulele's profile


1 post in 4516 days

#12 posted 03-27-2008 05:57 AM

My school shop has just invested in the Festool 150/3, Rotex 150 and the CT 33. We are now able to finish sand approximately 3-4 cutting boards in the time we could complete one with our DW and Bosch RO sanders. Granted, the Festool is a 6” diameter but it can remove drum sander scratch marks on Hard Maple much faster and most importantly keep my adjoining English classroom clean without running two overhead ambient dust cleaners. As I vividly remember from a Dewalt sales seminar years ago, “we’re not here to sell tools, but to sell batteries!” One of my cabinetmaker donors gave me all of his PC sanders years ago for our program to start with but as mentioned in other posts the dust collection chambers just jettisoned or spewed leakage. I won’t elaborate on some of the other QC issues or replacement part prices after assembling many display models for the last 9 years. Just remember that the sales force from PC was pretty much sent packing after the merger. But also remember that Milwaukee, Makita, Ridgid and others are now pretty much sourcing from China. If country of origin does indeed influence your purchase, you may have to take a jeweler’s loop to find it on the builder’s plate. Maybe a PC neoprene belt party in Boston Harbor?


View Dusty56's profile


11859 posts in 4491 days

#13 posted 10-12-2008 01:28 AM

My first PC sander (all black in color ) has lasted me for over 10 years without any major issues . It caused me to purchase two more ( now Gray ) (which were on sale at Sears for a great price because PC had changed to a new , “better ” design ) which seems to be quite a bit louder and has more hand numbing vibration than my original one , which I didn’t find out until recently when I wanted to have several grits available without switching papers constantly on one machine. Yes , my dust collector / spreader has come off a few times as well over the past 10 years , but so far so good with the newbies in that regard . I also have several PC routers that are still running great so far . The oldest one is about 13 years old with no issues to date . I tried a DeWalt sander for about 1/2 an hour and I was back at the store with it . the salesperson said it was their 3rd return that day of the same product and it wasn’t even noon yet !! I am presently working at a custom millwork shop and we use air powered palm sanders there. Of course they have an state of the art compressor to keep them turning constantly . I don’t think that my Craftsman compressor is up to the task , so until they die , I’ll keep using my PC sanders and routers : )

What is the model # that you pictured above …mine are the 333’s…..I believe that yours is the newer one that I didn’t like the looks of and it just felt awkward in the store so I never even tried it out….Sounds like I made a good choice : )

PS: Have you shot it yet ??? L O L ; )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View JPBatts's profile


41 posts in 4180 days

#14 posted 03-12-2009 08:00 PM

Amen on P-C. I bought their drum sander and I spend more time fixing than using it. In this sander the table lifts the wood upwards to the drum. Talk about a fragile system. No matter the amount of tension one puts on the elevator assembly, it will slip and then the system is out of balance and the wood will come out uneven. At a recent trade show I asked the PC representative what I could do to solve the problem. He went thru the set-up in the owners guide and when I said “I’ve done that multiple times” he cut me off and handed me a business card for the closest PC factory service place. I bought the Jet 44 inch drum sander to replace it and it is a dream to work with when compared with PC. Most of my tools are now Jet with a handful of DeWalt and Grizzly pieces thrown in. At some time PC may have been the gold standard for the industry but now they need to spend more time developing better designed tools. Maybe I should be careful what I say because I have a lightly used drum sander for sale.

-- If she asks please tell my wife that I can sell my tools for what I paid, okay?

View webdude's profile


1 post in 4160 days

#15 posted 03-18-2009 01:28 AM

So, it’s not just me. I had a P-C belt sander that I loved, so bought a 333 when I needed a new finishing sander. Same problem with the dust collector noted above. What a cheesy attachment design! I also tried the same fixes noted above, with about the same results.

I’m here now b/c I bought a new pad at HD – waited in line ~15 minutes with everyone else. There was only one checker at the self-check-out, and there were no other checkers in sight for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, they’re the only ones in town with P-C parts.

Back to P-C. After putting on the new pad, I was using the sander today when 2 of the three pad screws stripped out. No, I’m not a gorilla and didn’t over-tighten the screws (specs call for 25-30 inch pounds of torque), at least when I installed the pad. Obviously P-C’s threading/attachment problems are epidemic. I liked the 333 when I bought it, but it seems to have a durability comparable to a Durabilt, Coleman or… Black & Decker (what a surprise!) or other crappy brand.

I’ll get a Makita at Costco, where at least they have a good return policy in case you get a lemon. In PC’s case, it seems all of their tools may be lemons. Too bad. They used to make good products.

BTW, I’m overdue for some target practice.

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