Harbor Freight 38536 Bandfile vs. Proxxon 38536 BSL115/E Bandfile

  • Advertise with us
Review by Tennessee posted 09-27-2012 10:02 PM 12441 views 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Harbor Freight 38536 Bandfile vs. Proxxon 38536 BSL115/E Bandfile Harbor Freight 38536 Bandfile vs. Proxxon 38536 BSL115/E Bandfile No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

At first glance, you all must be saying to yourselves, “What are you thinking, Paul – these are not even in the same category.”
Well, I own both of them, and after having them both on the bench for jewelry box projects and some touch-up work on guitar bodies, I found out that they both have strengths, weaknesses, and overall, I think it deserved a head-to-head contest. Agreed, the HF is thirty bucks, and the cheapest I found the Proxxon was One hundred and forty,WHEW (I got mine for WAY less than half that at a Woodcraft closing). But you would be surprised at how these two stack up.

Here’s my experience in usage:

Harbor Freight 92158 Bandfile
Hogs off a lot of wood quickly for a bandfile. Just a bull if you want it to be.
Larger belt wears out slower. 1/2” X 18 1/4”.
Belts ARE easy to find, despite what people complain about. I easily found about 20, and they do not break easily once you learn to adjust the belt guide, which is a TWO adjustment thingy, one knob, one bolt.
All heavy-duty steel gear train, with heavy-duty needle bearings. AND, you can actually reverse the head 180’ so the switch is on the other side by simply removing four bolts and rotating the head 180’.
Belt removal system looks hokey, as it is a plastic “switch” that you rotate to take tension off the belt. Seems like a possible con till you see the other belt removal system.
180’ head swivel which allows for right angle approach.
Low cost…VERY low cost.

Doggone thing is heavy! Your hand will either get tired or you will have popeye arms.
Has this crazy rubber cushion under the belt, glued to the steel platen. It wears off slowly, and you get little bits of rubber all over your project until it wears out or you simply scrape it off.
Lousy, and I mean really non-existant dust collection. And with the amount of wood this thing will hog off, you can imagine how much dust and debris goes up into the air. Mask up!
NO adjustable speed. A straight on, 2300 FPM of sand belt goes over your wood. Light touch is needed here.
Chinese made.
No case of any type. Find a home for the sander and the belts so you don’t lose them.

Proxxon 38536 BSL 115/E Bandfile
If you put a lower grit on the unit, and push it, you can hog off a fair amount of wood. There seems to be a circuit in the switch that makes up in amperage for slowing down. But although a Pro, it has a drawback in the cheap gear train. Higher grits are where this shines.
Lightweight, you will not get tired using this unit.
Comes with a nice case, neat and small, for storage, that holds unit and belts.
Dust collection port, although only 1 inch, I think. None of my systems will fit it.
Smaller head, allows you to get into tighter spaces, but NOT as long.
Belts are readily available through people like Klingspor.
Made in some place like Switzerland, or some good machinery country.
Steel platen on one side for straight sanding. (Kind of a realtive thing since the platen does not extend the entire distance of the belt.) Other side provides a free moving belt in mid-air for rounded surfaces.

Expensive, expensive, expensive
Plastic gear train. (What were they thinking?) And it sound like plastic from the moment you turn it on.
Although variable speed is nice, it restricts you from 960 FPM to 2280 FPM on a 3/8” wide belt, not much wood removal here! But that may be what you want…
Belt changing system is the old, push-the-nose-down system that we see on cheaper belt sanders. Hate it, since I can never get the thing to pop back out after the first couple months of use.
Nose is not long enough.

So here we have two completely different, yet same tools.
I have found that overall, if I had to pick one, surprisingly I would go with the Harbor Freight. After getting rid of the stupid rubber off the platen, and taking time to read the instructions on how to adjust belts, I find that this unit is way more than advertised. I had opportunity to take off the head, and found sturdy steel gears, BIG ones, well made, and I filled it with marine grease and this thing sings.
I also note that there is more than one complaint on various woodworking boards about the plastic gear train on the very expensive Proxxon stripping out. I got mine for less than fifty bucks, or I probably would have not popped for it.

The place for the Proxxon is delicate, light removal situations, like slightly rounding corners, cleaning up little burrs and such. The Harbor Freight is more of a bull, great for smoothing out those drawer chambers in those bandsaw jewelry boxes, knocking off raw edges from bandsaw operations, etc. The Proxxon is the unit you would use for cleaning up small items. The Harbor Freight unit is more of a horse.

I find that I use my Harbor Freight about three to one on the Proxxon. I find the Proxxon a little light, not meaty enough, and if I smoke the plastic gears, it’s gone, since I will never see another one for that price. If I somehow smoke the Harbor Freight, a twenty percent coupon will get me another for WAY under thirty dollars.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3283 days

11 comments so far

View DeLayne Peck's profile

DeLayne Peck

669 posts in 2970 days

#1 posted 09-28-2012 04:39 AM

Wow, thank you, Paul. I am certainly going to take a long look at the HF bandfile. I can think of a good number of projects and problems that I could have used it on. Most recently, a band saw heart jewelry box. My version requires a tremendous amount of shaping by hand with sandpaper.

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

View bluejazz's profile


56 posts in 3555 days

#2 posted 09-28-2012 12:00 PM

I know nothing about the Proxxon but I do have the Harbor Freight bandfile. This review is dead-on with my experience with the tool; it is better than you think. And DeLayne hit on a great use for it. It is perfect for sanding the inside of a bandsaw box. Just be careful not to overdo. Like TN said, it can hog.

-- I'm 58. In my mind, I still feel 28. Until I do something physical; then I feel 78.

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3016 days

#3 posted 09-28-2012 02:56 PM

I had no clue what a bandfile was. Now I want one. Ugh, and just when I thought I was done buying tools.


View Tennessee's profile


2901 posts in 3283 days

#4 posted 09-28-2012 06:17 PM

Sorry, Joe….

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Richard's profile


1938 posts in 3459 days

#5 posted 09-28-2012 07:44 PM

lumberjoe , you are never Done buying tools. Unless you Die.

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

731 posts in 4387 days

#6 posted 10-01-2012 12:39 PM

Thank you for the very well written and informative review.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3195 days

#7 posted 10-05-2012 06:05 AM

Thanks a lot for giving me motivation to go back to HF (when I thought I finally had kicked the habit)...oh well.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View RobbieC's profile


5 posts in 2552 days

#8 posted 07-08-2013 06:50 PM

I’m going to look at the HF sander. My IB/E is the bee’s knees but they are expensive.

View bir's profile


1 post in 896 days

#9 posted 01-19-2018 03:55 PM

Thank you for the very useful review. Can I ask you where are you buying the belts 1/2” x 18 1/4” for the HFT band file? This size is not easy to find. My email is: [email protected] Thank you again.

View Andybb's profile


2762 posts in 1372 days

#10 posted 01-19-2018 05:27 PM

I had no clue what a bandfile was. Now I want one.
- lumberjoe

+1 :-)

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12170 posts in 4197 days

#11 posted 01-19-2018 06:27 PM

+2 !

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics