Porter-Cable - Model 342 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Finishing Sander (Rating: 5)

I will preface this by saying that this is my first power sander so I have nothing to compare it to directly, and although I have minimal experience with woodworking power tools, I have many years of daily use of other types power tools under my belt, and don't have much tolerance for junk.

I purchased this item about seven months ago, and up until last week had not given it much of a workout. I had sanded perhaps a total of 100 square feet of pine lumber surface with it. The results were very good, and working up with various grit sand papers, I was surprised at just how quickly a very smooth surface could be obtained. I was also quite pleased with how much of the sawdust did make it into the small dust collection canister provided with the unit, and once I found the correct adapter for my shop vac, I was very happy with how well the dust collection worked to keep my work area clean.

In working with the 342, I found the noise and vibration level just what I would expect from a tool that is doing what it does. I had a bit of trouble with the paper retention system at first, but once I got the hang of it changing paper has not been a real problem, although it still takes some work to get even a perfectly cut 1/4 sheet aligned just right to catch under the retainer bars. Once in place though, I have never had any problem with the paper coming loose or otherwise causing problems.

What prompted me to right this review was a project that I tackled with this tool last week. I am remodeling a bedroom in my house, and the old, multiple layers of rolled on paint had created wall surfaces that were just too rough. I decided to use this sander to smooth out the roughness of the old paint before applying the new paint. This required sanding about 350 square feet of wall, which I did in a very short time. The paint was actually much harder to sand than the lumber I had sanded previously, requiring coarse sandpaper and what was probably more "down" pressure on the sander than I should have used. This sander, however, didn't seem to care, and went right on without even getting warm to the touch. Since this was probably more sanding in a short time than I will ever do on a real woodworking project, I have to say that this little sander did quite well at taking more abuse than it probably should have.

All of this cost me only about $37 last fall from Amazon.com. Current price there is about $45 now, but still compared to the old days of hand sanding everything, I feel this is a reasonable price for a tool that seems to be able to power right through whatever job I am likely to do with it.