Porter-Cable's new Compact Belt Sander looks a bit like a sports car, right down to the mag wheels, but it performs more like a heavy-duty truck and introduces a whole new category of sanders to the shop.

Honey, who shrunk the belt sander?

Porter-Cable has been a leader in belt sanders since it invented the first one in 1926. This has long been an arena where big and powerful were synonymous. Heck, there's even an association for the silly sport of belt-sander racing (check out  www.nebsra.org ). But this is a different set of wheels.

With a footprint of about 4 inches by 11 inches and weighing only 5 pounds, the Compact Belt Sander has gotten its share of people calling it "cute" since it was introduced at IWF in August. But the unit is about performance, too.

The 5-amp, 500-watt motor is designed to deliver 1,100 surface-feet per minute speeds to the 2-1/2-inch by 14-inch belt to give plenty of power. And Porter-Cable engineers have built in metal components, a dust-sealed and recessed switch, and a removable dust port for durability and performance.

Small tool, tight places

On the ergonomics side, the entire top of the tool is covered with soft rubber for a good grip. The auxiliary front handle is removable, and you might be tempted to one-hand this sander, but we had much better control with both hands on.

An important feature of the sander is that it has one side where the belt runs completely flush, so you can run the sander right up to a perpendicular edge, like a wall. Porter-Cable says the sander is ideal for scribing filler pieces for cabinetry and a host of finish carpentry chores like chamfering and fitting doors and sills.

The first task I tried with it was sanding an old particleboard workbench top, and honestly I was surprised by the power of the little sander. It definitely wanted to head off to the races. Whatever task I put it to, it performed well, and with a shop vacuum attached, dust extraction was excellent.

The unit comes with a plastic case and an 80-grit belt. With a price tag of about $120, this little hot rod is likely to find a place in many shops. They may even have to give it its own division in the belt sander races. For more information visit www.porter-cable.com.

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