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An important feature on any handheld belt sander, but especially a large one like this, is a trigger grip for the hand controlling the sander, and a forward grip for the other hand. This is just a very comfortable grip that allows the user to easily activate the sander. It gives the user an easy way to rest his hand while simultaneously pushing down and forward.
The 362V offers the most powerful motor available on a portable belt sander: 12 amps. Considering that many other brands have motors that are 5 or 8 amps.
The 362V packs serious power, allowing it to chew through wood without bogging down or slipping. The 12 amp motor can run the belt up to 1,500 square feet per minute.
The motor is centered right on top of the tool so that the weight of the tool can be used to help apply pressure to the workpiece.
For that matter, at over 15 pounds, this is one very heavy sander. Often, heavy tools mean increased user fatigue and difficult manipulating the tool. With a handheld belt sander, though, heavier is better.
A belt sander’s function depends on the grit of the sandpaper being forced down onto the workpiece. The extra weight of the tool means the user does not have to push near as hard on the tool to achieve effective sanding.
There is another advantage to the stocky build of the 362V. If the dust collection bag is removed, it’s a simple matter to block in the sander in the upside down position. Run a 2×4 along each side of the motor, then cut a hole in the face of another 2×4 to match the dust collection port. Set the sander upside down on the third board, with the port slipping into the drilled hole. Screw the other two 2x4s into the third (and preferably into a workbench below) along each side of the motor.
Once the sander is snug upside down, the 362V turns into a great sander for fine woodworking. Small pieces, such as picture frames, tenon joints, or wooden carvings, are brought to the belt for very precise control of the sanding process. In these instances, pressing the sander down onto the small work piece would usually result in the piece running around underneath the sander, to very unsatisfactory results.
The lip on the front of the 362V barely sticks out in front of the sanding belt. That means it is not very useful for flush sanding (sanding perfectly in a ninety degree corner), nor using it for any kind of contour shaping.
The 362V’s belt measures four inches by twenty-four inches. This is as large as handheld belt sanders get. Most are three inches wide and sixteen or eighteen inches long. The additional surface area means big jobs—flooring, lots of cabinets, or planing in the field—goes that much quicker.
The belt is centered using a knob on top of the tool. It has a quick-release lever for changing the belt. The variable-speed motor can be adjusted from 1,000 to 1,500 sq pm. This is necessary with a motor so powerful, or else delicate pieces of wood could end up with gouges, or the sander might run away from the user. Start slow, especially when finishing a piece, and run the sander with the wood grain.
The 362V comes with one 100 grit zirconium belt. That is not really the belt that would be most commonly used. Zirconium is generally used for metal surfaces more than wood. Most woodworkers use aluminum oxide. Also, 100 grit is an unusual coarseness. First round sanding or stripping usually employs 60 grit belts, then a 120 grit belt, and then a finishing round with 220 grit. Keep the 100 grit zirconium for sharpening knives.
Sanders kick up a significant amount of dust when in use. That makes some kind of dust collection option a necessity. While some sanders only have a port to hook an external vacuum system in, the 362V has a built-in dust collection system. On the back of the motor is a one-inch port that shoots dust into an attached cloth bag.
Even better, the port can swivel 360° to keep it out of the user’s way. The bag is attached with a simple pinch spring so it can easily be detached, emptied, and put back on.
At the same time, if the sander is going to be in use for a long period of time, it’s no problem to take the bag off and insert a standard shop vacuum hose.
Porter Cable cements its reputation as one of the best by offering a three year warranty on the 362V. The warranty includes a ninety day money-back guarantee. The three year warranty covers any defect in manufacture, but not normal wear. Porter Cable is not in the habit of selling poorly built tools. Overall, this expertly designed and finely crafted tool is unlikely to show any defect, even after years of heavy use.