Pros:quiet, light weight, dust collection bag
Cons:no ports for vacuum dust collection
The Bottom Line: A Porter-Cable 380 Finish Sander is just what you need for that last round of extra-fine sanding before applying a finish.
The Black & Decker palm sander in the shop went belly-up a few months ago: the fiber pad that provides backing for the paper up and fell off, rendering it pretty much useless. I was on my way to the local BigBox (the boys in blue, not orange hell) anyway, so I added a new finish sander to my list. In the meantime, I figured it couldn't hurt to try gluing the pad back on. I must admit, the E-6000 flexible adhesive I used really surprised me! By the time it dried, though, I'd picked up a Porter-Cable 380 Finish Sander to replace the B&D.
Recommend this product?
When I finally got around to trying out my new sander a project or two later, I was amazed: the 380 is one tight little piece of work; ergonomically superior to the B&D and far, far quieter. It also has on-board dust-collection (still not perfect, but an improvement over letting the dust fly).
The Porter-Cable 380 differs from many other palm sanders in that it's an orbital design finishing sander, not a random-orbital sander. The 2-amp motor generates 13,500 1/16th-inch orbits per minute; much the same as the 14K OPM generated by the company's random orbital models. Orbital sanders remove material less quickly than random-orbital sanders, which are more of a halfway measure between an orbital sander and a belt sander. With its orbital design, the 380 is intended as a pure finish sander. It's just what I need for the final one or two steps in finish sanding, where a r-o sander might err a bit on the aggressive side.
The sander is small and lightweight, at 2.3 pounds less than 2/3 the weight of the company's most popular r-o sander, the Porter-Cable 342. A small cloth dust bag projects off the rear, under the cord; it mounts by friction to a port on the body. There is no port for vacuum dust collection.
Pre-cut or hand-trimmed quarter sheets (about 4 by 4 inches) attach to the pad with a pair of spring clamps. The 380 ships with a square plastic punch to poke holes in the paper so the motor can suck up the sawdust. I usually cut or tear the paper into quarters and stack them on the pad, which over-taxes the punch a bit. The palm area is round, un-cushioned plastic with a front-mounted dust-proof switch (right under your index finger) and a bit of cross-hatching to improve your grip. It's not coated with ergonomic rubber like some sanders, mainly because you're simply supposed to guide it around instead of pressing on it.
I get admirable results with the 380 as long as I remember to use it for a finishing sander instead of trying to strip furniture with it. I like that it's quiet and does a pretty good job of sequestering the sawdust. For more aggressive use, I still have the noisy, glued-up B&D random-orbital sander, but when it comes to sanding at 180 and finer grits, I pull out the 380 and let it hum.