Pros: Heavy, powerful, controllable, extremely effective
Cons: Dust bag fills up too fast
Another fine product from Porter Cable. I actually have three of these. Two are Rockwell models, still tagged as model 360's. One is really old with a polished cast aluminum body, the other a later Rockwell with the gray finish and now an almost new Porter Cable 360.
The last model I picked up because of a big project we were working on. Refinishing barn beams as part of a club project. It was a huge project and I had both my old Rockwells working almost around the clock. With more workers than tools, I went ahead and picked up the newest sander and pressed it into service.
Of course you can only guess what to expect when you start using a new power tool, but the 360 was like a familiar old friend. You knew it's sound and exactly how it was going to perform. We took it right out of the box, slipped a coarse sanding belt into it and away it went. Absolutely no adjustment needed.
So what is this sander all about. Well its a 12 amp motored wonder machine. Absolutely no lack of power with this tool. It runs at belt speed of 1500 feet per minute which seems ideal. I think Rockwell and Porter cable did their homework, because I really have had no need for the variable speed model. It uses a 3 inch wide by 24 inch cicumference belt available in many grits. To change those belts out is a snap. Pull on the quick release lever between the base plate and carriage and voila, the belt is loose, ready for removal and reinstallation from the side.
Of course there's an easy to use belt tracking knob on the side also. You use this to fine tune how the belt rides on it rollers. If theres any movement one way or another, simply turn the knob and you can quickly correct the problem. It doesnt happen often, but it's remedied very simply and quickly.
The dust collection bag works surprisingly well. We have a lot of tools that we just toss the bag to one side, but this one seems to stay put. It does fill up pretty quick and that can be a pain, but if you understood the amount of material that this sander will remove in such a short time, you'de want to leave it on too.
Whats really nice about this tool is the position. The front knob is located perfectly in relation to the handle. You can use the 360 all day like a big hand plane.
Since we have a couple of older models to compare it to I can say right off that it does have quite a bit more power. Porter Cable claims 20 percent more power for this sander, but it feels like it's doubled. Our old Rockwells were pure brutes on power, but this. Its like electric supercharging. Sounds scary, but the tool is so controllable. Part of that may be because of its weight. At almost 15 pounds it will stay put. But start to move it over wood and watch out. It leaves an incredible finish in a very short time.
This is not a tool by the way, for small furniture projects. This tool is designed for doing a lot of big jobs quickly. Hard wood floors, boat decks, porches, and other big areas. It will do very nice smooth finishes on big pieces of furniture, but it won't take the place of an orbital or jitterbug on smaller jobs.
The 360 doesnt come with a lot of extras. Just the Sander a belt to get you started, the dust bag and the instruction manual. The instruction manual I didn't even look at for days after we'd started using the sander, but it's well done with a lot of good maintenance tips, warnings and use information. Unfortunately it will probably get lost and we'll treat the 360 like the thirty year old Rockwells. That by the way is saying a lot for this power tool.