I like the Porter-Cable and Makita sanders best, but choosing between them is tough. I really like the Porter-Cable's rock-solid feel, comfortable handles, and excellent overall performance. But the Makita deserves the top honor because it too performs well but also has a longer cord, better belt-release lever, nicer tracking adjustment, and a flat top for upside-down use.

The Bosch also is a great, if very different, tool. It has nice balance, tracking, and overall feel. Being able to use it as a bench tool is a huge advantage for some work, too. The Ryobi and Craftsman are much like the Bosch and would be a good choice for the budget conscious or for more occasional use.

The Hitachi is well made and powerful, but has a few features that need improvement. The DeWalt rounds out the group.

Sources of Supply

Bosch Power Tools
Model 1274DVS: $179

Model 27725: $150

DeWalt Industrial Tool
Model DW431: $150

Hitachi Power Tools
Model SB75: $150

Makita USA
Model 9903: $199

Porter-Cable Corp.
Model 352VS: $199

Ryobi Technologies
Model BE321 Type II: $150

Chris Kulczycki is a boat builder and writer in West River, Md. He was an instructor at the Wooden Boat School for 10 years.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE has arranged with the companies in this test to donate their tools to Habitat for Humanity.

Spec out Belt Sanders on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products(TM).