One of five models in our mixed category test of variable-speed rear-handle and right-angle 5-inch random orbit sanders, this tool is one of the two lower-speed, rougher stock-removing models. This is the only unit with a right-angle grinder type body with an external random-orbit drive attached. As such, this tool shares the traditional configuration of many larger electric and pneumatic random-orbit sanders. In fact, the first electric random orbit sander in the US (circa 1980s) was a Porter-Cable model similar to this one. Unlike the other tools tested, this sander comes standard with its own dust collection hose.
Porter-Cable 97455 Specs
Amp Rating: 4.5
Orbits per Minute (OPM): 2,500 – 6,800
Cord Length: 9’–10”
Weight: 5.39 pounds
Country of Origin: Mexico
Online Price: $184
Finish quality was determined by feel and by eye. To show the scratch pattern created by the sander we made a single pass over clear acrylic (photo above) with 150 grit paper.
Finish quality: Fair
Notable 150 grit random scratch marks visible under magnification.
Stock removal: Good to Very Good.
Amount of material sanded off maple in 3-minute trials with fresh 100-grit disk: 16.6 grams (click here to compare to other models tested).
Comments and Ratings
Fair to Good overall.
This right-angle sander proved strong but it was clumsy in use and didn’t remove stock any faster than the large finish sanders in the test. And as a slower speed sander, it didn’t leave a very fine finish either. The low speed range and high torque of its large, geared-down motor may make this tool a better buffer/polisher than a sander for wood.
Using the included side handle makes the grip stance of the Porter-Cable sander like that of an angle grinder and increases your reach for long back and forth strokes on jobs like buffing out a large surface.
Switch: Very Good
Large slider switch on top of tool easy to operate with thumb, even with gloves on.
Speed dial: Fair to Good
Dial located a bit out the way at the back of the tool, requires moving one hand from its grip position to adjust.
Always requires both hands; could use a softer, grippier surface at the forward hand position on the nose of the tool, and around the wide body of the tool for the rear hand.
Fair to good; depending on how flat the work piece is.
Lands on work: Fair to Good
At first I thought this sander had no pad brake which allowed the disk to rev up to full rotation speed and dig into the work like a grinder. But then I realized I could adjust the dust shroud down further to make contact with the pad to dial in the amount of desired braking action.
Slower disk speeds make this tool dig in harder at the edges which causes it to jerk and jump around on uneven surfaces. When holding the sander with the side handle, the cantilevered weight of the tool makes it more likely to lean slightly and makes this problem worse. It’s easier to hold the pad flat against the work and thereby control the tool by placing your front hand over the nose of the tool.
Can’t see edge of disk when sanding due to the overhang of the dust shroud
Holding your front hand over the top of the sander body provides greater control and more efficient downward force during sanding jobs. It’s easier to push straight down on the sanding pad with less twisting fatigue to both wrists versus using the side handle. The further your hand is from the business end of the tool, the more you have to twist your wrist forward to apply downward pressure.
Note the dust port sized for a European vac hose molded into the dust shroud, and note how the shroud totally obscures the view of the sanding disk from the user.
Dust container: N/A
Vacuum: Fair to Good
35mm o.d. “Euro” vac hose fits well over smooth dust port built into dust shroud, but the vac hose hangs off the front of the tool where it can get in the way.
Variable-speed motor; less common 5-hole hook-and-loop sanding pad.
Has removable dust shroud with dust port and removable side handle that attaches to the right or left side of the tool when needed.
Same tool body and motor as the brand’s 6-inch sanders and polishers so it can run 6-inch accessories.
Comes with: Lightweight 10-foot vac hose; adapter to fit hose to larger 2 1/4-inch vac; wrench for pad; fabric bag.
Optional accessories: PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) pad; polishing pad; 6-inch pads; and other attachments that fit on a 5/16-24 threaded spindle.
Similar models: Same tool with 6-inch pad; 5- and 6-inch PSA pad versions sold without the dust shroud and vac hose; 6-inch sander/polisher and polisher versions.