Porter-Cable 20-Volt Cordless 5-Inch Palm Sander
Kyle Neuroh of Neuroh Hardwood Flooring in Nashville, Tenn., tried out the new Porter-Cable random orbital cordless sander:
Out of the box, one of the first things I noticed was that the sander is a bit heavy and awkwardly balanced, mostly due to the weight of the battery, and it didn't have the most ergonomic grip. It does come with a little dust bag, and you can fit different-sized vacuum hoses on there if you decide not to use the bag.
I'm used to running my Festool ETS palm sander, so I put on some 120-grit sandpaper and compared this sander's scratch patterns to the ones from my Festool with the same abrasive. (Of course, those sanders are at very different price points, so I didn't expect them to be the same!) I ran them both on a panel and then put some dark walnut stain on it without water-popping the wood so I could really see the scratch patterns. With that comparison, the scratch pattern with this sander was more erratic than what we are used to seeing, mostly due to the sander being heavy toward the back due to the battery weight. The dust collection with the bag was on par with most palm sanders in this category.
Next I tried the sander on a job site on some maple treads we were finishing with hardwax oil. It seemed to work well for that, albeit not as well as a geared random orbital like the Festool Rotex—but you also don't always want to be using your most expensive palm sander to buff in oil, either.
I was able to get about 26 minutes of run time out of a fully charged battery—that was running the sander at full speed non-stop. The batteries charge quickly, so if you had one on charge you should be able to keep sanding without having to wait. There isn't a gauge on the battery to see how much charge it has.
All that being said, for the price point, it's not a bad little sander to have on hand for quick sample-making or even to apply a hardwax oil finish.
Retail price: $59.97 without battery; one Porter-Cable 20-volt Max Lithium Ion 4.0-amp hour battery is $64.33; the Porter-Cable battery charger is $39.97.
See a full video review of the Porter-Cable palm sander by Kyle Neuroh:
Bosch GTL3 Tile and Square Layout Laser
After being our laser testing guru in the October/November 2017 issue of WFB, Sean James of Santa Cruz, Calif.-based SJ Hardwood Floors tried this new Bosch laser:
This laser is designed primarily for tile layout, but as a wood flooring pro, I found it can also be used for parquet block and herringbone layout. The laser features fixed 0- and 90-degree lines, as well as an optional 45-degree line. Each laser is fixed to a set angle, so there's no need for recalibration if it gets bumped or knocked around.
I tried the laser out in a few install situations with different parquet layouts, some on site and some just doing dry layout at my shop. It was pretty useful for fingerblock layout, and although herringbone layout is done by snapping a center line and then two working/control lines, I found this tool could be very helpful, especially in a full-trowel install situation. Using it, you'll still have your working and control lines on top of the adhesive rather than trying to see them through the trowel marks—you can be totally accurate lining the laser up off your original layout marks.]
The laser comes with a nice carrying case and a steel positioning plate that can be screwed down. The positioning plate raises the laser up off the working substrate, making it easier to see the laser lines. Strong magnets on the bottom of the tool provide a secure attachment on the positioning plate.
I can see the benefits of using a laser like this to save time while laying out and installing—you won't have to stop and grab a straightedge or string line to doublecheck your layout. You can just turn the laser on, or keep it on, and check it. In short, this could be a useful tool to have. Like all tools, you just need to find a way to best utilize it and its functions to make it work for you.
Retail price: $145.75
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