Crude but useful - 4 stars for hobby use, 2 stars for professional

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Review by wolfinator posted 02-20-2015 01:42 AM 5036 views 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Crude but useful - 4 stars for hobby use, 2 stars for professional No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

This site’s reviews have been very helpful to me of late, and I thought I’d share my experiences with this Harbor Freight sander.

My personal experience seems to differ from other reviews I’ve seen that trashed this guy. I’m a complete noob, and this is my first stationary sander of any type. So – grain of salt and all that.

Overall, I am satisfied with this sander. I’ve had it for a month and used it on several projects. I feel like it is a good value for a beginner who can accept it’s limitations. I am simply not able to afford anything better, and this sander has enabled me to easily perform activities that were a tremendous PITA before.

I would probably avoid this for a production environment or “serious” work.


- Cheap. HF has been pushing this lately with seemingly endless $59 coupons, which tempted me to take the plunge. At $50-60, it’s way below anything similar I have seen.

- Powerful. Unlike other reviewers, I have not had any problems with power. The biggest job I’ve done is sanding a bevel in a 3/4” x 13” pine edge, and it did not slow down when shoving the whole thing against almost the entire belt.

- Usable included abrasives. I was surprised that the included belt and disk were not totally unusable. I generally assume any included abrasives will be garbage. For Christmas, my wife gave me a Makita finishing sander. The included sandpaper said “Made in Japan”, and was the shortest lasting crappy sandpaper I’ve ever encountered.

By contrast, I’ve used the included abrasives to sand my way through a number of small jobs and have had no complaints. I’m sure I’ll noticed how bad they are when I eventually replace them with something nice ;-)

- OK disk. Some people have complained about a wobbly disk. I don’t have a way to measure it’s wobble, but visually it’s barely perceptible. Either I have low standards, or my example is fine.


- Comes only 95% complete. As I’m learning, most HF tools are not tools. They’re almost-finished tool kits.

Out of the box, the first thing I noticed were some tiny rust spots along the bottom edge of the sander base. It looked like the sander’s paint coating petered out along the edge, and I’m guessing the salty ocean voyage caused some mild surface rust. It buffed off in a couple minutes. Purely cosmetic, but still annoying on a “new” tool.

The next thing I noticed was that the assembly instructions are useless. Entire steps are missing. However, the assembly is very straightforward, and can be discerned from the picture on the box. Honestly, if you’re unable to assemble this, I don’t know how you would possibly be capable of operating it.

After assembling it, I turned it on to test, and started fiddling with the tracking. As I was dialing in the tracking, a nut came flying off!! One of the nuts that holds the belt to it’s currently set angle came off. Clearly step 2 with this device (after ‘take out of box’) should be “re-tighten all bolts”.

I noticed, while fiddling, that it would briefly stall on start-up. However, the reviews on the HF website had a suggestion to try: re-tighten the drive belt.

To do this, you have to loosen the 4 bolts that mount the motor, and physically move the motor. It’s mildly annoying, but after ensuring the drive belt was snug, I have had zero power issues. I suspect most people complaining about power for these sanders just have loose belts.

After that, I was off to the races! And I noticed a few other minuses:

- Vibration: With the belt mounted vertically, it vibrates a LOT. The sander itself stays planted, but the top of the belt wobbles back and forth almost 1/2 inch or so! The table wobbles with it, so sanding against the table works OK.

This is my biggest disappointment. I’ve read other reviews where people say the rollers on this tend to come out of round, so maybe that’s the problem.

With the belt down, I don’t find the vibration excessive. I mostly plan to sand that way, so I can live with this for now.

- Cheezy table/mitre. It’s exactly what I expected for $60, but it’s definitely not a plus.

- Bizzare dust collection port. The disk has a plastic shroud, and at the bottom right is teensy tiny little hole, about the size of my pinky finger. Presumably this is for dust collection. However, I have no idea where I would even get an adapter that small. A useless vestigial oddity if you ask me.

- Brittle plastic. When assembling the shroud for the disk, I snapped a couple of the little tabs that hold the two halves together. It’s also screwed together, so it works…but, I also noticed a couple spots where the shroud around the belt looked like it had corners nicked off at the factory.

The black plastic parts on this are some of the most brittle plastic I have every encountered. It feels like someone left them out in the sun for 10 years. Nothing critical is made of this stuff, so again – $60.

- Motor heats up. After 10-20 minutes of continuous hard use, the motor no longer passes the 1-second touch test. To me, this says this is inadequate for anything vaguely production-like.


I’ve used this for several tasks, all using the belt. I’ve sanded some small hardwood pieces down to a desired thickness, I’ve shaped a number of wood parts, and sanded probably a dozen beveled edges. Some of these tasks are better performed with other equipment that I don’t have, but I do have this guy.

It’s a bit rude and crude, but it lets me do stuff and that’s what counts for me. I feel I’m getting my money’s worth. I would recommend it to other beginners on a tight budget who are willing to fiddle.

View wolfinator's profile


9 posts in 1130 days

20 comments so far

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1354 days

#1 posted 02-20-2015 02:53 AM

What a great review. I wish everyone took the time to cover all the bases, in detail.

I own a Delta and it has served me well for many years but to keep things in context, this type of tool is still a rather “blunt instrument”, no matter who makes it. If you keep that in mind, I think you will find that it will do what it is supposed to, nothing more.

Welcome to Lumber Jocks!

-- Brad, Texas,

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3247 days

#2 posted 02-20-2015 03:20 AM

“vestigial oddity” !!!

Ok, I had to look that one up! LOL!

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View Robert Brown's profile

Robert Brown

151 posts in 2621 days

#3 posted 02-20-2015 03:41 AM

I bought one 5 years ago. I am pleased with it. It tracks true. No wobble. No parts have come loose. It has run continuously without overheating. It is not bolted to the table and does not vibrate enough to move around. I did have to spend some extra time to set the table at a 90 degree angle to the disk sander. Other than that, setup was easy.

It was bought originally to put a bevel on plane blades of planes being restored. It saw heavier use the first two years. Now it is only used occasionally (mainly on wood). For the hobbyist that I am, it has been a very satisfactory machine.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10243 posts in 3358 days

#4 posted 02-20-2015 01:03 PM

I used the heck out of one for several years, with few complaints. Then I got a deal on a refurb for my Shopsmith and gave the HF sander to my son. He’s been using it for a few years and it’s still doing the job.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Tennessee's profile


2807 posts in 2444 days

#5 posted 02-20-2015 01:34 PM

This is a great review and welcome to lumberjocks!
That being said, I owned one of these a few years back – maybe I got a bad one but the power issues were overwhelming for me. My belt was not slipping, my motor just could not keep up. Ended up selling it off at a garage sale and went back to my very old Delta, which finally died from bad bearings and other issues. Sold them all off at a garage sale and bought a Powertec BD6900 which has its own problems, but has been a horse.

I would like to have another one in the shop, maybe I need to revisit this tool. They change suppliers from time to time on the same model, and once in a while, things do get better.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Lee's profile


50 posts in 1127 days

#6 posted 02-20-2015 02:18 PM

I have one too, going on maybe 5 or 6 years. I too had to tighten the drive belt to keep from stalling. But after that, no complaints. Better sanding belts does make it work a whole lot better!! Haven’t had any bolts or nuts fall off. Just recently had to purchase a new scroll saw, so I kept the base and mounted my HF sander to it. And one day will get a spindle/drum sander and mount it on the side of the combo sander.

-- Lee

View wolfinator's profile


9 posts in 1130 days

#7 posted 02-20-2015 05:24 PM

Thanks for the kind words, guys!

I’m glad other people have found these sanders to be durable. That’s the one thing you can’t easily test or discern from most reviews. And HF always makes me a little nervous about that with their 90 day “warranty”.

So now I’m more optimistic this guy will hang around for a while.

View wolfinator's profile


9 posts in 1130 days

#8 posted 02-20-2015 05:25 PM

I used the heck out of one for several years, with few complaints. Then I got a deal on a refurb for my Shopsmith and gave the HF sander to my son. He s been using it for a few years and it s still doing the job.

- Gene Howe

Funny – I was drooling over the Shopsmith belt sander this past weekend. Then I saw the price, and had a heart palpitation.

How do you like yours? Worth it?

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2415 days

#9 posted 02-20-2015 07:41 PM

I used that exact sander for the better part of a year getting my comb business off the ground. It wasn’t ideal, but I was able to make it work. Dust collection as it’s built in to the unit itself isn’t all that great, so I had to get really creative.

-- Brian Timmons -

View cmmyakman's profile


150 posts in 2586 days

#10 posted 02-20-2015 08:38 PM

“As I was dialing in the tracking, a nut came flying off!!”

That line made me laugh out loud!

-- You can't fail if you don't give up.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2620 days

#11 posted 02-20-2015 09:00 PM

We need more reviewers like you! You told it all after giving it a trial. I have returned HF tools WAY beyond the 90 day period with no problems.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Woodknack's profile


11286 posts in 2310 days

#12 posted 02-21-2015 08:21 AM

Great review, very detailed, and humorous to boot.

-- Rick M,

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7787 posts in 2258 days

#13 posted 02-21-2015 07:46 PM

This was a very good and detailed review.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Steve_W's profile


17 posts in 1466 days

#14 posted 02-22-2015 08:40 PM

Great review!

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2023 days

#15 posted 03-01-2015 04:13 AM

Glad to hear you’ve had more luck with it than mine. Have you had to change the sanding belt yet? I’ve found this to be a tedious operation. Fortunately I don’t have to do it very often.

I can’t keep the mitre/sanding table properly aligned with the disc. It just will not happen. I’ve never had a problem with the disc itself being wobbly.

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