In-Depth Review: Porter-Cable 7346SP 6-Inch Random Orbit Sander

Summary

Porter-Cable 7346SP 6-Inch Random Orbit Sander
80 %
Review

I like the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP because it offers great polishing capabilities that you won't acquire from higher speed sanders. Instead of depending on 12,000 OPM in order to garner the same result every time, I can go 6,800 OPM to strip metal completely off of rust or 2,500 OPM to polish and buff my pain with no risk of burning the clear-coat paint or leaving swirl marks.

As a hobbyist, I highly recommend this and if you are going to purchase it, do yourself a favor and get the best price online.

We Like

  • Its largeness allows it to handle the extra-strength motor, ensuring more power and reduced vibrations for a sander of its size.
  • Its variable 2,500 OPM to 6,800 OPM random orbital disk speed is tempered by a powerful 4.5-amp motor that gives more power after every orbit or stroke.
  • It has a 6-inch disk that covers more space faster when handheld random orbital sanders ordinarily have 5-inch disks.
  • It comes with a polishing pad.
  • It can sand through wood or polish metal depending on your speed setting.

We Don't Like

  • A disturbing percentage of people receive units that die within months of use.

Introduction

A sander is the power tool version of sandpaper. It has a disk that rotates and orbits a given pattern in order to rub or grind out material until the work piece you're working on is finally smooth. It certainly beats sanding rough wood or a rusty pipe by hand and with loads of sandpaper. It's a buffer-like tool you can depend on to smoothen out even the roughest surfaces out there.

Meanwhile, the random orbital or orbit sander is a variant of the sander or even orbit sander that moves the sanding disk in an elliptical fashion. This "randomizes" the sanding movement of the sander, such that in one full rotation of the disk, the sandpaper pad never touches the same area twice. This in turn results in the smoothest of finishes and the lack of swirl marks on the surface when all is said and done.

This applies whether you're using a roughshod coarse sandpaper to remove bark from raw timber or fine sandpaper to do your finishing touches on a board or plank you're about to varnish or paint. This movement also makes the sander a two-in-one kind of machine. Belt sanders are usually the ones that deal with the roughest patches on wood while orbital sanders (and an elliptical wrist movement) are responsible for fine sanding. The random orbit sander can do both types of sanding thanks to its elliptical nature.

Who Is It For?

The typical user of the random orbit sander is an amateur DIY homeowner who wishes to use it for home improvement or a carpenter looking for an effective sander for his construction job or furniture-making business. Just check out the customer reviews on Amazon.com and you'll see that the majority of reviewers for these tools are woodworkers. Then again, there are also other types of workers and customers who avail of this sander type.

It's the perfect sander for beginners because it's one of the most user-friendly power tools around. Just turn it on, swipe it across the surface of a work piece until you get a satisfactory smoothness from it, then vacuum the resulting saw dust or material debris. Meanwhile, there are also mechanics that use it for cleaning purposes, particularly when it comes to sanding rust out of car parts or sharpening some of their tarnished and dull cutting tools.

There are also car restoration experts who use low-speed orbit sanders with OPMs ranging from 2,500 to 6,800 to do buffing, polishing, or shining work on paint jobs without ruining the coat with swirl marks, gouges, dents, or scratches. In that regard, certain variants of the random orbit sander can be utilized for the sake of adding polish to painted vehicles or anything else that you paint (from your gates to your window grills to your wheeled wagons).

Buyer's Guide

What Benefits Should This Orbital Sander Have?

Here are the typical benefits of a random orbital sander.

  • Excellent Material Removal

The ability of any sander to remove materials and sand something to smooth perfection should be of utmost importance to you. The cheapness, smallness, maneuverability, and disk size of the sander won't mean much unless they all work hand-in-hand to give you cost-effective controllable sanding action where you get the finishes that you want, whether you wish to sand an old chair to give it a new varnish coat or polish a locker that just got a clear-coat paint.

  • Consistent Results

Yes, it's possible to vary the amount of material being removed by your orbital sander by changing the speed or changing the grit of the sandpaper (coarse sandpaper removes more material than fine sandpaper). However, barring those variables, your random orbit sander should consistently remove material on a given setting or sandpaper grit. It shouldn't have a motor that fails and gives you inconsistent sanding you can't control.

  • Less Strain on Your Arms

One of the main points of the invention of the random orbital sander is having the power tool do the elliptical movement for you so that you won't have to do it yourself with your wrist and your arm. If you have to strain yourself and your muscles just to get decent results from your orbit sander of choice, then consider buying a better sander because it's not fulfilling its main purpose.

Things to Consider When Buying an Orbital Sander

Here are the things you should consider before buying this type of sander.

  • Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Money?

Do the specs of your sander from the box or its Amazon page check out with its actual ability when you use it or not? Did you get a faulty sander? Or did the cheap sander you got saving you money instead of costing you more money down the line because it keeps malfunctioning? Maybe you're better off buying something a little more expensive

  • Is the Sander Performing Better or Worse Than the Competition?

Does your sander cost upwards of $130 but is so small and/or lightweight that you have apprehension in regards to it handling the vibrations of its motor or whether or not it even has enough motor power to sand properly (maybe its motor amperage is suited for a sander of its weight and size). Check out the competition so that you can do a price and quality comparison using raw facts and numbers.

  • What Do You Want Out of Your Sander?

Do you need your sander to have the average 12,000 OPM speed when you wish to also use it on polishing applications? Is its 7,500 OPM to 12,000 OPM suitable for doing buffing, polishing, and cleaning of dirt and tarnish on mechanical parts without leaving scratches all over them? Or are you better suited with a 6,800 OPM sander instead? It all depends on what you're looking for in a sander. What do you want to use it for anyway?

Product Details

Porter-Cable 7346SP 6-Inch Random Orbit Sander

Description

If you want a sander that can cover a larger area and can vary its sanding capabilities to include markless polishing of stainless steel and painted automobile surfaces, then the PORTER-CABLE 7346SPR has all the tools you need for that end. It includes a 6-inch sanding disk that's bigger than the average 5-inch disk found in your typical sander. It also has a 2,500-6,800 OPM range that's lower than the average single-speed/variable-speed 12,000-OPM sander unit that allows it to do fine sanding and scratch-free, swirl-free polishing with its polishing pad.

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 11.5 x 10.5 x 6 inches
  • Item Weight: 6 pounds
  • Top Speed: 6,800 OPM
  • Amperage: 4.5 amps
  • Power Source: Corded electric

Features & Benefits

  • Polishing and Sanding Action

Mechanics and car detailing pros can use the sander for sanding down filler and polishing the final clear-coat paint using the same tool with its high-power motor and versatile 2,500-6,800 OPM range. It's also fast enough to do some decent fine sanding of any wooden work piece and some coarse sanding of rough stock.

  • Propriety Counterbalance

It has a unique and brand-exclusive 6-inch counterbalance that you can use with its sanding pad or polishing pad of the same size to ensure a balanced sanding that won't tire out your arm.

  • Removable Side Handle

It even has a removable side handle so that you can control it better in a comfortable fashion. You can adjust it in any way that you want, especially when sanding through tight or awkward corners on the work piece.

  • The Complete Package

It can accept any spindle thread accessory ranging from of an inch to 24 inches in size for additional versatility and extended sanding capabilities. It also includes the side handle, wrench, sanding disk, PSA pad, polishing pad, and the tool itself.

Pros

  • Its lowered range of 2,500 to 6,800 OPM enables it to do better fine sanding, light sanding, and paint polishing work that 12,000 OPM sanders couldn't do.
  • Its 4.5-amp motor gives every orbit some extra oomph that a 2-amp or 3-amp motor couldn't.
  • Its electronic speed dial allows you to shift easily from one speed to the next.
  • Its sanding and polishing are both swirl free because of its randomized or elliptical sand disk movement.

Cons

  • Some customers claim it lasts for a few months to barely over a year.
  • It sometimes suffers from driveshaft failure.
  • Other units have stripped polishing pad bolt threads.

Reviews / Testimonials

While it does do a decent job when it comes to polishing and sanding, common complaints against it include faulty units right out of the box that only last about a few months to a year, driveshaft failure, stripped polishing pad bolts, and poor quality control all around.

Alternative Choices

Here are the alternatives to the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP.

1) Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander

The Black & Decker BDERO100 is three times cheaper than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. It's also quite a bit smaller seeing that it's the smallest random orbit sander on the list while the 7346SP is instead the largest sander when compared to these other alternative sanders. This Porter-Cable sander is heavier too, weighing 6 pounds to the BDERO100's 3.2 pounds. Is bigger necessarily better though?

At any rate, the 7346SP outweighs the BDERO100 by about 2.8 pounds. However, the B&D sander does significantly outdo the Porter-Cable unit by having a single-speed 12,000 OPM rate compared to the variable-speed 2,500 OPM to 6,800 OPM that the 7346SP. On the other hand, although it's slower, every orbit packs more of a punch with its 4.5-amp motor (which explains why it's so large; it's there to counterbalance the horsepower of its motor).

2) Bosch ROS20VSC Random Orbit Sander

The Bosch ROS20VSC is about half as expensive as the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. However, in turn, is the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP twice the random orbit sander the Bosch ROS20VSC is? Let's check the specs and find out. The ROS20VSC is a little bigger than the Black & Decker BDERO100, but still falls short against the overall bigness of the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. However, with its compact size it's surely better at maneuverability.

Meanwhile, the Bosch unit is also lighter than the Porter-Cable unit by 2.5 pounds (it weighs 3.5 pounds versus 6 pounds), which further cements its compact smallness and comfort when wielded. With that said, the Bosch ROS20VSC significantly outperforms the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP with its 12,000 OPM (the top speed of the Porter-Cable sander is 6,800 OPM, but it can go as low as 2,500 OPM). However, Bosch has a 2.5-amp motor. Porter-Cable has the stronger 4.5-amp motor.

3) PORTER-CABLE 382 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander 

The PORTER-CABLE 382 is about three times cheaper than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP, but it's nevertheless a little more expensive than the Black & Decker BDERO100. In terms of size, the PORTER-CABLE 382 is more or less average while its fellow PORTER-CABLE sibling is extra-large (on this list of handheld sanders, the 7346SP is definitely the biggest sander). Technically, the 382 is smaller and thusly more maneuverable than the 7346SP. However, the latter has a bigger 6-inch disk that covers a larger area.

The 382 weighs 3.6 pounds, which means it's heavier than the Black & Decker BDERO100 and the Bosch ROS20VSC but lighter than the 6-pound 7346SP. It's probably the third heaviest sander on this list next to the 7346SP and the 4-pound DEWALT DWE6421K. The PORTER-CABLE 382 also features 12,000 OPM in terms of consistent speed, while the slower 7346SP instead has 6,800 OPM that can be go down as low as 2,500 OPM. In fairness, the 7346SP also has a stronger 4.5-amp motor versus the 382's 1.9-amp sander.

4) 3M Random Orbital Sander 20317

The 3M 20317 Random Orbital Sander is significantly more expensive than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP even though the 7346SP is the second most expensive sander on this list. This is because the 3M 20317 is the most expensive sander featured on this article as well. Do its specs and features justify its cost? According to 14 customers who rated it as a 4.8-star random orbital sander, yes it definitely is worth all that money.

The most expensive sander on this list is also the most maneuverable and easiest on your hands with its 2.4 pounds of weight and its average size comparable to the likes of the PORTER-CABLE 382 and Bosch ROS20VSC. It also has your requisite 5-inch sanding disk and 12,000 OPM top speed, which is definitely better than the 6,800 OPM top speed of the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP that's less suited for rough sanding and more suited for polishing without scuff marks and fine sanding prior to putting on that coat of paint or varnish (the 4.5-amp motor helps in bringing more mustard out of every orbit).

5) DEWALT DWE6421K Random Orbit Sander Kit

The DEWALT DWE6421K is a bit less expensive than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. However, that's not the only thing it has going for it. On top of having a top speed (and single-speed) of 12,000 OPM that trumps the 7346SP's 6,800 OPM, the DEWALT DWE6421K also lives up to its DeWalt legacy of excellence by being the second largest orbital sander on this list that allows faster and more coverage per swipe.

What's more, it has a decent 4-pound weight for something its size that's quite close to the 3.2 to 3.6 pounds of weight of its smaller counterparts. It's not a lightweight sander wonder like the 3M Random Orbital Sander 20317, but it definitely earns its high rating on Amazon from a whopping 142 reviewers. It also comes as a complete set with tools and a bag included. It's a slightly above average sander that doesn't sacrifice weight in order to better brace itself for a 3-amp motor.

Alternative Choices Comparison Table

Alternative Choices

Our Rating

Price

Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander

Bosch ROS20VSC Random Orbit Sander

PORTER-CABLE 382 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander 

3M Random Orbital Sander 20317

DEWALT DWE6421K Random Orbit Sander Kit

The Final Cut

The main takeaway that people will have from the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP is how it only has 6,800 OPM as its highest OPM setting when the average for sander smaller than it is 12,000 OPM. However, this was done intentionally in order to cater to fine sanding and polishing applications. 

You can still do rough sanding with 6,800 OPM but you probably can't polish a car without scuff marks on the paint with 12,000 OPM or even 7,500 OPM. Furthermore, your arms won't get tired moving the sander because it has a counter-balance that keeps the unit stead.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments