Bosch 1278VSK Compact Belt Sander
Technique: Quick Coping for Flat
My favorite belt sander is an old Craftsman 4x21 that I
purchased back when Mr. Roebuck still had his job at Sears. It
is a loud, ugly, and aggressive machine that doesn't mind
eating away fine millwork or rough framing. It is my "go to"
sander in 95% of the "rapid removal" situations I encounter as
a finish carpenter. There are times, however, when my old
standby is too big and bulky. Jobs like joining two pieces of
crown in a field joint, easing the connection of a stairway
volute, and fitting oak stair treads to a riser are too
intricate for "the beast." Shrinking it to better fit those
kinds of jobs has been a dream for years. I recently tested the
1278VSK compact belt sander from Bosch trying to fulfill that
dream. Here's what I found.
The 1278VSK is a tiny version of a belt sander. It has a 1
1/2-inch belt and a very small front roller that allows you to
get into tight spaces. It has a good feel and the balance I
expect from a pro-duty tool. At 4 pounds, it's substantial
without being too heavy. A top-mounted slide switch is
conveniently located and works easily. At first, I was
concerned with the sander's overall length of 15 1/8 inches,
but I discovered that the extra length allows a two-handed grip
for better control of the small tip area. A dial adjusts belt
speeds from 590 to 950 surface feet per minute, and a
rear-mounted port keeps the hose out of your way for easier
dust collection. The belt changing lever is flush-mounted to
prevent hang-ups in tight places. A little wheel adjusts
tracking and works fine.
Tight spaces are where Bosch's compact
belt sander really shines. By flipping the tool, you can
flush-sand on either side of the 1 1/2-inch belt, and with
variable speed from 590 to 950 surface feet per minute, you can
slow the sanding action for more delicate work.
Power comes from a 3.3-amp motor that's a little louder than I
would have expected. The sander can be turned 180 degrees to
flush-sand on either side of the belt, but flipping the tool
changes the sanding action from pull to push — if
you're not paying attention, the immediate change in direction
can surprise you and gouge your work piece.
The kit I tested comes with ten belts of various grits (60,
80, 120, 180, 240). With the surprising number and variety, I
didn't expect to need any replacement belts right away, but I
ruined several belts because the roller tip popped out on more
than one occasion, mangling the belt. The front roller is held
on both ends by a small metal yoke. The design is similar to
the way your watch band is attached to your watch. It works
fine in most cases, but if you apply too much pressure on a
sharp corner while sanding, the roller flexes and slips out.
This was an annoying design flaw on an otherwise
well-engineered tool. I hope Bosch is listening and considers a
redesign for future models.
The tool's long housing has enough room
for a two-handed grip, which gives better control at the front
roller. The front roller itself is a mixed bag. It's small
enough to follow the profile of complex moldings, but pushing
too hard on a sharp corner can dislodge the roller from its
yoke, shredding the belt.
Using this compact belt sander involves a bit of a learning
curve, but that's to be expected with any specialty tool. The
hardest thing is getting used to the small sanding area and the
tight radius of the sanding tip. The tip can make your day with
its ability to follow the concave or convex profile of crown
molding, and sanding inside corners of stair treads was
downright glorious. But it can damage your work if you're not
This is a handy tool that won't see use every day, but when
the situation calls for a sander that can get into tight spots
— this little guy shines. Don't confuse this tool with
a detail sander, though; this is a real belt sander capable of
rapid stock removal as well as fine finish work. The 1278VSK
compact belt sander kit I tested includes a carrying case,
extra belts, and an auxiliary handle. It sells for about
Derrell Dayis a finish carpenter and general
contractor in Panama City, Fla.
Coping for Flat Moldingsby Dan Papineau
There are almost as many ways to cope moldings as there are
finish carpenters. My favorite method of dealing with flat
stock like base or chair rail is to use a router with a
bearing-over bit and a simple profile jig. Once the jig is
ready, it lets me turn out perfect copes in almost no
The first step in making the jig is to scribe the profile of
the molding in the end grain of a 12-inch scrap of 2-by lumber.
I then create a rough "negative" of the molding profile by
making a series of closely spaced rips of varied depth with a
table saw and removing the waste with a chisel (see Figure
Figure 1.The basic pattern of each molding is
roughed out with a table saw and cleaned up with a chisel. A
sample piece of molding should fit the opening with 1/16 inch
or so of clearance.
Next, I mix a batch of Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty
(515/243-0491, www.waterputty.com) spread in a fairly
thin, uniform layer over the inner surface of the jig (Figure
2). (A more durable material like auto-body filler would
probably also work, but Durham's is easy to work with and holds
up very well.) After covering the putty with a release sheet of
stretchy plastic food wrap, I take a piece of molding slightly
longer than the jig, press it into the putty, and place a scrap
of 2-by material about as long as the jig itself on top of it.
I then put the assembly in a vise and tighten it down hard, so
any excess putty squeezes out the ends.
Figure 2.Once the prepared blank has been
"buttered" with a hard-setting filler, the molding is pressed
into place with a vise to form a perfectly detailed negative
Once the putty has set up, I remove the jig from the vise,
clean up the ends with a chop saw, and cut an additional
3/4-inch slice of material from each end of the jig. With the
jig lying face up on a flat surface, I glue each of those
slices to the corresponding end of the jig, as shown in Figure
3. Finally, I use a coping saw to trim the "ears" from the end
pieces to allow the router bit to enter and exit the cut.
Figure 3.A thin slice from each end of the jig
body is carefully aligned and glued in place to serve as a
router-bit guide. The jig can be turned end for end as needed,
depending on the direction of progress around the room. If the
end pieces break or wear out, a replacement piece can easily be
cut from the body and glued in place.
I use a 3/8-inch trimming bit for coping simple patterns like
clamshell base. A 1/4-inch spiral flush-trim bit is a better
choice for MDF and intricate designs. You could use the jig
right side up with a handheld router, but because that obscures
the view of the router-bit bearing as it traces the pattern, I
prefer to use it in a simple site-built router table.
To set up the router table, first mount the router in the
center of a 3-foot piece of 1x8. Set up a work table by laying
two straight 2x4s across a pair of sawhorses and placing a
sheet of 3/4-inch plywood on top of them, positioned so that 8
inches of the supporting 2x4s extend past the edge of the
plywood. Place the 1x8 and attached router on the projecting
ends of the 2x4s and fasten it in place with a few drywall
screws, and you're ready to start coping.
Using the jig is just a matter of placing it over a length of
molding and guiding the bearing on the end of the router bit
over the patterned end piece (Figure 4).
Figure 4.Using the jig with a simple
site-assembled router table makes it easy to guide the bit
along the profiled end of the jig (top). Because Durham's Water
Putty expands fractionally as it sets up, the jig will
ordinarily fit snugly over the molding. If necessary, the jig
can be clamped to the molding through a slot cut in the side
(bottom left). In either wood or MDF, the result is a perfect
coped joint (bottom right).
Although it takes half an hour or so to make a jig for each
molding pattern, once you're set up, you can really fly. Even
with detailed MDF moldings, making a perfect cope takes only
about five seconds, and switching between patterns is almost
Dan Papineauis a project supervisor with Habitat for
Humanity in Bremerton, Wash.
If you've ever
had to carry a 70-pound compressor on an icy sidewalk or
through a muddy construction site, you'll appreciate the
innovation behind PC's C3551 Job Boss. The cart-mounted
compressor's fully pneumatic tires and retractable handle make
it easier to get on the job than other hand-carry compressors.
In addition, it has a cool removable panel that houses the
regulator and two quick connects, so you can adjust the air
pressure from a remote location (like the roof) without having
to climb down. Trim carpenters and remodelers can leave the
compressor outside and keep the job site clean and quiet.
According to the manufacturer, the C3551 draws about 12 amps
and is 40% quieter than competitive compressors. Like most of
the newer Porter-Cable compressors, it runs at 150 psi instead
of 125. The higher operating pressure stores more air without
resorting to a bigger (and heavier) tank. The C3551 has an
oil-bath pump and sells for $360; the nearly identical oil-free
model C3151 sells for $300.
Weighing in at 64
pounds, the EC119 from Hitachi is several pounds lighter than
many twin-tank, hand-carry compressors. The 2-horsepower,
oil-lube machine has a well-protected gauge panel and on-board
cord and hose storage. In a smart move that other makers should
follow, Hitachi fills the crankcase with oil before the tool
leaves the factory. The EC119 can produce 4.4 cfm at 90 psi
from its twin 2-gallon tanks. I found it on the web for about
looking for a hand-carry compressor with an above-average
warranty, the EX8005 from Campbell Hausfeld deserves a look.
Part of the pro-duty Maxus line, the EX8005 has twin 2-gallon
tanks that can deliver 4.2 cfm at 90 psi. It has a 2
1/2-horsepower motor that draws about 14 amps to power the
oil-lube pump. A top-mounted gauge panel and regulator make
hookups easy. The five-year warranty covers parts and labor.
This compressor sells for about $320.
Campbell Hausfeld, 800/543-6400,
Light and Airy.
When it comes to
compressors, few things concern pros more than noise and
weight. Thomas scores high in both areas with its T-635HD. This
26-pound compressor can run a single framing or roofing gun or
two finish guns. To save space and weight, the T-635HD uses a
2-gallon tank, so the pump is going to run more often than it
would on many hand-carry compressors, but some users say it's
quiet enough that it's no big deal. The T-635HD has a
3/4-horsepower motor that delivers 1.7 cfm at 100 psi. It
doesn't come with a regulator, though, so be sure to get one
before you take it on the job site. I found this tool on the
web for $280.
Thomas Pumps & Compressors,
hand-carry compressors deliver about 4 1/2 cubic feet per
minute at 90 psi, but if you're looking for a hand-carry
portable with enough air to run a second framing gun, you might
look to a new compressor from Ridgid. The OF45150 has an
oil-less pump that delivers 6.2 cfm at 90 psi. To make more
air, the 3.25-peak-hp motor spins at nearly 3,500 rpm and
builds pressure to 150 psi. Other features include a roll cage
and top-mounted gauges. The compressor weighs 72 pounds and
sells for $259.
Occasionally cutting steel studs or rebar with an abrasive
blade in your miter saw is no big deal. But if you're cutting
metal with increasing frequency, you might try a purpose-built
metal-cutting chopsaw like the CC14SE from Hitachi. With a
14-inch blade that spins at 3,700 rpm and a 15-amp motor, the
saw can cut a bundle of steel studs in one pass. It has a
quick-release vise and an aluminum housing that stands up to
heat and metal chips better than plastic. It sells for about
Don't Be Abrasive.
abrasive blades is an inexpensive way to get through ferrous
metals, they don't last very long and the sandy grit they
produce can be a real nuisance. A better way is to use the new
generation of steel-cutting blades like the Diablo Steel Demon
from Freud. Available in 7- to 14-inch sizes, the Steel Demon
boasts carbide teeth strengthened with cobalt and titanium.
While they cost considerably more than abrasive blades, they
last longer and produce burr-free cuts. Prices start at $42 for
a 7-inch blade; 14-inch blades are about $105. Similar blades
are available for nonferrous metals.
Instead of individual
twist bits, most metal fabricators use step bits for drilling
in sheet metal and mild steel. Bits like the Unibit from Irwin
allow users to drill 13 different hole sizes from 1/8 to 1/2
inch. It's great for drilling through metal studs and other
light-gauge steel. I found it on the web for $16.
I never would
have thought it when I bought my compact angle grinder at a
clearance sale, but it has become a highly valued remodeling
tool. Cutting rebar and fasteners, shaping and sanding wood,
and cutting masonry and tile are just a few of its many uses.
I'm sure if it were cordless like DeWalt's DC410KA, I'd use it
even more. DeWalt's 18-volt version spins at 6,500 rpm and
includes a spindle lock that makes changing the 4 1/2-inch
wheel easier. At $229 it's twice the price of a corded version,
but the extra convenience means you'll probably find additional
reasons to use it. It's sold in a kit that includes two
batteries, a pair of wheels, and a case.
If you've ever had a
problem knowing what grinding wheel to use for a particular
application, you're not alone — even metal-working
pros frequently have trouble choosing from perhaps hundreds of
wheels available. Bosch, the largest producer of handheld
grinders, recently introduced an extensive line of grinding and
cutting wheels with color-coded labels. Bosch says the labeling
system makes it easier to match the correct wheel to the job.
The new line includes metal and masonry wheels and cups for
everything from 4-inch portable to 9-inch bench-top grinders.
Prices for 4 1/2-inch wheels start at $2; 14-inch wheels start
Low-Cost Sheet-Metal Shear.
embarrassed to admit that I spent $100 on a pair of pneumatic
sheet-metal shears to cut metal roofing, only to find out that
the jaws won't go over the ribs. Needless to say, I was a
little disappointed to learn not only that I bought the wrong
tool, but also that Malco makes a better-suited tool that costs
less than $50. TurboShears chuck in to any corded or cordless
drill, and, according to the maker, the unique jaw design would
have easily scaled the ribs on my last metal roofing project.
This looks like a handy tool for cutting flashing, duct work,
and any other light-gauge, blood-producing metal. In a further
refinement, you can now use the tool one-handed with the
optional drill clamp, which sells for $16.