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...

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