Black & Decker DS321 Belt Sander Review
The Black & Decker DS321 Dragster is a medium-use belt sander intended for use on small projects, especially those with hard-to-reach angles that enable it to take advantage of its unique "dragster" layout.
Its light weight and low price make it an excellent tool for a beginning carpenter, especially one looking to get into the repair and refurbishment of furniture, small boats, or decorative woodwork.
While not up to the task of doing large-scale projects, it's more than sufficient for most hobbyists or even as a backup and specialist tool for dedicated woodworkers.
The most noticeable feature of the DS321 Dragster is its extended lip, which goes out well past the front handle, unlike most belt sanders. While this does mean that the usual front grip has been moved back and that additional caution must be used while operating the machine, it also means that the DS321 Dragster can do some rather unique jobs.
Generally, small pieces of molding or other jigsaw carved pieces would require hand sanding, but the "drag strip" of the DS321 Dragster can easily reach into such spaces and remove splinters, paint, or just provide a nice smooth surface.
This makes it ideal for working on headboards, banisters, chairs, and other large pieces of wood where smoothness is important but usually hand sanding would be required.
Ideal for small scale jogs
With a small footprint and only six amps of power, the DS321 Dragster is less than ideal for large jobs, such as resurfacing a floor.
However, it is certainly capable of doing such work on a small scale, and its flush design makes it ideal for touch-up work, especially against walls or around obstacles.
The eight-pound weight makes it perfect for removing paint, wallpaper or other covering from a surface, and the low power and smaller sanding surface come in handy here, enabling better control and preventing unintended deep-grinds.
This level of control makes it an ideal tool for, say, removing the bad or worn coating from old wooden furniture, or stripping weathered waterproofing from a boat or exterior wall.
Easy to operate
The tool's simple design also makes it very easy to operate. While the unique layout means that installing and adjusting the belt's tracking is a little more complex than usual and that the tracking is much more important than on a more traditional sander, the lack of any adjustable speed or other more advanced options makes the machine significantly more approachable to the novice user.
Its smaller size and lower speed are more forgiving for those who press too hard or hold it in place too long, and with smoother grit paper, it can even serve as a learning tool for those just beginning to work on wood.
However, it should be noted that the unique design does present some safety considerations that other, more traditional models might not.
Because it is so easy to operate against a horizontal surface, many novice craftsmen may make the mistake of moving it above eye level, and thus risk getting dust in their eyes.
The drag strip, while ideal for getting into tight corners and other awkward places, presents both a dust risk and the risk of getting one's hands or fingers scraped against a moving strip.
As such, new users should take care when using this device, and familiarize themselves with the proper hand locations and safe handling.
Additionally, the drag strip's cover should remain down and locked whenever it is not in use.
The device's dust collection system, while not very functional when using the drag strip, is nonetheless more than adequate for most jobs.
While it is not easily possible to attach an extension hose or connect the machine to a shop vac, the DS321 Dragster is intended for basic jobs and not for heavy contractor work, making such extras superfluous.
The dust bag will collect most of the sawdust produced and is easy to empty, helping to reduce full cleanup time.
What we liked
What we didn't like
Overall, the DS321 Dragster is an excellent tool for the casual carpenter or home hobbyist looking to do some refurbishing, but professional contractors may find its lack of power and small size inadequate for anything short of touch-up and finishing work.
Its unique design and layout, combined with its relative lightness, make it ideal for particular kinds of jobs, especially those with awkward angles to reach.
This may make it a secondary tool for the professional craftsman, but its ease of use and low price point make it an excellent primary tool for those just getting started.
A two-year warranty, along with robust construction, enables it to be a tool that will be useful for many years, and that can handle a large number of jobs.
This versatility makes it an excellent first tool for any beginning woodworker since it will not wear out or lose its usefulness over time.