Porter-Cable invented the power sanding platform, yet it was losing marketshare to overseas competitors. P-C planned to revitalize its product line by introducing new power sanders intended for professionals, who said they wouldn’t use.


To understand what Howard meant, we spent time in his shop while he worked on a project. “Everybody,” he said, “sands. From the first time novice to a master woodworker like me. Yet we all hate it. It’s dirty, dusty, noisy, labor intensive, time consuming, and boring. If you understand sanding you will own the sanding market.”

On the other side of town, so to speak, we ran into Erin at a home improvement center shopping for a sander. Now, not to be sexist, what caught our eye was that she was buying the sander, not her husband. We asked her why she bought the model she did, what she was working on, and she invited us to her home to see the project from start to finish.

At this time we started to “do the math.” 1 (the big home improvement box stores were beginning to take off) + 2 (the Do It Yourself Craze was in its infancy) + 3 (Erin’s buying her own tools) + 4 (Howard and the professionals) = something was going on and we’d better understand it.


Erin Starts Project

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Erin starts a dresser project with the sander she bought. Her son holds a different sander better suited for the task at hand.

Model: Arc of Experience.

Now, how to understand the sanding experience?

Working back from professionals, we looked at: Who sands? What tools do they use? What do they know about sanding? We saw some jaw-dropping activities — like one guy using a table saw in his apartment. We learned along the way: Everybody hates sanding. It’s more of an entry level activity. No one starts a project with the end result in mind (the finish) or how to get there (sanding). Professionals don’t finish with power tools. People need help sanding. (Nod to Howard.)

To visualize this spectrum, we developed the Arc of Experience. The Arc provided labels — 1st Time Novice, Simple Project DIYer, Significant Project DIYer, Serious Craftsman, Master Craftsman, and Professional/Journeyman — and defined the use of tools, the projects tackled, knowledge of sanding and woodworking, and a progression of experience over time.

The Arc of Experience was critical in conceptualizing for Porter-Cable a wide range of sanding products, not just power sanders.




Click to see a larger image.


To start, no company owned the sanding category from start to finish — an opportunity for Porter-Cable to revitalize its product line and sagging market performance.

New platforms (Light Touch/Low Power, Multi-Platform, and “Non-Sanding”) were envisioned for the 1st Time Novice to the Professional/Journeyman. Novices, DIYers, and Craftsmen needed flexible products, foolproof platforms, and helping-hand knowledge. Professionals would actually use power sanders, if done correctly, and could benefit from “non-sanding” products as well.


Changeable Decks

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Quick swap sanding decks -- different grit papers for a variety of sanding tasks. Plus, no time lost messing with loops and sticky-backed paper.

All concept sketches by Doug Galletti and/or Tony Shoemaker.