I've decided to tackle this question via this review, and the product we
are looking at is perhaps the most popular link-belt offering currently on
the market - the PowerTwist V-Belts, manufactured by Fenner Drives.
The PowerTwist V-Belt
A common problem with some woodworking machines is the noise and
vibration they deliver. Naturally, some brands and particular tools can be
worse than others. A classic woodworking machine that can cause excessive
vibration is the band saw, although jointers, drill presses, table saws,
and just about any other machine using a belt drive system can suffer from
So do these "link belts" help overcome or reduce these
But first... take your standard one-piece conventional V-belt
that ships standard on most woodworking machines. It has an internal
tension cord which assists, unfortunately, in transferring vibration to
your woodworking machine. Also, as belts stretch or are left in an unused
state stagnant on the drive shaft, they can stretch unevenly and cause
even more vibration and noise issues.
Enter the PowerTwist V-Belt. As
you can see from the included photos, it is made up of many link
components which join together to form a complete belt. Each link is
constructed of a polyurethane/polyester composite material, and due to the
link design, the belt can be made to any size required relatively easily,
so there is no need to find the exact length belt you need for your
particular machine. In fact, the PowerTwist belts are sold by the foot, or
in packs of multiple foot lengths. Each link can be removed from the belt,
allowing you to construct a belt of the exact length needed for each
machine around the workshop.
The manufacturers also claim the belt will
outlast any conventional belt easily. I can't say this is the case from
personal experience so far, as none of my link-belts have failed as yet,
but judging by the design and material strength evidenced in these
PowerTwist belts, I cannot imagination any great falsification in that
Other claimed benefits of using these belts include a tool-less
link design, easy installation, and linked belts featuring the same
cross-section as conventional endless link belts so no pulleys need to be
changed etc (assuming they have a link-belt to fit your machine pulley
size) - but there should be no problem with most workshop-sized
woodworking machines. Plus, the belts have an operating temperature range
of -40F to +240F, in case you live on Mars, and are resistant to oil,
grease, water and many chemical/solvents.
Ok, so after ordering two packs of 1/2", 5 foot long PowerTwist link
belt, I set about switching the belts on my drill press, band saw and
jointer, the three machines I wanted to reduce vibration on the most.
It is important to note that these belts come in various packages,
designed to replace specific belt sizes. For example, the size I purchased
allows replacements of conventional belt sizes 4L220 through 4L620 and
sizes A20 through to A60. So check your belt sizes on your machines before
you order, and be sure to get the right replacement PowerTwist belt to
match. I discovered the size I had purchased did not eventually fit my
drill press and caused the link belt to skip pulley positions on the drive
cones, hence my recommendation to check all your belts first. They fit my
bandsaw and jointer no problem though.
Ok, I digress...
found that the claim of assembling or disassembling the belts by hand
without tools was a little debate-able. Ok, you can probably do it if you
have very small fingers with ultra-strong and long fingernails but I found
I had to use a pair of pliers to be able to pull each link tab through
the holes in the next to join or disconnect each belt link. No big deal,
but I just couldn't get these assembled without pliers. It might be just
me? There are instructions on the pack for adding, removing links or
joining up a completed belt etc.
Installing the actual belt onto the
machine is pretty much done in the same way as a normal v-belt. You can
either roll it on like you would a bicycle change, or move the motor mount
on your band saw or jointer to add the belt, then "drop" the motor down to
tension the belt and secure the motor to the tool frame. Either way works
ok. There are also small arrows printed on some of the links to show a
specific direction the belt must rotate, so be sure to install the belt in
the correct orientation.
Now, to the big issue... vibration. Because these belts are composed
of individual links, there is no continuous internal tension cord. Any
vibration produced by the motor or pulleys etc is transferred to the belt,
but because of the linked design, the PowerTwist belt actually absorbs the
vibration and doesn't transfer it to the rest of your machine. This DOES
indeed significantly reduce machine vibration, I can confirm that now,
after using these belts on my woodworking machines. I won't say it totally
eliminates vibration, but as a rough guess, I would say it has cut my
total machine vibration by about 60 - 70% across the board. This is good news as
vibration can cause premature tool and component life, and wreak havoc on
your bearings! Less vibration also generally means a better, cleaner, and
more accurate cut.
I also found that as a result of reduced vibration,
there was less machine noise too - another plus. It is recommended to
check belt tension after the first 24 hours of use, and re-tension if
necessary. I didn't find any re-tension was necessary, but your mileage
may vary. These belts seem to hold their shape much better than
conventional belts, and seem to suffer far less from "belt memory" - like
having a flat spot in a tire, but on your belts.
Just like fitting a
high quality cutting blade or bit is important to achieving good results
with your tools,