Review By Dean Bielanowski  


PowerTwist V-Belts
Review

By Dean Bielanowski

One of the questions I quite often see sitting on various woodworking forums is whether these "link belts" are worth the money, and what benefits do they offer the user when used with their woodworking machines?

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 vibration issues.

So do these "link belts" help overcome or reduce these issues?

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 claim.

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.

My Opinion
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...

Firstly, I 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, fitting one of these PowerTwist belts should rate as equally important, if not more important. I don't say this lightly. After using these belts, I am a total convert! If only every woodworking machine was shipped with these belts, they would save a lot of time and frustration for the end user looking to tweak and tune their woodworking machines for best performance.

Overall
After fitting successfully to my band saw and jointer, I have experienced much less noise and vibration, no belt-slippage, and power delivery seems to be a little improved too (as far as I can tell). I fully recommend these belts for anyone who owns woodworking machines using conventional one piece v-belts. I will soon add the link belts to my table saw as well once I have time to take the table off and get to the drive shaft and pulleys!

I could imagine the advantages in an industrial shop equally as well too. Just keep a supply of these belts as they will fit numerous machines, plus you can measure up a link belt to suit any length needed quickly and easily. No need to wait for replacement belts of exact size to come from a supplier. No downtime!

How much will you need? Well, you should measure your existing belts to find an exact length required (in feet), but as a rough guide, my 14" generic band saw needed close to 5 feet, and my jointer about 6" jointer about 4 feet. Again, check your belt measurements before you order.

 

Available to Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

Amazon.com (USA)

 

 

Rockler.com (USA)
Power Twist Link Belt
Power Twist Link Belt

Rockler.com

PowerTwist Photos
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Individual links that make up the PowerTwist v-belt.


Note the small arrow to the right showing desired belt rotation direction.


Once joined, the belt retains the traditional "V" shape.


A completed belt, ready to add to your woodworking machine.


The PowerTwist belt is probably the simplest and best upgrade my band saw has seen yet!

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