Published: Jan 18, 2010
Updated: Feb 13, 2010 - Added results from simple belt upgrade

Review: Grizzly G0490 Serpentine Belt Upgrade Kit

Modest results for a modest price, but it's not a simple drop-in upgrade

$25 from Grizzly

I've been very pleased with my Grizzly G0490 8" parallelogram jointer. I started with the base 4-blade model and later upgraded it with a Byrd Shelix cutterhead.

Last week, a thread on Sawmill Creek showed some photos of a new G0490 being assembled and I noticed that Grizzly had upgraded the belt drive to a poly-v or serpentine belt. I called Grizzly to see if they had the parts to do an upgrade to older models. They do, in fact, have the parts as a kit although at the time it wasn't on the website. I placed a phone order and three days later I had the parts in hand.

The kit, as you can see in the photo, consists of two aluminum pulleys and a serpentine belt. Quite frankly, belts are one area where Grizzly really cuts corners. So I was pleased to see that the belt seems to be a much better grade of belt than Grizzly normally provides. The same kit is also supposed to work with the G0490 4-knife cutterhead and the G0490X helical cutterhead models.

Installation was mostly straightforward. I found it made things easier to remove the fence and support, that gives you clear access to the cutterhead pulley. When removing the motor pulley, make sure you remove both setscrews and keep straight which one was on the key. You'll reuse the setscrews and key from the motor pulley, as well as the retainer capscrew and key from the cutterhead pulley. If the setscrew has dimpled the motor key and/or motor shaft, a few swipes with a metal file will make your life a little easier.

One "gotcha" that Grizzly forgot to mention was the fact that the new belt is considerably wider than the old one. The opening in the top of the case is just a little too small, so you'll need to enlarge it by about 1/4". I used a pneumatic die grinder and a cutoff wheel, it took about five minutes. The belt now fits nicely and the pulley cover still hides the hole.

Now that you've enlarged the belt opening, you can install the new pulleys. On my Byrd cutterhead, the capscrew was just a little too long, it bottomed out before tightening, so I had to add a couple washers to shim it out.

The new belt is also considerably longer, so you'll need to loosen the motor mounting bolts and slide the whole thing downward, then align the pulleys and get good tension on the belt. I like to use two quick clamps reversed to spreaders, one between the two pulleys to create the tension, the other between the other end of the motor and the floor to adjust the motor's angle.

Now just button everything up, make sure you don't have any leftover parts, and start her up!

In my case, I found the new belts and pulleys were noticably louder but not uncomforably so, with my hearing protectors on the difference is minimal. However, the jointer now runs considerably smoother, with less vibration. I may have been able to get the same smoothness without the increased noise if I had just installed a high-quality belt (note that I tried a link belt once, it was terribly loud and didn't reduce the vibration at all) but I'm not willing to pull it all out and test that theory. The improvement isn't huge, but it is only $25 (plus shipping if you don't live near Grizzly).

UPDATE 2/13/10

OK, I couldn't take it. I decided to get a good, quality cogged belt from Grainger's for $17. I put the original pulleys back on and buttoned it all back up. The result: slightly smoother, slightly quieter than the serpentine belt upgrade. So, bottom line, I could have gotten just as good a performance increase from just changing the old drive belt as going with the serpentine belt upgrade. At about half the cost, too. And without having to change pulleys, modify the case, etc.

Which leads to the question: Why did Grizzly bother making the change in the first place?

 

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