Is a Reeves drive as smooth as step pulleys?

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Forum topic by tvrgeek posted 02-18-2020 02:10 AM 231 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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548 posts in 2320 days

02-18-2020 02:10 AM

Yea, a DVR or even VFD is going to be smoother, and of course, quality of the sheaves and belts, but inherently, is the Reeves drive as smooth running as a step pulley V-belt?

Are Reeves belts “solid” or do they come with the cog back for lower loss and smoother running?

I ask this as both some drill presses and lathes have this feature. Am I trading ease of use for more vibration? A third option is the one Jet that uses step multi-groove poly belts. They should be smoother than V-belts of equal quality.

6 replies so far

View MrUnix's profile


7809 posts in 2870 days

#1 posted 02-18-2020 02:25 AM

I can tell no difference between a stepped pulley or a reeves drive pulley… they are both equally as smooth. Reeves drive obviously is just a bit easier to change speeds with. I say just a bit, as I have had lathes with step pulleys that were trivial to change speeds on, taking just a few seconds with only one hand. Some others are a bit more difficult, depending on design, and may require removing panels, removing tension first, etc…

As for the belts… it depends. Some reeves drives, such as the one on my Jet, use a standard V belt. Other more robust reeves drives, like on my Powermatic, take a belt that looks much like a wide cogged serpentine belt.

I have never known a cogged belt to run smoother in general. Their primary function is to allow smaller diameter sheaves to be used (eg: bend tighter with less fatigue).


PS: It has also been my experience that a variable speed motor (like via a VFD) is no smoother than any other properly belted system (stepped pulley or reeves drive). With the exception of a direct drive setup, they are all still transmitting power through a pulley system of some kind.

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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Paul Stoops

356 posts in 3232 days

#2 posted 02-18-2020 03:23 AM

My Wen Drill Press with a Reeves Drive is noticeably noisier than my old Grizzly vee belt drive.

-- Paul, Auburn, WA

View HokieKen's profile


12733 posts in 1810 days

#3 posted 02-18-2020 01:21 PM

I think Reeves drives vary greatly in quality of design and construction. I have a PM 90 lathe with a Reeves drive that is robust and smooth as silk. On the other hand, some other vintage lathes are plagued with owners who have constant problems with the Reeves drive and can’t get parts for them. So, in general, the overall experience with a Reeves drive will likely depend on who made it and how well it is designed and implemented.

Just comparing apples-to-apples though, like Brad said, I don’t see any difference in vibration or noise for power transmitted via a sliding sheave vs a stepped pulley. If all other things in the drive system are equal, I don’t think you would be able to tell a difference.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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548 posts in 2320 days

#4 posted 02-18-2020 02:23 PM

Much thanks.

I noticed the range of adjustment on many of the Reeves drives is not wide enough, so a fair portion of the time, I would be changing pulleys anyway. WEN and Rikon drill presses for example. Old Delta and Powermatics do it in one range. Looking at lathes, even if a pulley to change range, as one goes from rough to fine, likely to do smaller adjustments until finish work.

Slowly being convinced in DVR technology.

View HokieKen's profile


12733 posts in 1810 days

#5 posted 02-18-2020 02:37 PM

Electronic is the more robust solution. Of course you gotta pay for it.

We have 30+ year old Clausing drill presses at work with Reeves drives and as far as I know, none of them have ever had a failure of the drive train. They still make them with mechanical VS too. Of course, you still gotta pay for it ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View RobHannon's profile


335 posts in 1202 days

#6 posted 02-18-2020 03:08 PM

Depends. In good working order they are generally the same feeling as far as vibration, but when something goes wrong the additional moving parts can make problems more noticeable/worse. A worn belt or a belt with a flat spot is going to effect a reeves pulley more significantly than a step or single pulley. The reeves pulley has more places for material to accumulate.

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