WT253 – Helical Head or Not

On today’s Wood Talk “Weekend Edition” we’re talking about helical heads in planers and their advantages…or not.

How about you?

Have you upgraded to a helical head cutter for your planer or any other tool? What are your impressions?

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11 replies on “WT253 – Helical Head or Not”

Hi guys, I’m a few episodes behind, but hearing Marc wax poetic about his love of vinegar was fun to hear. I love vinegar too and love to drink it. It’s a popular drink in Asia, apparently! Here’s a link to to stuff I normally get, the peach and plum and my favs, but they are all pretty good.


Enjoy the show, keep it up!

Chris in MD

hey guys, just a quick note on the comment about not being able to find rigid planer blades at Home Depot. I work at Home Depot, so I checked and we carry rigid planer blades in the store I work at. they are merchandised in an odd spot and very easy to miss, but yes, they are out there.
I wanted to also mention my store recently started carrying walnut boards. . They are 1 inch thick s4s and sold by the linear foot. I don’t know if it is a national or regional change, and I know big box stores aren’t the ideal place to pick up hardwoods, but if you need a stick of walnut at 9:30 at night……
I have used my grandpa’s powermatic planer with helical heads a lot lately on a project, and even though I lean more toward the hand tool side I think that it’s a wonderful machine.
Thanks for the great show and everything you do. keep up the great work.

Thanks for the discussion! Although you guys struggled coming up with the term for “helical-inspired” cutterheads, Marc got eventually when he said “segmented.”

I have a lunchbox planer with a segmented cutter head. I agree that the benefits are more about sound and coping with the inevitable nicks in a blade. From experience, the cut quality is comparable to fresh sharp straight knives after a side-by-side comparison a few years ago. I wonder if the reason straight knife gets a bad rap over segmented, is that folks turn a blind eye to their blades getting dull because their stock is still feeding through and surfacing their material. I know I’m guilty of continuing to run material despite knowing the blades are due for a change/sharpening.

A few additional facts from my research:

1. I have yet to find a straight knife lunchbox planer (from a reputable manufacturer) that doesn’t feature indexed knives, e.g. the Dewalt DW735 Shannon mentioned.
2. Most lunchbox planers available on the market with segmented cutter heads all seem to have the Shinmax AccuHead cutter head which takes a standard 14mm x 14mm x 2mm insert. Fine Woodworking had an article about the Accuhead cutter head (http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/16771/easy-to-install-spiral-cutterheads-for-250). Supposedly, the Accu-head cutter head inserts can be replaced with solid carbide inserts available from Carbide Processors (http://www.carbideprocessors.com/4-sided-1-hole-insert-knife-t04f-grade-14mm-x-14mm-x-2mm-southeast-tool-si-141420-sp/). The WoodRiver planer has a prioprietary insert design.
3. If anyone is looking to replace their lunchbox planer cutter head with a segmented or helical (Shelix?) cutterhead, it most certainly will void any warranty you have left.

I installed a Byrd Shelix cutter head on my DeWalt 13″ lunch box style planer and the cut quality is definitely better. I find the surface much smoother using the helical head.

As you mentioned it is also MUCH quieter – around 12 dB quieter which is a HUGE difference.

I’m in the process of installing Bryd Shelix cutter head in my Grizzly 8″ jointer. The cut quality was already good so I’m not expecting a huge difference but I do anticipate the machine to run a lot quieter as well.

The biggest factor for me (besides noise level) is changing the blades. The Shelix carbide blades are super easy and basically foolproof which is great for me because I’m trying to spend my time becoming a better woodworker and have no interest in being a machinist.

I did the exact same upgrade to my DeWalt DW735 and also measured a 12dB reduction in noise while cutting with the Shelix. What was also interesting was the Shelix also reduced the running noise (not cutting) by about 3dB.

I’m also considering installing a Shelix in my 8″ Grizzly jointer. Do we have same shop Chris?

Just a quick correction: Matt said in the episode that the description of the cutters on his wood river was carbon steel and assumed this was carbide. Carbide refers to tungsten carbide not a steel alloy.

I’d like to know is anyone had installed a Accu-head cutter head. I’ve looked at it forever.

Hey Mark, you know Asa, right? Can you get him on the horn to tell us about the Accu-head???

Disclaimer: This is one experience and may not be representative of the whole.

I bought one of the WoodCraft WoodRiver planers, and it was complete junk. After putting less than 10lf through it, the linkage between the two sides broke.


Perhaps it was a just a lemon, but realize at that price point, you should be wary of the quality. I ponied up and bought a Dewalt DW735, and it’s been running like a champ since.

Hey guys,
Two items 1) thank you for taking a one topic show to answer my question; where to locate a woodworking business? The conversation with its differing view points and the listener comments proved immensely helpful to my thought process. Thank you to the listeners too.

2) As for the Helical heads. I have both a jointer and planer with the helical heads. One task I undertake as needed is switching positions of the heads in one row. This reduces the slightly visible lines on the work piece. These lines happen when there are nicks in the cutter heads. Changing the position of the helicals in a single row eliminates these nicks while prolonging the life of the individual heads. Just to additionally clarify; I am not rotating the heads. I am moving the little helicials left and right.

Thanks for the show and keep up the good work. I believe someday folks will speak of your woodworking influence with the same reverence as Norm. Are you stocking Wood Whisperer flannel shirts yet?

Thanks for all the comments. They were helpful. I’ve decided to wait on a new lunchbox planer until late spring when, perhaps, DeWalt will offer a model with carbide helical knives, or a competitor will come up with heavy duty (90-pounds or so) lunchbox thickness planer.

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