Correa Wood Works
Craftsman furniture featuring full integral mortise and tenon joinery. 100% solar powered!

helical cutter-head install.

After taking a month long break from my blog I am back online and ready for more. This blog involves a significant amount of time and effort to publish and taking a much needed break has certainly given me more time to focus on my woodworking and workspace. I enjoy sharing my woodworking projects and furniture designs with everyone and will be posting highlights from the past month over the next week or two.

One of the most exciting tid bits for me was the receipt of new helical cutter heads for both my jointer and planer.


 The packaging was first rate. Each cutter head was suspended in the center of the box to prevent damage.


To begin, I removed the cover to the surface planer.


Next I removed the straight knife cutterhead as well as the gear box. This involved removing the drive belt shiv, and four bolts which attach the gear box to the chassis. It is neccessary to use a urethane dead blow to persuade the drive side bearing out of its bore.

Here are a few views of the planer with the neccessary components removed.

With the cutterhead removed from the planer and still attached to the gear box , I drained the gear oil and opened up the cover to expose the reduction gears. It may seem intimidating at first but it is rather simple in its function.

The configuration of the gears inside the gearbox makes it slightly tedious to replace the main cutter head bearing. Using a three jaw puller I removed all of the gears and bearings. Upon inspection of the moving components, I noticed one of the gears which interfaces with the speed selection gear was a bit boogered up. Using a needle file and small mill file, I removed the rough spots to make the engagement a bit smoother and prolong the life of the assembly. After installing new bearings and oil seals in the gearbox as well as the cutter head I attached the upgraded assemblyto the planer and filled the gear box with 85-15W gear oil. By reversing the dissasembly process the machine went together smoothly. I became a bit too focused on the re-assembly and failed to photograph the process…Ooops!

The jointer is a much easier tool to work on. There are two bearing caps which the cutterhead rotates within. After removing the bearing caps and replacing the bearings within the counter bore, I pressed the caps onto the cutterhead, installed the shiv and bolted the head into place. after some slight adjustments the cutterhead was good to go. 


It does take a bit more care to properly align the outfeed table to the TDC of the cutter head inserts. The theory behind the alignment is the same although you are not changing the height of the knives you are changing the position of the outfeed table to match the cutterhead inserts.

Holy Wood Shavings Batman! If you have not used a helical cutter head you have no idea what you are missing. This thing is absolutely awesome. I took a knotty piece of hard maple and ran it through in every direction. Compared to the old set up it is whisper quiet and cuts fast with a different sound. With five rows of cutters it leaves a nearly ridge free surface. There are slight burnished lines in the surface of the wood but it comes right out with 220g hand sanding.  Here is a very dry piece of hickory. I fed it against the grain and still achieved a fantastic surface.

In the past when working with difficult woods I always expected to loose a certain amount of thickness to a wide belt sander when removing tearout. With the helical head I can spend less time sanding and maintian a better thickness.
With the experience I had using the helical head I am not likely to ever return to the straight knife head. I am also considering a helical template cutting bit from William Ng in Anaheim. Talk about the all around tearout free experience.

A few interesting items to note…

The tearout on certain shallow grained knots, in the hardest and most stubborn woods, is not completely removed but when it does occur it is typically very shallow and small. It is similar to a rough spot in the wood more so than actual tearout or “chip-out” common to straight knife cutters.

I noticed that the cutterhead requires a bit more power than the straight knife insert. This is likely due to the 5 rows of carbide insert cutters as opposed to the 3 rows of straight knives. My theory is based on the idea that a 20 tooth saw blade cuts faster than a 60 tooth blade and requires less power. 5 cuts per revolution requires more energy than 3 cuts per revolution. A few folks I have talked to have found this hard to believe but the proof is in the hands on experience and as far as my machines are concerned, I notice the motors bogging down when taking agressive or fast cuts across the entire width of the cutterhead. This is in no way a significant issue and the improved quality of cut is well worth the additional power required. I imagine you could take lighter passes or increase the size of the motors.  



2 Responses to “helical cutter-head install.”

  1. Good Morning Sam, I just wanted to say although you have been missed, I know that we all need a break occasionally. I too have been thinking about changing heads on my planer and jointer, thanks to the info you’ve provided for us, I’m no longer hesitant to do so. Again, thanks Sam.

  2. Good to see you’re back on line. Enjoyable read and great results!

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