(Just thought I’d add the link to the install instructions here at the top.)
Bought a Byrd Shelix cutterhead for my DeWalt DW735 planer a few months ago but hadn’t taken the time to install it until a few days ago. I’ve got one thing to say so far, I am impressed. In the shipping packaging, and the ease of installing it, and with it’s cutting performance. The installation instructions were well presented and well thought out, right down to the piece of plastic that is included to wrap around the cutterhead so that the inserts don’t scratch the bearing seat as you’re installing it. I had read through the installation instructions many times, even long before I purchased it. I wanted one but at the $400 price tag put off purchasing it for a long time. I had purchased my DW735 back around 2004 for about that same amount so to justify spending that amount again just for the cutterhead was not an easy decision for me to make. But the timing and frequency with which the knives nicked for no apparent reason had finally gotten to me so I bought the Shelix.
I had been working with DeWalt for quite a while testing a different design cutterhead that uses different knives but still the nick problem persisted. I was told the shear angle that is used in the DW735 along with inconsistencies in the hardening of the knife’s edge along the length of the knives were factors in the nick issue. I wasn’t under an NDA or asked not talk about this testing so I thought I’d share what I know, thus it can be said that DeWalt is more then aware of the issue, at least in its engineering circles.
Well once I had the Shelix cutterhead installed and fired it up I notice one thing right away, it runs quieter. In fact when I ran the test boards through it I wasn’t wearing the headset ear protection I usually wear and the noise wasn’t at an uncomfortable level. The noise used to be very annoying, but not any longer. It seems some of the high frequency whining type sound has been substantially reduced or even eliminated when surfacing the wood.
As a test I ran some 6” wide hard maple and red oak through it at the finish feed speed taking off 1/64” per cut. The results were the same as I’ve come to expect from this planer, a super smooth finish. The hard maple had some well defined figured grain and not a bit of tearout occurred. The finish was good enough on both types of wood that you could stain and finish it right then and there. And I should also mention, still no snipe on either end of the wood. But that may have something to do with the infeed and long outfeed tables I have besides just the planer itself. Also, I read a review where the author noted more vibration with the Shelix cutterhead in his DW735, can’t say that I noticed any more or any less with mine that I could attribute to the Shelix cutterhead.
All in all well worth the cost and even with the initial investment in the cutterhead I’ll probably be saving money in the long run not having to replace the HSS knives. Even when the time comes that I run through the 10 extra inserts included and I have to buy inserts. When my knives nicked there was not any foreign material involved, just the wood, so I do not expect to have these issues with the carbide inserts. I have a milling machine and a metal working lathe and my cutting tool of choice for both is carbide and carbide inserts. I’m well versed in how long carbide lasts as compared to high speed steel so I definitely think this is a win-win when taking into account the cost of the Shelix cutterhead and the carbide inserts.
OK, and now for something totally scientific. ;-) I said the planer was quieter when I turned it on with the Shelix cutterhead then it was before with the HSS knives. So I got curious.
So I set up my Sound Pressure Meter on a tripod 3 feet away from the planer. I set the scale on the C Weighted Scale which is weighted for the human ear and turned on the planer, 85dB. I then set up my 735 that has the HSS knives 3 feet away and turned it on. 91dB.
Every 3dB increase is twice as loud, so the planer with the HSS knives is 4 times louder then the planer with the Shelix cutterhead. Wasn’t my imagination I guess.
-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI