Are We Witnessing The End of The Three Knife Cutter Head?

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Forum topic by cstrang posted 02-07-2010 09:35 PM 3445 views 0 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1832 posts in 3366 days

02-07-2010 09:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jointer planer helical head

As we already know, the helical cutter head is offered as an accessory or add on feature by many tool manufactures. They are slightly more expensive than the straight knives the woodworking industry has known for many, many years but the price is coming down with time. The helical head leaves a cleaner cut as it is cutting the wood in a shearing motion rather than a scraping motion, which is really handy of you work with highly figured woods. As I said before, many tool manufactures offer this, but who is getting left behind? I am yet to see Delta offer this feature in their product line, will they be coming out with this feature? If they don’t I see them losing customers just because they don’t give the options of their competitors. There are also many different styles of helical heads, which one is best? Do you think it’s worth the extra money? And will the helical head take over as the standard in planers and jointers in the next few years?

I’ll add my view, I think the helical head is worth the extra money, I will be purchasing a new jointer and planer over the summer and the last thing I want is to pick up the straight knife model and regret not getting the helical head. Having seen the results of the helical head myself I think they are the next “big thing”.

Chime in with your 2 cents, looking forward to everyone’s comments.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

30 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3775 days

#1 posted 02-07-2010 09:37 PM

I have a 12” jointer and 20 planner by Grizzly they both have helical heads and there great.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View degoose's profile


7244 posts in 3552 days

#2 posted 02-07-2010 10:04 PM

If I lived in the states then I would have one already but the cost in Australia is exorbitant… not just for the helix head but for just about everything that comes out of the states…...

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View b2rtch's profile


4863 posts in 3246 days

#3 posted 02-07-2010 11:34 PM

” The helical head leaves a cleaner cut ”
A while ago I read a review in one of the magazine I receive and they were saying the opposite, they were saying that the finish was not quite as good as with a straight conventional knives.
The main advantage they found was that if one gets a nick, he/she just can rotate the cutter instead of having to replace the whole knife and that being made a carbide these knife last longer.

-- Bert

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3366 days

#4 posted 02-07-2010 11:38 PM

Bert, it all depends on the type of cutter head, I read a similar article and they found that one brand of helical head left lines through the board, it also depends how the individual cutters are alligned.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3687 days

#5 posted 02-08-2010 12:15 AM

i do think the helical head will take over since they are less-expensive to maintain, cut cleaner and are quieter. That being said, I think there are so many 2/3/4 cutter head machines out there now that they will be around for a long, long time.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 3240 days

#6 posted 02-08-2010 12:20 AM

The helical head will cut cleaner, but since there are that many more pieces to align, it’s that much easier to get one wrong. I would love to have one but my old benchtop Makita 12’ does everything I need it to so there’s other tools to take my money first.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View sphere's profile


109 posts in 3229 days

#7 posted 02-08-2010 12:35 AM

Seems to me HSS can get a sharper edge, but life is shorter than carbide in straight knives. The helical may over come that by geometry, but the initial cost may keep me from finding out for myself.

I sure miss our SCMI dual belt sander at times.

-- Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Wood Works

View poroskywood's profile


618 posts in 3562 days

#8 posted 02-08-2010 01:12 AM

I’ve had the 12” jointer and 20” Planner from Grizzly (helical head) for the last two or three years. I love em. The best! No comparison.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3566 days

#9 posted 02-08-2010 01:20 AM

I can’t remember all the details, but I read the same article as Bert. I have a Ridgid 2 blade and it does a fantastic job. My sanding is with figured woods that tend to tear out a little and joints.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4297 days

#10 posted 02-08-2010 01:21 AM

There is no aligning of individual cutter heads. The whole cutter head stays fixed and the individual knives have a fixed position.

The individual knives are simply loosened and turned to present a new cutting edge then retightened back into their fixed position. It is nearly goof proof.

The infeed and outfeed tables can be adjusted on the machines as normal but there is no knife alignment necessary as with the straight knives.

I have a Grizzly 8” jointer with the spiral cutter head and it cuts highly figured wood waaay better than my straight knife jointers ever did. And the carbide stays sharp forever in comparison.

The surface always needs some amount of work before finishing after using any jointer or planer. It is incorrect to think that any of these machines create the final surface.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3966 days

#11 posted 02-08-2010 01:23 AM

I’m glad to see the helical cutter head. the 3 cutter heads have been phased out for awhile in a lot of tools. theyre down too two now… im glad to see these nice cutter heads.

View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 3240 days

#12 posted 02-08-2010 01:35 AM

Nearly Goof-proof won’t stop someone from making sure there’s no sawdust in the way when tightening each and every cutter. Seen it happen and guy couldn’t figure out why he kept getting that groove till we loosened them up and blew it out. Murphy’s Law.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3598 days

#13 posted 02-08-2010 04:21 AM

The one thing I noticed is how much quieter they are then the straight blade. The carpentry shop at the school got a 25”, 15 hp Powermatic, the year after I finished “of course”, and my electrical class wired it up and everything. When we fired it up I was amazed at how quiet it was compared to my Dewalt 735. You didn’t need hearing protection and you could have a conversation with the person a couple feet away without problems. I would like to put one in my 735 but the Byrd is $500, $200 more than I paid for the planer. Maybe when I get a dedicated shop built and get a 15” or 20” I’ll get the Helical head.

View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3486 days

#14 posted 02-08-2010 05:29 AM

i want to try to put a helical cutter head in my ridgid planer, it looks like the one from the steel city might work but it costs about $300 for the head so when i get enough chips together i do a blog about it. if anyone does this before me please let me know?

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Jim's profile


38 posts in 3248 days

#15 posted 02-08-2010 06:28 AM

I can’t wait to try my new Fox Shop 20” helical head which I brought home yesterday. I hope to get it wired tomorrow. I had a 3 blade DeWalt 733 that I used for at least 8 years and I have an 8” Grizzly jointer that has the standard blades so I have no idea what to expect.

I posted this elsewhere, but Shop Fox is closing out the W1718 for $1899. The model replacing it is made in China but this one is made in Taiwan, if that makes any difference. Mine was made in December 2006. The cost is less than some 15” models with a standard head. I really don’t need a 20” but I just could not pass it up.

-- JimT

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