Spiral Cutterhead

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Forum topic by JimmyJam posted 12-01-2011 10:19 PM 2685 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 2678 days

12-01-2011 10:19 PM

I am looking at purchasing a spiral cutterhead for either my 12” jointer or 15” planer. Which would you buy first? I am leaning toward the planer myself but wanted to get some other opinions.


18 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 3008 days

#1 posted 12-01-2011 11:26 PM

What jointer and what planer ? Some machines might not be worthy of such an expense in my opinion. I have owned an early 15 inch grizz planer and while I did get lots of years out of it as a jobsite planer mostly I dont think it was worthy of that expense nor would the quality of performance been much differant if any. They are a bit quieter for sure and maybe beats the pains of setting knives.

View pmayer's profile


1032 posts in 3264 days

#2 posted 12-01-2011 11:34 PM

Depends on your use of these tools, but in general I would lean toward the planer as well. The premium surface benefit is largely lost on the jointer as you typically would run the plank through the planer after face jointing anyway. And who cares about a mirror like finish on an edge joint? The difference in noise will be greater on a planer as well, particularly when planing wide stock.

Now, having said all that, I went spiral on my jointer first because I needed the additional capacity (went from 6 – 8” jointer) and upgraded to spiral as part of the tool purchase. I am in research mode now on planers and will probably pull the trigger in the next few months.

-- PaulMayer,

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3469 days

#3 posted 12-02-2011 12:56 AM

I switched my Grizzly 20” planer to spiral – saved some money by buying the knife cutter machine and putting in a cutter head. That was because the spiral cutter replacement was on sale. I would not recommend this to a person that is not very mechanically inclined though as you have to disassemble the entire upper unit – sprokets, bearings, belts…etc. It took me the greater part of a day to get it up and running correctly (might be shorter if you have an assistant). The instructions were not that great (pictures were hard to see detail also) end up having to decide on what direction certain items go by trial and error. I would recommend that you consider waiting and upgrading the machine if you have to go through the same procedure…..I did notice a smoother finish on some items….but not so substantial as to support the additional costs (about $600 – $1,000.00 for the cutter and inserts for the 20”). The machine is a bit quieter now….but the big time savings is convenience by not having to sharpen or replace the knives so much….just a turn on the inserts (or a replacement insert) and you are back on it.

As for the jointer…..I have been using a blade jointer for many years now…and I have not seen that much better results from a spiral machine…..I think the plus side is the convenience and the noise reduction – they say the spirals are better on figured woods….but I have run alot of birdseye and curly woods through my knives and have never had that much issue with grain tear. The spirals make a bit better surface…but no so great to warrant the larger outlay – in my opinion at least.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View JimmyJam's profile


31 posts in 2678 days

#4 posted 12-02-2011 12:58 AM

I have the Shop Fox 1742 planer and Jet JJ-12 jointer.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3507 days

#5 posted 12-02-2011 01:08 AM

alot depends on what types of wood you mostly use.
I have a Grizzly 15” planer with the spiral carbide cutterhead and find it does an outstanding job when I use very hard wood and highly figured wood that would normally cause alot of tearout if using a regular planer blade. I did buy mine with it already installed. Glad I did.
I also have a 6” jointer (wish I would have bought the 8”) with the spiral cutters and find it also does a great job when jointing the flat surface of a warped board…especially highly figurred and hard woods…which is what i use mostly.
I like the idea of easily rorating the cutters when worn and not having to do the annoying adjustments associated with regular knives like I used with my old machines.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3943 days

#6 posted 12-02-2011 01:53 AM

I updated my Grizzly planer a few weeks ago to the Byrd Shelix, and am very happy with it. I plan to change to the Shelix on my Powermatic 54 this month.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3273 days

#7 posted 12-02-2011 03:07 AM

I will be in the minority here. Nonetheless, I always say what I think regardless of its popularity.

A spiral cutter head runs a little bit quieter which is a good thing. However, beyond that, I fail to see the advantage of a spiral head cutter.

Yes, it will last longer, but it costs so much more in the first place that the advantage of longevity is wiped out by the cost of the head in the first place.

I have yet to see a review where the quality of the cut was better with a spiral head.

I know this is a controversial opinion, but I also believe that the spiral head is less efficient (i.e. it requires more power to deliver the same work). Here is the theory – With a straight blade you have a micro second between each cut when the motor and cutter head can regain momentum. With a spiral head there is a constant drain on the motor with no breaks to allow for the motor to regain momentum. For this reason you need more power to deliver the same cut with a spiral cut.

I will now brace myself for the many who will openly disagree with me.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3943 days

#8 posted 12-02-2011 03:16 AM

Rich, have you used a spiral head cutter on anything? I noticed today that the small scallops, normally produced by a regular planer are absent from the lumber after planning with the spiral head. There is a faint cutter pattern on the wood, but it is very fine and won’t require as much sanding to remove it.

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3394 days

#9 posted 12-02-2011 03:17 AM

+1 for Rich Greer’s view. I don’t see spiral cutters making sense either. Lots of bucks with no gain in quality of the cut. My DW 735 gives an excellent result with standard knives.

Just my 2 cents worth.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View twiceisnice's profile


95 posts in 3026 days

#10 posted 12-02-2011 04:58 AM

A spiral cutterhead destroys a straight knife cutterhead.

If you have the money , I would do it.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5173 posts in 2692 days

#11 posted 12-02-2011 02:18 PM

Some months back Glen Huey (I think) had an article in PWW about these…he calls them staggertooth cutterheads. Regardless, his assessment was that the one in the jointer isn’t needed and you only need to do the planer. The workaround being you flatten the stock on the jointer and then finish both sides on the planer. I can’t argue that point, to me it makes sense….that said, I have them in both my jointer and planer. What I would suggest is that you convert the planer, use it for awhile and then decide if you want to do the jointer. So the planer would come first, one other thing it might be worthwhile to have the same manufacturer’s head in both machines if you choose to do both, then you only need one style of inserts.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3113 days

#12 posted 12-02-2011 02:33 PM

All I know is that I found a 2-3yr old G0593 8in Jointer w/helicall cutter head for $700 on CL(an hour from the house) and it has been a pleasure to use. It had used up just 1 of the 4 sides of the cutters. Somehow I do not agree that they are ”...just too expensive”, but then again I am NOT talking about a 15-20in Jointer either. However, if I were able to afford an expensive 20in Jointer, I don’t think I would be pinching pennies in THAT price range. Just my 2-cents…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2892 days

#13 posted 12-02-2011 04:29 PM

My first response would be the planer but if I were in possession of a 12” jointer, I might go the jointer route for the sheer manliness factor.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View jmos's profile


902 posts in 2568 days

#14 posted 12-02-2011 07:54 PM

For what it’s worth, Fine Woodworking had a feature article in spiral cutter heads last month and had great things to say about them. The top rated were the shear type, like the Byrd, but all did well.

They also contended that in the long run they save money as the carbide blades last forever compared to HSS. Obviously, if your not running a lot of wood the payback would take a long time (actually making the payback negative given the time value of money, but that’s another story.)

Two thing you have to love about them is no more setting knives on your jointer, and if a blade gets nicked, you only have to turn/replace one cutter instead of the whole knife.

I’d go planer also.

-- John

View simdave's profile


3 posts in 2801 days

#15 posted 12-04-2011 06:49 PM

Have you considered a jointer/planer combination. Most manufactures now offer this combination. I recently purchased a 12 inch unit from Hammer and I love this machine. It takes about a minute to change from jointer to planer and the finish is excellent. The cutterhead is similar to a TERSA head in that there is no requirement to align the blades when you replace them. The key to me was saving space in my shop but I have been pleasantly surprised that in my experience there was no loss of quality from stand alone units.

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