replacing traditional knives with a helical cutter head on a jointer

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Forum topic by MonteCristo posted 05-31-2012 05:54 PM 15124 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2099 posts in 2155 days

05-31-2012 05:54 PM


I have two jointers, a 12” Steel City and an 8” Delta (DJ20). Is it worth while to upgrade to a helical head on either ? Has anyone tried this with the helical heads Grizzly sells ?


-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

8 replies so far

View AHuxley's profile


652 posts in 3288 days

#1 posted 05-31-2012 06:47 PM

First as an aftermarket item I would get a Byrd Shelix for two reasons, they offer a better finish than the straight angle of approach heads like the Grizzly heads, and they are made in the US. On top of those the price difference is small or sometimes the Byrd is actually cheaper AND the inserts are often much cheaper than the Grizzly head inserts.

I am a fan of carbide insert heads on “hobby” grade machines, knife heads on older industrial machines had larger cutting circles and often had grinder/jointer attachments that provide the best finish possible.

Not knowing how you use the two jointers it is hard to say if I would change both or one. If it was me I would change the 12” and sell the 8” to cover the costs, but then I am only one in my shop. I know people that keep a small jointer for edge jointing and have a 20-30” jointer for face jointing but a 12” isn’t big enough for me to bother to keep a smaller jointer but you may work differently.

View MedicKen's profile


1612 posts in 3428 days

#2 posted 05-31-2012 09:19 PM

I personally feel the spiral head, Byrd head or what ever you want to call it is just another gimmick to sell a machine. Kinda like a granite topped table saw. The jointer and planer are machines used for ROUGH milling not for finishing stock. Once the material has been jointed and the planed it still needs to either be sanded or hand planed. I do understand that the spiral heads do give a slightly better quality finish but is it worth the extra cost? Not to me.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View cabmaker's profile


1721 posts in 2775 days

#3 posted 05-31-2012 09:32 PM

MC, Im not sure that would be an upgrade for you. I have used and currently use both spiral and straight knives. I wouldnt waste your money on that deal. For me its about the longevity and ease of changing to a freash cutting edge when needed on the fly. Spirals are a bit quieter but I dont hear that well anymore anyways. BTW I can reset my 20 inch planer knives much faster than I can rotate the cutters in my 8 inch grizz. jointer. As far as spirals being better with highly figured wood, well maybe, on certain pcs. How often will you encounter that situation, not often. Enjoy JB

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3709 days

#4 posted 05-31-2012 09:43 PM

Folks do like that it takes less HP to drive the helical cutters versus straight knives – but as others mentioned, the jointer is to get a flat surface, I am not sure upgrading is worthwhile.

Another helical source is from Woodtek…I think Woodworkers Supply is their distributor.
Sorry looked at the WWS website – and it says the 8 inch head (on sale for 309.99) will not fit the DJ20

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Loren's profile


10264 posts in 3614 days

#5 posted 05-31-2012 10:10 PM

I could see it making sense if you joint plywood and glued
boards often. My argument is that the surfaces that come
off the jointer serve a geometric purpose to create reference
faces or other machines to cut from, with the planer delivering
the finished geometry of a given board, ready for sanding.

View AHuxley's profile


652 posts in 3288 days

#6 posted 05-31-2012 10:15 PM

@DrDirt the lower horsepower for carbide insert jornel heads is a myth, proved wrong years ago by companies like Oliver who were at the beginning of this trend with their ITCH head.

The carbide heads, again on hobby level machines, will save time and money in the long run. You may want to look up the FWW test/article they did in the last 6 months. The difference gets lower and lower the higher end the jointer or planer you are considering switching. I don’t see much point switching the head in high end jointers and planers especially DMD drive machines since the price for the insert journal heads is usually VERY high, the replacement journal heads for the smaller llighweight machines are cheap enough that they do save money in the long run. Bottom line few people that have used them want to go back to knives, most people that recommend against them haven’t owned them.

Bottom line anyone that think this is a fad or gimmick just isn’t tuned into the industrial end, insert heads are beginning to gain more and more traction in the industrial end as more machines need to be replaced. Take for example on the light industrial/heavy commercial end you can now buy all the Northfield jointers and planers with a Byrd head (other insert heads as well) and the number of machines ordered with knives is dwindling, it is the wave of the future because the benefits are truely there.

View Kelby's profile


134 posts in 2377 days

#7 posted 05-31-2012 10:30 PM

I use a Laguna 12” jointer that has Laguna’s Shear-Tec II cutterhead, which is very similar to the Byrd Shelix. IMHO, it’s an amazing improvement over my previous 12” jointer, for a few reasons:

1) I use a lot of figured lumber, and I get no chipout at all. For my work, there are many instances in which I do not use a planer after jointing, so I need a perfect cut off the jointer.

2) When you get a nick in a blade, it is far more convenient to rotate a few small carbide blades than it was to reset my old jointer knives. Which means I am more likely to do it. (How many times have we all seen witness lines from nicks in our jointer blades, but we kept using them anyway because we didn’t want to take the time to fix them?)

3) Blade costs are much lower over time. When you nick jointer knives, you need to sharpen or replace them. (You can offset them a little left or right for a while, but soon enough you need to sharpen or replace.) With spiral cutterheads, you simply rotate the nicked blades. You would never have to buy more blades until you nick the same one four times, which is unlikely to happen for many many years. Even then, my jointer cam with a dozen replacement blades. I doubt I will ever have to pay an money to sharpen or replace my blades again.

4) They are much quieter. I generally don’t feel the need to wear hearing protection with the spiral cutterhead, even when face-jointing 10” material. With my old jointer, I would wear hearing protection even when edge jointing.

While I am definitely sold on spiral cutterheads, I can’t tell you whether it is worth upgrading your existing machines. If you want to switch to a spiral cutterhead on your jointer, you may be better off selling your existing machines, coupling the proceeds with the money you would have spent on two new cutterheads, and using that cash to buy a first-class jointer.

One more thought: I have heard good things about the Grizzly cutterhead, but it is not a spiral cutterhead. There are many reasons why the spiral cutterhead provides advantages over a system like the Grizlly (all based on the shearing action that you get with a true spiral cutterhead). While the Grizzly gets good reviews, if I were upgrading, I would certainly upgrade to the spiral.

-- Kelby

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2155 days

#8 posted 06-01-2012 02:40 AM

Thanks for all the comments. Some good food for thought . . .


-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

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