You fans of Spiral or helical head planers, school me

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Forum topic by CharlesA posted 141 days ago 974 views 0 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1124 posts in 402 days

141 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question planer

I have a Ridgid R4330 lunchbox planer. Once I got it adjusted correctly, it has served me well.

I have only one complaint: I get some tearout on some woods—African mahogany and figured woods in particular With the curly maple I’ve been using lately, I can almost eliminate tearout by wetting the wood and planing it skewed. But that gets to be a pain after a while and given what I’m working with, it’s not always possible to skew it.

My local tool store has a Steel City lunchbox with the helical head like the one that Highland Woodworking sells for $499. They say it is much, much quieter. I know that helical heads in general are supposed to work much better with figured woods and other woods prone to tearout.

The planer itself looks very similar to my Ridgid. In fact, after looking around on the net, I’d say it is the spitting image of the earlier Ridgid TP1300, complete with a lockout lever.

I could probably sell my Ridgid on CL for $150-175.

So, will this Steel City really give me a boost in planer performance?

30 replies so far

View Dallas's profile


2857 posts in 1092 days

#1 posted 141 days ago

Just for my personal nosyness, why not replace the head in the Ridgid with a Shelix head @ $439?

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View CharlesA's profile


1124 posts in 402 days

#2 posted 141 days ago

Bc if I sell my Ridgid for $150 and buy the Steel City, I’m out $350. If I buy the head alone, I’m out $439.

View pintodeluxe's profile


3281 posts in 1418 days

#3 posted 141 days ago

The steel city is a step up, but a very small step. It has HSS cutters, not carbide (but carbide inserts are available from Amana). The Steel City has the cutters arranged square to the lumber, so it is not actually a shear cut. In published tests, it didn’t really improve the tearout problem vs. straight blade planers.
The Steel City and any helical planer is quieter than straight knife planers.

To get the least tearout, go for a Shelix upgrade, or similar head that offers a shear cut.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View CharlesA's profile


1124 posts in 402 days

#4 posted 141 days ago

Thanks, Willie. That’s very helpful.

View Dallas's profile


2857 posts in 1092 days

#5 posted 141 days ago

Oh, OK. I was just wondering.
If I ever find a place to set up my shop again I’m going to rebuild my old Delta 22-580 and swap in with a Shelix head.
It just seemed a better choice for me.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View CharlesA's profile


1124 posts in 402 days

#6 posted 141 days ago

According to Willie, it is.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


4380 posts in 897 days

#7 posted 141 days ago

Although I can’t speak specifically to either the Rigid or the Steel City lunchbox planers, I can share my experience this past weekend in using my PM15 planer on which I installed a Byrd Shelix head last year. I planed cherry, walnut and red oak down to 17/32”, 15/32” and 5/32”. There was absolutely no tear out, the surfaces were as smooth as if they had been hand planed, it was many times faster than my drum sander (and much smoother), and the noise level was greatly reduced. Overall, it was a shear joy to use. Also, I use a Wixey digital gauge which further enhances and precision of the whole experience. That’s been my experience, but others may have different ones.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Nicky's profile


636 posts in 2697 days

#8 posted 141 days ago

I can safely say that the helical head I put on my Delta has boosted my planers performance (dc380), especially with figured wood. The reduced noise level is a plus.

My cutters have 4 sides. If I get a nick its just a matter of rotating the cutter. It’s an expensive investment up front. The payout is not having to replace knives as often, less downtime and better performance.

-- Nicky

View AlanBienlein's profile


140 posts in 1279 days

#9 posted 141 days ago

I have the exact same head as the steel city planer in my Ridgid TP1300. I will never go back as it has allowed me to run figured wood thru my planer that I could never do before.

Here is a video of me running some curly maple thru it.

I have also been able to run this cypress crotch I used on this cabinet thru the planer with no problems since installing the accu-head.

They have come out with a version that takes carbide cutters since I bought mine. Say what you like about the head and the orientation of the cutters but I no longer read the grain before shoving a piece of wood thru my planer and have taken up to the max of 1/8” cuts on boards that were 8” plus wide with out a problem.

View CharlesA's profile


1124 posts in 402 days

#10 posted 141 days ago

This is a minor question, but I’m seeing the shelix for $470. Still around for $439?

View Ocelot's profile


478 posts in 1243 days

#11 posted 141 days ago

A couple of years ago I bought a Griz with a sprial head. It is not a Byrd head, but I don’t see any tearout and don’t pay any attention to which direction I plane. I had been looking at the Steel City but decided against it. I can’t remember why but I think some folks were having problems with them. That may no longer be a problem.


View Dallas's profile


2857 posts in 1092 days

#12 posted 141 days ago

Charles, I saw it on one of the sites I checked, but Shelix themselves only want $445
for it.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1246 posts in 553 days

#13 posted 141 days ago

I will say I have read a few reviews where people that have bought the Steel city planer had a nightmare trying to clean the packing grease from the cutter head.

View cabmaker's profile


1292 posts in 1414 days

#14 posted 141 days ago

Charles your quest for better planning performance may be found in a larger machine.

I find that hss knives when maintained very sharp are hard to beat!

Many will reason that why would one want or need a large width capacity if you never plane anything wider than 6, 8 or 12 inches. A larger machine allows you to skew the material which gives you a better finish on unruly grain.(the very reason we skew a hand plane)

Admitedly a true spiral head in a planer or jointer is a very nice thing but comes at a price and often times it just compensates for a more judicial use of the planers intent and capability.

I recently sold an 8 inch grizz jointer with spiral head and went back to the dj20 with straight knives. In my day job as a cabinetmaker I run a 22 inch 201 powermatic planer with straight knives. In my night job I run a delta invicta rc51 with 20 inch straight knives.

I’m pretty confident I will never own another spiral head. Not because I’m opposed to them but simply because I don’t personally see much need.

BTW I plane lots of material of all types grain orientations.

I wish you well whichever way you go! JB

View CoachSchroeder's profile


76 posts in 209 days

#15 posted 141 days ago

Charles- I think someone did a review using your planner with the spiral cutter head. If I recall correctly they had an interesting time getting it installed & once it was in they noticed it making noise as though it was laboring, presumably because the blade is in constant contact with the material instead of the intermittent cutting you get with a standard cutter. It got the job done, just sounded funny.

I thought that review/blog was on LJs somewhere.
I think they also said very complimentary things about the Ridgid model’s construction.

Then again, I could be wrong. But you might want to check

-- -Sam, in Wisconsin

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