A worthwhile upgrade

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Review by Jarrhead posted 03-05-2015 04:00 PM 5569 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A worthwhile upgrade No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

There are quite a few blogs and equipment reviews that touch on this topic, but I wanted to add my own firsthand experience. I bought a Byrd SHELIX cutterhead for my Jet 6 inch jointer about a year ago. It was definitely an improvement over the old cutterhead. There were several reasons that prompted me to make the swap. First was the decidedly difficult nature of setting the knives on a standard cutterhead. I’ve read lots of articles and blogs that made it sound really simple, and those articles did help with lots of valuable info. However, in the final analysis, it was still a cast iron PITA to set the knives up, and it isn’t something that you can avoid for long. Which brings me to reason number two; “Longevity”. You just can’t get anywhere near the service life on a set of standard knives that you can expect from the carbide inserts on the SHELIX head. For my final (and most important [to me]) reason for swapping, “Tearout”. Nothing in woodworking is more frustrating to me than spending big bucks on nice lumber only to have it ruined by tearout. I know there are methods of minimizing the effects of tearout, like paying careful attention to the grain orientation; taking very light passes, and keeping your knives sharp. Even with those things in mind, I still had major problems with tear out. With the SHELIX head, the carbide inserts set in the helical pattern and skewed to provide a shearing cut, all contribute to consistently superior results.
I was so impressed, I immediately felt the need to upgrade my Jet JPM-13 Planer/Molder too. That took me a while, because the cost was so much more, but at last I broke down and took the plunge. I ordered mine from a company called “Holbren” online. They were very good to deal with. In fact, I was chatting with one of their sales reps on the website, and I lamented the price for the 13” cutterhead being $200 more than the price of a 15” cutterhead. He empathized with me, and explained it was due to set-up costs incurred by the manufacturer, as they make far fewer of the 13” versions than the 15” ones. He then managed to give me a break on the price, that took some of the sting out.
The swap was a lot more work for the planer than it was for the jointer, but anyone who is reasonably mechanically inclined should be able to manage it OK. There were a couple of tools I had to acquire. A three jaw wheel/pulley puller, and a set of snap ring pliers. There are other tools required, but mostly pretty standard stuff that I already had, (dead blow mallet, screwdrivers, hex wrenches, etc.) I also had to replace the grease in the gearbox. That was probably the most time consuming part of the whole job. My local Jet dealer contacted the technicians at Jet for me because I needed to know what kind of lubricant to use in the gearbox. I assumed it was going to be gear oil, because some of the swap videos I had seen on YouTube showed draining the gearbox oil as part of the process, prior to opening it up. Mine doesn’t use gear oil. It uses grease. Which explains the lack of a drain hole on the gearbox. The technicians stated any good standard automotive wheel bearing grease would do. However, they cautioned not to mix the old grease with the new. So, all the old grease had to be removed.
I managed to get it all back together in the proper order, and fired it up for a test run. I was a little concerned because there had been some less than stellar reviews posted online, including at least one on So far, I have had nothing but awesome results. Like most other reviewers, I too noticed a remarkable difference in the ease of passing the board over the cutterhead on the jointer, and the drastically reduced noise level on both machines. I used to have to wear hearing protection to run the planer. Now, the dust collector makes more noise than the planer does. Smooth surface finish, and no tearout. Mission accomplished! In fairness, it should be pointed out that the one poor review on Lumberjocks is six years old. Whatever caused that customer to get the results he did, I think Byrd has fixed the problem. I highly recommend this product for anyone who needs to replace their jointer or planer blades. Don’t waste any more money on standard straight knives. Get a new Byrd SHELIX cutterhead, and you’ll never regret it.

-- trn2wud

View Jarrhead's profile


91 posts in 4597 days

10 comments so far

View b2rtch's profile


4921 posts in 4286 days

#1 posted 03-05-2015 04:20 PM

I am one of those who made the change on a Ridgid planer, and I have some tear out when I have none on my 8” Powermatic jointer and which I also replaced the head, but overall I am very satisfied.
I also bout my head from Holbren and I also has a discount ( around $100.00 I believe)

-- Bert

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2724 days

#2 posted 03-05-2015 04:30 PM

I have a jet 8” jointer. Starting to think this would be a great Christmas present for myself.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6488 posts in 4051 days

#3 posted 03-05-2015 05:57 PM

I have one in my 13” planer, and am really impressed with the new head. Like you say, it will save you from causing tearout and that saves time and money. The surface left behind by the Shelix head is vastly smoother than my straight-knife jointer or tablesaw. I have started edge-planing all boards to clean up the tablesaw blade marks. Works great.

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

View Ken90712's profile


18066 posts in 4427 days

#4 posted 03-05-2015 10:02 PM

Interesting, May have to take the pluch on my 8 inch jointer. Thx for the info.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View playingwithmywood's profile


444 posts in 2835 days

#5 posted 03-06-2015 04:41 AM

Interesting, May have to take the pluch on my 8 inch jointer. Thx for the info.

- Ken90712

you will not reget it I put it in my 8” jointer and dewalt 735 planner

View Oldwest's profile


86 posts in 4042 days

#6 posted 03-06-2015 09:58 AM

I got a Byrd SHELIX cutter head for my Dewalt 735 planer and love it.

Great investment and very low maintenance.

-- Anyone who isn’t totally confused just doesn’t understand the situation.

View McLeanVA's profile


493 posts in 4672 days

#7 posted 04-14-2015 08:55 PM

Great review.

For those of you who turn wood with Easy Wood Tools, these cutter heads are a perfect match for the EWT Easy Roughers. I started buying these Byrd Shelix heads as a MUCH cheaper alternative to the EWT “disposable” blades. Easy to sharpen with a diamond card as well.

Just thought I’d toss that out there in hopes it saves some fellow LJ’s some money.

-- Measure, cut, curse, repeat.

View abie's profile


926 posts in 5009 days

#8 posted 06-28-2015 03:15 AM

our wood shop, after a year of research and search for an installer, bot the Helix from grizzley for our 20 inch planer.
quiter, nice cuts and smooth results worth the wait and expense.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View Jarrhead's profile


91 posts in 4597 days

#9 posted 10-02-2015 02:20 PM

UPDATE: So, the owners manual for my Jet planer states the “minimum thickness” for planing is 1/2”. There is a reason for that, learned by me the hard way. When the wood gets thinner than that, it’s structural integrity is limited. As the thin board passes through the cutterhead it can start to tear the board apart. it is not pretty when that happens, and it isn’t good for your cutters either. I had a thin board blow up on me in the planer, and the sound was sickening. After I got the machine shut down, I took the cover off the cutterhead to inspect it. Sure enough, several of the carbide cutters had chipped edges. The good news is, all I had to do was break out the torx bit driver, and rotate those chipped cutters, and I was back in business in about ten minutes. Love that feature!! So, after 6 months of frequent use, I am still convinced this is a great shop investment.

-- trn2wud

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4104 days

#10 posted 10-02-2015 02:30 PM

I might just see what a cutter head would cost me for my 8 inch jointer. Thanks for the review.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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