Bad tear-out on helical head - need advice

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Forum topic by Fiddy posted 03-17-2020 08:42 PM 967 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Fiddy's profile


230 posts in 2524 days

03-17-2020 08:42 PM

Here’s the back story – I recently was able to acquire a used 20” Jet helical. When I checked out before purchasing I did realize it was far from well tuned, but in the end it was sound and all the major area were in good working order.

At this point I’ve only cleaned it up, waxed beds and adjusted bed rollers since they were completely jacked up.

I have not adjust rollers, chip breaker, or pressure bar.

Last thing, he just rotated cutters to clean edge – so not my issue.

In general the test pieces I have been sending through I haven’t been too thrilled with. Even on some seemingly straight grain stock I’ve seen some tear out.

Today I tried some curly maple for a box I was looking to make and that was horrible, tons of tear out. I then cleaned them up with a hand plane leaving a pretty good surface. I then adjusted the height by quarter turns until I made contact and only removed a quarter turn at a time. That is what left me with this surface.

Any advice, anyone believe that a properly set chip breaker etc. could fix this?

8 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


4030 posts in 3011 days

#1 posted 03-17-2020 08:54 PM

For sure get the chip breaker set. And the bed rollers set.
That’s a nice white curly maple board. If the grain doesn’t show run out on the edges skew it through the machine.
I get tear out on my helical Head on soft woods more then hard ones.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View Fiddy's profile


230 posts in 2524 days

#2 posted 03-17-2020 09:43 PM

Any feedback outside of the manual on making these adjustments?

Also, can anyone confirm if they’ve seen something similar? I was very much caught off guard seeing that level of tear out, think it was better with my straight knives.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4859 posts in 2708 days

#3 posted 03-17-2020 10:42 PM

That tear out looks like it happening at major change in grain direction, not something related to the figure?

+1 softer woods are challenge for helical head, as they tend to scoop out more material that with harder woods.

2) Sorry, but I may be in minority, but here goes:
I see same amount of tear out on highly figured woods regardless of blade type.

Granted my experience is limited, but here is my story:
Have considered the purchase of helical heads for planers/jointers several times.
Every time I get urge, head to local store and demo a helical head tool with some figured wood. Softer woods like curly/flame maple are worst. It always has tear out. They always tell me, the tool is not set up properly.
The same tricks work on both blade types. Run the board at angle, make sure you have picked best grain direction (use microfiber cloth to rub surface looking for fibers grabbing the cloth to know direction), take small cuts, etc, etc. There is still tear out after an hour of making adjustments.

I find the Byrd heads with angled shear cut deeper scoops in soft woods, than straight edge Taiwan clone helical heads. Can usually tell Byrd scoop pattern from straight edge tools by radius edges of scooping, once you have seen both. But, I don’t see scooping in your photo?

Planers are for reducing the thickness of wood, not final surfacing. Commercial shops use a wide belt or drum sander for final surface finishing to deal with figure.

I.E. results look pretty normal to me?


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Fiddy's profile


230 posts in 2524 days

#4 posted 03-18-2020 12:36 PM

Thanks, Cap – could just be this is what is expected then. I may have just had too high of expectation in regard to figured wood like this. The amount of tear out just caught me off guard. I’ll still try and verify chip breaker etc. are properly set.

Any feedback on skewing the board? What I have read over the years was that diminishes with a shelix since the cutter is already skewed to the board surface. My understanding would be that you could actually lessen the skew cut by skewing the board, but I guess that would depend on which way you run it. Any thoughts on that, I’m all ears.

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

View sras's profile (online now)


6322 posts in 4343 days

#5 posted 03-18-2020 01:13 PM

I tried to get bird’s eye maple through a similar planer. Terrible tear out. Ended up using a thickness sander even though I had to go to someone else’s shop!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Fiddy's profile


230 posts in 2524 days

#6 posted 03-18-2020 01:25 PM

Thanks, sras – just to confirm, helical head planer as well?

I tried to get bird s eye maple through a similar planer. Terrible tear out. Ended up using a thickness sander even though I had to go to someone else s shop!

- sras

View pintodeluxe's profile


6480 posts in 4027 days

#7 posted 03-18-2020 05:40 PM

I sure wouldn’t be happy with those results either. I’ve been able to run curly maple, and other highly figured stock through my Byrd Shelix with no issues. But mine is a different machine.

If I bought a planer used and the guy said “I just turned the carbide inserts”... I would still be replacing or turning the inserts. Assume nothing. Some people have horrible memory. Some people aren’t good at record keeping, like marking which edge of the carbide cutter is fresh. He may have turned some or all of them to a dull edge. I’ve noticed that a sharp and dull carbide insert look and feel almost identical. However, they don’t feed or cut the same when they’re dull.

Go through the detailed chipbreaker setup procedure.

Try taking a deeper cut. On many industrial planers, they perform best with a medium cut (not a super light cut). By contrast, lunchbox planers almost always do better with a very light cut.

Hope you can resolve the issue somehow.

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

View LesB's profile


3061 posts in 4657 days

#8 posted 03-18-2020 06:47 PM

Interesting problem. I have been considering converting my Powermatic 15s (spiral blade) planer with a helical head. I have had no problem with the spiral blades not cutting cleanly so for now I will stay with them. Just saved myself $1000.

-- Les B, Oregon

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