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The Woodworking Life

New Segmented Cutterhead Changes My Woodworking Game

comments (2) November 29th, 2011 in blogs

RobPorcaro Rob Porcaro, contributor
thumbs up 14 users recommend

The Shelix installed in the DW735.
A single cutter. Note the camber in each of the four available edges.
When installing the new cutterhead, it pays to be orderly.
Tearout in figured bubinga with the OEM cutterhead.
No tearout with the Shelix.
Plain cherry is no sweat for the Shelix.
The same piece of cherry photographed in a low raking light reveals the scalloped surface. The real question is how to work with this surface.
Layout lines on the scalloped surface present no problem.
The meeting of two scalloped surfaces does produce minute gaps in what would be a glue line.
The meeting of two handplaned surfaces is gap-free.
These are early shavings in cleaning up the scalloped surface. Mostly linguine.
From right to left, here is the progression of shavings produced when cleaning up the Shelix scalloped surface. Lasagna on the left.
The Shelix installed in the DW735. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Shelix installed in the DW735.

Note: What follows is a detailed account of one woodworker's experience with the Byrd Shelix Cutterhead

After having read Roland Johnson's article on segmented cutterheads in this year's Tools and Shops issue (FWW #223), I thought some folks might find my experiences using a Byrd Shelix cutterhead of interest.

The Byrd Shelix cutterhead for the DW735 thickness planer has three helical rows of 11 carbide cutters, each indexed in its place with four available edges. The edge of each cutter is slightly cambered and set to meet the wood in a shearing cut similar to skewing a handplane. This is very different from the 13 inches of a conventional cutterhead blade meeting the wood all at once.

For me, the DW735 had proven its reliability enough to make it worthwhile to invest $447 in a Shelix upgrade. Details of the installation process and additional information can be found on my blog, Heartwood.

How did the Shelix perform?

The first thing I tested was the consistency of thicknessing across the 13" width. I passed two 3/4" wide wood strips simultaneously through the planer at each side of the bed. They came out less than 0.001" different from each other in thickness.

Vibration seems slightly more with the Shelix but this does not seem to get translated to the bed or the wood. Noise is reduced - still loud enough for hearing protection, but not the scream produced with the OEM blades. Planing wide stock demonstrated that the Shelix gives the DW735 significantly more functional power. Dust collection improved, with fewer shavings sticking to the rubber rollers.

Tearout-free bubinga. click to enlarge
I fed the beast some nasty woods, including waterfall bubinga, curly and quilted maple, rowed mahogany, and brittle curly pear. I took passes that I expected to be too deep and fed some wood in the wrong grain direction. The results: no tearout! The only exception was minimal tearout on lacewood (which hates machine blade surfacing), though much less than with OEM blades. It laughed at docile, straight-grained cherry.

So, what's the caveat?

Look at the cherry board photographed in a low, raking light. Notice the scalloped rows produced by the cambered cutters. The depth of the scallops is about 0.002". This is different from what we are used to with machined surfaces.

Subtle scallops in a cherry board. click to enlarge
I thought at first that the scalloped surface would be a disadvantage. I wondered if referencing off such a surface would be compromised. Obviously, any machined surface is not the final one for furniture, but I wondered how this surface would clean up, and at what point in a project I would start to do so. More intriguing, could the scalloped surface have any advantages? All of these questions must be addressed to be able to integrate this new tool into the process of a building a woodworking project.

posted in: blogs, planer, milling, segmented cutterheads, byrd shelix

Comments (2)

saschafer saschafer writes:
How is it that this one blog post seems to attract so much spam? It's uncanny.


Posted: 9:21 pm on December 9th

sleepydad sleepydad writes: I have been bryrd tool for 3 years now. 16” planer and 8” jointer. I have never been bothered by the scalops. A very light sanding or planing removes them complely. No different from removing any tool marks.
1 thing you did not consider yet is how much longer the cutter heads last. No more goofing around with setting straight blades ever again.
Iif you try and take 1 very light pass as your final surface you can minimize the scallops. This is no different than straight blades. If your final pass is very light you get a nicer surface. At least I find this 2 be true.
Last year I ran close to 4 thousand board feet of lumber. I find I get about 1,500 – 2,500 BF per side on each cutter. Depends on how much reclaimed material I ran. I think it’s far more time efficent to run segmented heads.

Posted: 5:01 pm on December 9th

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