Insert Cutterheads for Finish Planing

      Despite their advantages, spiral insert cutters may not be suitable for finish planing for glue-ups, according to some users. November 13, 2005

I just put a Byrd Shelix head on my 20" Grizzly planer. The noise and tear-out reduction are fantastic but in planing stock to be glued into butcher block, the subtle striations translate into thick glue lines or even tiny gaps. Has anyone out there figured out a way to deal with this? Is it possible to fine tune the cutters somehow, even on just a short section of the head?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor R:
I've heard of this happening before. As nice as the Shelix head is it's not the cure all it's advertised as. It's typical to leave small linear marks with any type of index tooling head. Some are more pronounced than others such as the non Shelix. We use such a head in our moulder and it's not suitable for glue-ups by any means.

From contributor J:
I don’t think these type heads are suitable for finish cuts. The Leitz catalogue says their HeliPlan spiral insert head is not suitable for finish planning. This head is similar to the Byrd. Three years ago I was shopping for a S4S machine and new planer. I tested some of our boards on machines with different type heads and ended up going Tersa. I was disappointed in the finish surface of helicoil and one piece spiral knives.

I think the advantages to these heads are the power and noise reduction and they are better for rough planning. A lot of molders you see this type head on the first spindles but usually followed up by straight knives for the finish cuts. The wide belt sander – planer has these also because the sander cleans everything up.

Normally everything out of the planer is wide belt sanded so it’s not a huge issue. But we do a lot of face gluing for door parts right out of the S4S and planer. And a lot of edges we don’t like to sand, so for us the Tersa type is a better system.

From the original questioner:
I want to update my experience with the Shelix. I'm actually very happy, and for me it's very, very close to a "cure-all". The glue line issue I had mentioned about is, I now think, more due to use of Titebond 111.

I make end grain cutting boards, and they're made by stacking planed glued up boards, and crosscutting, revealing a grid work of glue lines. I couldn't tell the difference between boards made with conventional head and Byrd, despite my anxiety over it.

It is true that one can feel the irregularity of the boards’ surface but these scallops, maybe .003 at most, don't under most circumstances anyway, translate to objectionable glue lines. It’s not the best for woods that aren't tear prone to quickly bring to final finish, but if you have a widebelt a pass or two with 120 cleans to perfection.

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