Troubleshooting Planer Performance with a New Helical Head

After you install a new helical insert cutterhead, you typically need to make other adjustments to the machinery before it will run properly. February 15, 2015

I have an industrial 13" Rockwell planer with a 5 HP motor that I just put a helical head on. The result was a great finish on the material but a complete loss of horsepower. So I installed a new Baldor 7.5 HP motor but with no noticeable effect. I can still only remove 1/32" of an inch without stopping the motor. Any feedback is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor T:
Something doesn't sound right. Not to be cynical but is everything put back together like it's supposed to be? Pulleys tight and belts good and you're sure it's the motors stalling? You should be using less HP.

From contributor M:
Helical carbide heads do use more power. I know this as a fact because I have used identical machines, with and without at multiple shops, and I own two. I have to call out the marketing claims that say otherwise. One theory and I will repeat myself that this is only a "theory" is that because they cut continuously (relatively speaking) the motor can't rebound from AC cycles that fall between knife cuts of a regular cutterhead.

With that being said, you will need to take lighter passes. However something doesn't sound right because I have a 3 hp motor on my planer (Delta dc380 upgraded with Byrd Shelix head) and I can certainly take more than 1/32" full width, using the slower feed setting (16 FPM). Running wide material at 30 FPM does cause problems. I would imagine that with a 7.5 HP motor on a 13" planer, that you shouldn't be having too much trouble. With that being said I have been very pleased with the helical carbide head I had installed in my planer. After thousands of board feet the inserts cut like new. If I could do it over, I think I would prefer conventional indexible knives on my jointer.

From contributor F:
What kind of helical head? If the planer stalls a 7.5 hp motor there's definitely something wrong there. Was this a Byrd head? My experience is also that the insert heads are not as good for taking big bites without really bogging the motor. However you should be able to take a 32'd off with a 7.5 hp motor.

From Contributor J:
Something to check is the pressure/feed roller adjustment. When I changed the head on one of my machines I ran into a similar problem and it was because of the helical was a smaller diameter. I had to remove the knives from the old head to get it out but the helical head fit through the bearing chase with the cutters installed. The difference in diameter means raising the bed to get a similar depth of cut which was putting way too much pressure on the rollers.

From contributor X:
I agree with the others, something else is going on. I have a 5hp Powermatic with a Byrd head. It will take 1/16" off hard maple or hickory without any hesitation.

From contributor M:
Also make sure the bushings for the infeed/outfeed rollers are oiled. I know people who have destroyed the bushings in planers by neglecting to do this over the years.

From Contributor U:
I agree on resetting all of the pressure elements that need to register off of the cutterhead. I had to dial these in to get best performance. The payoff aside from finding power is very little to no snipe. The Byrd head in our old RC-63 can take off 1/10" full width in most woods with a 7.5 HP motor.

From Contributor H:
When I put a Byrd Shellix head on my 12" Powermatic 100 planer we went from being able to take 1/4" off a 12" wide board to only being able to take 1/8". This is with a 3hp motor. That is a far cry from what you are experiencing though. I'd be looking for something else wrong in the bearing, belts, pulleys area.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the great responses. It is a Byrd head and very well made at that. Now that I know that there must be other issues I will proceed accordingly. This type of feedback is so helpful!

From Contributor C:
I have a smaller planer that I put the Byrd in. It's the Delta X5 15" 3hp. You do need to adjust the whole machine after. You might as well start with adjusting the head to table dead parallel, then the rollers and pressure bar. I still am taking big bites. 1/16 x15", but 1/8" starts to slow the motor. I went for a bigger planer shortly after but still kept it for crazy figure and or especially hard wood.

From the original questioner:
As a follow up: I have also discovered that when I use the machine for more than about 45 minutes the machine gets too hot and trips the overload protection. Seems to point more towards a voltage issue? It runs off a 3 phase rotary converter and my electrician says that the two hot legs are getting about 270 volts. He thinks the machine is compensating by reducing the amperage.

From Contributor H:
The motor is overheating because it is working harder to make the cuts - normal cause and effect.

From Contributor C:
I would agree with the Original Questioner. When the motor is working harder it is using more voltage. During start-up you will usually see a voltage drop. If you’re running rotary call Phase-a-matic, they make voltage regulators and boosters.