Installing A Shelix Cutter Head

May 11, I decided that it was time to rid my 8″ jointer (Delta DJ-20) of its dull knives. I carefully removed the blades and found that they were hopelessly dull. Must have been that lignum vitae.

Rather than send the knives out to be sharpened or purchase new knives, I decided to spring for a spiral cutter head with carbide cutters. That afternoon, I ordered a Shelix (Shear + Helix) cutter head from the Byrd Tool Company in Kentucky. The 8″ long cutter head cost $449.00 US, plus $45 shipping for a total of $494.00. I was nervous about getting gouged by customs and anxiously awaited my order, which was shipped out by UPS.Well, yesterday, May 20, the Shelix arrived. To my surprise, there was no duties or customs fees.

The package was as durable as it was ugly – pine sides, 2x lumber ends, and OSB for the lid with drywall screws holding together everything.

I eagerly raced downstairs and unpacked the crate. Included were the cutter head, a screwdriver with a Torx bit, a case containing five spare cutters, and instructions for changing the cutters. The cutter head itself weighs 15 pounds, the same weight as the stock cutter head.

The first step was to remove the old cutter head. I took off the fence by removing the two locking nuts and washer on the underside, then lifting the fence off. Then I backed off the stops for both the infeed and outfeed tables, then lowered them as far as possible. I did not want to have to remove the tables. I removed the four bolts and their accompanying washers which were securing the bearing-housing blocks at either end of the cutter head. Then I took the drive belt off the pulleys. At this point, I could have removed the cutter head, but by first removing the rabbeting ledge, the job was made easier. With the knives removed, the cutter head barely fits out between the edges of the infeed and outfeed tables.

By the way, it would be wise to remove the set screws assemblies used to fine-tune the blade height before going too far. I somehow managed to lose four of the six.

Once I got the cutterhead out, I brought in into my bench room for disassembly. This assembly weighs 23 pounds, by the way. Before you begin though, take careful notes of how it looks now. Measure the gaps between the cutter head and the bushing-housing blocks, as well as between the bushing-housing block and pulley. Trust me on this. Also note the orientation of the parts and lay them out in the order they are removed.

For removal, I used a pair of like-sized, plastic-coated pry bars on opposite sides to balance forces. This worked surprisingly well and only took a few minutes to remove the pulley and both blocks. By the way, the pulley first needed to be unbolted from the end. One of the bearings came out of its housing block. No big deal. If this happens, reseat it with a piece of round stock of the same diameter as the outside of the bearing.

A key fitted to a groove in the cutter head’s shaft engages with a groove in the pulley to keep it from spinning. The key also needs to be removed and fitted to the Shelix cutterhead. Again, take note of how far the key protrudes and which way it is oriented (curved end in). I removed the key with light taps from a hammer.

Once everything was apart, reassembly began. I used a parallel bar clamp to press everything together. Note the wooden block on the left side. It has a hole bored into it to accept the protruding shaft where the pulley will go. The block of wood allows pressure to be applied to the bearing housing block to press it into place. I needed to use a great deal of force to press the parts together. Keep a close eye on the alignment to make sure that everything goes on straight.

Finally, I tapped the key into the groove and pressed and bolted the pulley in place.

To install the Shelix in my jointer, I needed to remove about a dozen of the cutters to fit between the infeed and outfeed beds. All that was left was to bolt down the bearing-housing blocks, reinstall any removed cutters, hook up the drive belt, replace the fence and rabbeting ledge and guard, and adjust the tables. The switch took about two hours and miraculously invoked no cursing or head-scratching.

Note:  I’ve been really happy with the performance of the Shelix cutterhead in my jointer and in June 2013, I installed one in my DeWalt DW735 Thickness Planer.  Watch the three-part video series showing the installation which starts here.