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.

16 thoughts on “Installing A Shelix Cutter Head

  1. Great tutorial. I just installed the shelix last night. I did found that using two clamps was easier for pressing and maintaining alligment of the bearings. I also had to modify the key a bit. One question, I checked the tables and head were coplanar with a dial indicator. However if I try to mill an 8″ wide piece, the wood gets pushed off the fence. I am thinking one of two things: the head is not coplanar with the tables or the wood or the shelix head is slightly narrower than the original head. Any thoughts?

    Jga. Ps. This same piece was a non issue with the original head

  2. Jesus,

    If I understand you correctly, when milling an 8″ wide piece, it remains flat on the tables but drifts away from the fence.

    A narrower head should not cause that and my only idea right now is to ensure that the cutterhead points the cutters towards the fence, which should draw the material towards the fence.

    Contact Byrd and see if they have any suggestions.


    1. Gaucho,

      If I am doing a lot of jointing, I hook it up to my 2HP dust collector. If I’m only doing a little, I just let the chips exit the chute and scoop them up later.


  3. would you see any difference on the install on a dj 15? from what i know its the exact same but smaller. I need to replace my knives and really just trying to figure out if its worth it or not. great tutorial

    1. The Shelix is an investment, and I would only consider outfitting your DJ-15 with one if you plan on keeping the jointer for a long time, rather than upgrading to a larger one, for instance. I like the Shelix for its reliable cut quality, long cutter life, and easy resetting of cutters. I am sure that you would see a difference, but you need to decide whether or not it is worth the cost.


  4. Quick question, I am considering purchasing an older 1 HP DJ 20 then replacing the head with a shells for total cost of about $1k, or just buying a jet jj8 for 2k that has a 2 HP, which would you do? Thanks gary

    1. Hi Gary,

      I would go for the DJ-20. My DJ-20 has a 1.5hp motor and I’ve never had an issue with lack of power. I have no problem recommending the setup I have, but don’t know how a 1hp motor would fare. I do like the parallelogram beds of the DJ-20. If needed, you could always get a bigger motor for the Delta and that will cost less than $1000.


  5. Thanks for the tutorial Chris. I think I just might go for a Shelix now that I understand what is involved in the install!
    Jesse Cloud

  6. I’m a volunteer in a high school wood shop. I’ve been tasked with installing a Shelix on the school’s DJ-20 (tomorrow) but had been unable to find any documentation/articles on how to do it and was starting to sweat a bit. Then I found this article. THANK YOU !!!

  7. Finally bit the bullet and bought a Shelix for my DJ-20. The installation was a breeze thanks to your excellent instructions. I do have one issue I’m trying to resolve right now that’s driving me crazy: The outfeed table is raised as high as it will go and it’s still slightly below the cutters – about 1/32″. I’ve been playing with the eccentric cam adjusters and am afraid all I’ve done is misalign everything. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  8. FOLLOW-UP: I figured out my problem. The bolt on the table lock lever was hitting the table casting and preventing the table from raising above the cutter height. I simply mounted a grinding stone in my Dremel tool and enlarged the opening a bit. Problem solved!

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