Planer Upgrade (DW735 + Shelix)

This is my DW735 planer from Dewalt.

This is it’s 3 knife cutter head that it comes with.

And this is the Shelix cutter head upgrade made by Byrd Tools. As you can see the shelix head has a series of smaller carbide inserts. Each insert has four cutting faces so if they get dinged up or just lose their sharp cutting edge they can be rotated 90 degrees to show a new cutting edge.

I’ve got a bunch of hickory cutting board blanks that I glued together some time ago and never planed them because hickory seems to dull the straight knives really quick. These will be good sacrificial material to run through the planer before and after the upgrade to not only see how the cut surface compares but also to measure the noise output of the planer.

Each of these cutting boards is about 10” wide and for consistency sake I marked the face and direction for the straight knife cut and the shelix cut.

This is my setup to measure the noise output. I downloaded a sound meter app on my phone and used a clamp in my leg vise to hold the phone in a constant position about 5 feet from the planer. I’m not sure if this is the correct distance to measure and I’m not sure how accurate the sound meter app is but in this case I really don’t care because I’m trying to get a relative reading and not an absolute reading.

It’s also important to note that one revolution of the depth wheel on this planer will remove 1/16” of the material thickness.

To document the noise levels I have the camera positioned so that the planer depth wheel, sound meter, and whatever cutting head that is not installed can be seen.

With just the air conditioner running in the shop I’m getting a reading of 19db.

With the air conditioner and the air cleaner car running I’m getting a reading of 54db.

There will be a lot of redundancy if I continue showing pictures to show the results so instead I’ll show a results graph in just a minute. Check out the video if you want to see the live readings as material goes through.

After taking readings of the factory cutter head a friend and I started disassembly. I’m not going to cover the entire process for installing the new head as it’s incredibly easy and already well documented online.

There are two different diameter shelix cutter heads for this machine. The larger diameter is the same size as the factory head and requires each carbide insert to be removed prior to installation and the smaller diameter is 1/16” less than the factory head and it can be installed with the carbide inserts already installed. That means the factory depth indicators, that I never used, are off by 1/32″. This one is the smaller diameter. Once the new head is in everything is repeated in reverse.

My first impressions with the machine were that it sounded like the motor wasn’t struggling as much with the hickory. There was a noise reduction as you can see from the chart.

It’s really hard to show surface cut quality on camera. The knives on the factory cutter head were relatively new so I was expecting a decent cut quality from them but I know just how quick those blades get dull. On this hickory the straight knife cut and the shelix cut looked identical but the shelix cut felt slightly smoother to the touch. The hickory ended up not being as good of a test as I had hoped for.

So to test something different I ran a piece of curly maple through the planer after the shelix was installed. I know from experience that the original three knife setup leaves a surface full of tearout on curly and figured wood.

The results definitely made me smile. I could not find a single area of tearout on the board even after running a few different passes changing the depth of cut.

Conclusion

There’s three main upgrades when installing this shelix cutter head in the DW735.

  1. Better cut quality on difficult to plane woods.
  2. It’s not as obnoxiously loud when cutting. This helps but isn’t a huge concern for me as my dust collector is louder anyway.
  3. Longer blade life. This is the biggest thing I’m looking forward to. I’ve owned this planer for about 5 years now and I don’t want to even calculate the amount of money I’ve invested in replacement blades. The blade life has been my #1 complaint since day one with this planer.

LIKE WHAT YOU'VE JUST READ?


Join thousands of other people and sign up for my email newsletter to get notified of new content and updates.


I won't share your information or send you spam. You may unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
Hey, you're already subscribed to my email newsletter. I thought you looked familiar ;)

27 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a significant reduction in snipe that you noticed since the upgrade alone? That seemed to be a common complaint in this planer (which I also own) without having to implement workarounds like feed table adjustments, feeding angularly, oversizing cuts by two inches in each ends, etc

    • I also have a snipe problem. I’ve done everything up to and including leveling my outfield tables with a piece of plastic coated MDF. Wondering the same thing you are.

      • I’m surprised by this. I bought my DW735 from Grizzly a few months ago when they had a deal to get the tables and an extra set of knives. At bought the OEM sized Shelix head at the same time and installed it immediately. I only ran the machine under no load for a few minutes with the Dewalt knives to make sure the machine was OK. I then installed the Shelix head, which took a few hours since I did it alone and had to remove all of the carbide inserts and reinstall them. (I used a torque wrench to ensure consistency.) I was prepared to fiddle with extension tables, adjustments, etc. to chase snipe. I have had no snipe except for some really hard to detect burnishing, with one exception. I ran a relatively narrow piece of pine for some fixture or something that had a pronounced bow in it. It was not a critical part at all. So I was just sticking it in the planer to clean it up, not paying attention to the orientation or anything. I fed it in concave (so that the bow raised the ends up), if that makes sense, and held it flat to the infeed table on the infeed end. So the infeed roll and the cutter grabbed it pretty aggressively. This resulted in very bad snipe. My fault of course, not the planer or cutter head. No damage to the head or inserts since I’m still getting dead smooth surfaces since then. As Jay experienced, I can feed in any wood (the ones I’ve tried anyway) in any direction with very smooth finishes, no snipe, and no tear out. I am not affiliated at all with Dewalt or Byrd by the way. Not bragging or gloating here at all since I did nothing special to get to this point. Maybe i just got lucky on the Dewalt factory setup. Glad you did the install Jay! Thanks for all of the great videos. I’m fairly new to woodworking and have learned a ton from you.

    • It’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade. I did it a year ago (because I am recycling maple hardwood flooring and flat knives do *not* last) and have been very satisfied. I even made a quick diagram showing cost over time of the shelix vs HSS blades vs carbide blades. It didn’t take long for the investment to pay off.

  2. I’ve had my eye on the DW735 for some time now and was anxious to see your review after your mention of having received the Shelix. The question now is, do I go with the 735-Shelix combo, or shop for a $1,000 planer. Any opinions?

  3. Chief, have you looked into Cutech? Their planers use a spiral-ish cutting head (not quite a Shelix), and have gotten pretty constistent good reviews from buyers. I won’t go into the history of the company, but check them out if you haven’t yet.

    Jay, good write-up and summary. Since power tools are typically a long-term investment, helical/spiral heads seem to make good sense. I would be very interested to see if the Shelix blades can be resharpened, not to mention the plausible longer blade life. It would be interesting to see a break-even analysis long term.

    Any idea how much $$$ you’ve sank into replacement blades from DeWalt?

    • Alan, you don’t sharoen the inserts, each one has 4 indexed faces so as they dull you simply loosen and turn them. Once all faces are done you replace the inserts. More expensive than a set of blades but each face will last supposedly 20x longer than blades.
      I think it’s $130 for a set of 40 inserts, but think of it. They have 40x the life of straight blades.

      • I don’t have any direct experience with either the DeWalt 735 or the Shelix. I’m a wood turner and it looks like the Shelix blades are the same type of carbide cutters I’m used to using. What many woodturners do is once they’ve gone around to each cutting side (360 degrees) is they will use a diamond card or diamond plate. The side to be sharpened is placed blade down after sliding it around so all four sides get sharpened the cutter is placed back in the tool and works like new once again. I have to wonder if this isn’t the same kind of issue here. It’s worth a try any with potential for saving $ and prolonging the life of your blades.

        • I’ve considered doing this. The only critical thing is ensuring a perfectly even fit on every blade to avoid uneven planing. I’m a good way off from needing to do it yet though.

    • I got the 8in spital cutter benchyop jointer from cuetech and have been very impressed with the finish, especially for the price

      • I’ve been looking seriously at them (Cutech) and unless something else drops from the sky, when I am ready to purchase it will most likely be a Cutech

  4. For standard volume measurement take the reading at 1 meter. That will also give the time/volume before you are liable to suffer hearing damage from exposure so is useful to have. I’m surprised you only had 7dB difference, but at distance the SPL drops logarithmicaly so they will tend to get closer with distance.
    The closer reading is more important as well because that’s where you are standing.
    I found when planing yellow pine, Walnut and maple I could now barely hear the cutting above the blower so it’s a huge drop.

  5. You didn’t mention the cost of the Shelix knives. I’m guessing they are more expensive than the straight blades, but we would like to know by how much. What is the basic price of the DW735? And the Shelix blade package? By how much is your investment in the planer increased by the cost of the cutters? Is DeWalt aware of the problems with cutters as delivered (of course they are)? Does DeWalt offer the option of purchasing the planer with Shelix cutters?

    Your video and article would be much improved by including this information. Most of us wear hearing protection when running power equipment so the sound levels are not really significant unless sound increases overpower commonly used ear protection gear.

    • I think you missed the point of this article/video. I wanted to provide results on the upgrade and hit the high points on what is actually upgraded, not determine if it was a good buy or not. That depends on you and how you value the results.
      -The cost of the shelix upgrade will depend on what time you buy it. You can click the link in the article to see the cost at any time.
      -The cost of the DW735 depends on your location and what time you buy it. You can easily search for that information.
      -I stated that the shelix upgrade was sent to me by a longtime community member. That means I did not buy it. My investment did not change.
      -Is DeWalt aware of the poor consistency on their replacement knives? I’m not sure. Most likely so due to how long this planer has been manufactured and the numerous other people I’ve read of complaining about short blade life.
      -I stated in the article that this cutter head upgrade is made by Byrd Tools. I have no idea if DeWalt would offer the option of purchasing the planer with the upgrade.

  6. Jay, one thing that I didn’t see in the article was a mention of the fact that the smaller diameter head affects the depth of cut. Good thing to know for anyone considering which one of the Shelix heads to buy. I went with the OEM diameter head and longer install time in order to maintain the original depth of cut. But I realize this one was a gift. Congrats on the upgrade!

  7. Thank you for the review. I have the same planer and was considering the upgrade curtter head too. I probably will now … another question does any one get a build up of static electricity from the dust hose. I have mine connected to a short run of flexible hose that attaches to metal duct work. (Like all my shop machines). Anyway it doesn’t happen with any others machines including the joiner that attaches to the same “Y” section of duct work..I’m not concerned with fire or combustion but I am tired of getting shocked.. hoping someone may offer a solution or answer. Sorry not on topic of the cutterhead……. thanks in advance

    • Ralph, try running a thin bare copper wire through the inside of your piping, it will will provide some grounding for the static. 16 ga. braided is plenty large enough and plyable. Attach at the connection ports and dust collector.

  8. You’d think that Dewalt, with ALL it’s planer owners having the same, ONE AND ONLY complaint about this unit would get smart and offer this upgrade as an option from the factory.

  9. Great write up. I’ve been considering this upgrade as well as the knife dulling so quickly has been annoying me as well.

    One thing that would be nice to know if you still want to do testing is AMP draw with each cutterhead using a killowatt meter or something like that. This would definitely prove if the motor is struggling less with one cutterhead vs the other

  10. Jay, is there a particular tutorial online for the install process that you’d recommend? One you found useful?
    Thanks, appreciate your video.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here