As usual, click any photo to bring up a larger version.
My jointer is a 6" Delta X5 model 37-866x. I bought it brand new in 2005. It is virtually identical to several other models of jointer. In fact, the manual that came with my jointer listed two different model numbers, even though it was sold with my 37-866x. The fact is, there are only a few factories in asia that make all the jointers sold by various tool companies, so most jointers are quite similar to each other.
My jointer is in good shape: The motor is fine. The stand is solid. The cast-iron tables are dead flat. The fence is also dead flat and works well. The guard works. And the power switch was just replaced a few years ago. So on the whole, it's fine, and even though it is almost 20 years old, it should last another 20 easily.
But I hate the cutterhead. It has a original 3-blade cutterhead. I just find that setting and adjusting the blades is a huge pain in the neck, which means that I rarely touch them. At the time of filming, the blades were on the dull side, in need of sharpening, and had several knicks in them. I just avoided the knicks as much as possible by sliding the fence over, and when I could not avoid the knicks, I just lived with the results.
So I'm replacing the cutterhead.
I am going to replace my old cutterhead with the Lux Cut III helical cutterhead. It has 28 carbide cutters, each with four cutting sides, arranged in a helical orientation. The blades are aligned at an angle so that they provide a shearing cut. Another similar cutter head is the Shelix brand.
My cutter head was provided by MyWoodCutters.com. But they did not pay me to make a video or article. They don't control what I am saying here, or in the video above. In fact, since I am located in Canada, and they ship from the USA, I still had to pay Taxes, Duty, and Brokerage fees for getting it over the border. (This worked out to a bit under CAD$100)
Mywoodcuters.com sell both the Lux Cut and Shelix brand of cutter heads for both jointers and planers. Their website lists dozens of options for various models.
It is solidly packed in a wood and cardboard box, wrapped in plastic and cardboard for protection. In addition they provide a set of 10 extra replacement cutterheads, and some torx-head tools for removing and reinstalling the carbide cutters.
The kit does NOT come with printed instructions. There are some online instructions at the mywoodcutters website However, I mostly followed the guidance of my jointer's manual. The jointer was originally shipped partially assembled, so the manual has assembly instructions for my jointer, which I followed in reverse!. I also referred to some other youtube videos of upgrades, in particular the one from the underdunn youtube channel for a Ridgid brand jointer. Note that at the time I did my upgrade, I could not find any video or website that gave instructions for a Delta x5 jointer.
The actual upgrade is pretty straightforward, and I completed it in an evening. So it took me about 2-1/2 hours, and that was WITH pausing to film the process for the above video. I suggest watching my video for more details on that process.
The jointer seemed to work at first, but I discovered that I was getting pretty nasty snipe on the back ends of my test boards. This indicated that my outfield table was a bit low, as you can see in this photo.
I found another online video from Lincoln Street Woodworks that gave some simpled suggestions for tuning the planer, which I followed.
In brief, the method is to take a very heavy cut for about 3 inches on a piece of wood, and then back it up. Then turn off the jointer, and position that board (I cut 3 boards to have multiple checkpoints) and use it to adjust the outfeed table up until it is touching the board. So in this photo, I need to adjust the table up to eliminate that small sliver of a gap that my finger is pointing at.
I made a bunch of test cuts before and after doing the upgrade.
NOISE: The new head is audibly quieter while cutting, and give more of a smooth noise, vs a "growly" noise previously. Now, I am still always wearing hearing protection, but a reduction in noise is still nice, because I have a basement shop, and my family is upstairs. With the original straight blades, I was measuring in the mid-90s, so around 95dB while cutting, but with the new helical head it was about 5dB quieter, so it only peaked about about 90dB.
WATTAGE / POWER CONSUMPTION: Wattage usage went up. With the straight blades I was getting readings of about 11-1300 watts on my Kill-A-Watt meter while I was cutting. With the new helical blades it was using around 13-1400 watts and would regularly peak at 15-1600. Also, I glanced over one time and saw the meter briefly spike to 2000 watts. Note that these tests were all with boards that were about 5-6 inches wide, so it was a pretty heavy cut.
I had read that a helical head does have a slightly higher power draw, because with helical shape, it is cutting 100% of the time. So the head is always under load while cutting. Whereas the old cutter head would have these little "micro-rests" for the motor between each blade striking the wood. So yes, it does seem to draw a little more power, but I could not notice any actual change in effort for me to push wood over the blades.
BEARINGS: This is a minor point, but I did appreciate that the Lux Cut head came with new bearings already installed. Other replacement cutter heads do not offer that.
FINISH: This is impossible to convey in a photo or in the video above, as it's mostly a tactile thing. And of course, my straight blades had many knicks and were getting dull. So it is no surprise that I found the finish to be amazing. The maple and ash finished like glass. The Cherry that I tested had some figure, and the walnut also had a knot in it. So they did not finish like glass, but still gave a very nice finish. The Spruce 2x6 was interesting, as it gave a perfectly jointed surface, but to the hand it felt a little fuzzy. Strange.
But of course, it is still a jointer. After jointing, I usually take my boards to the tablesaw or some other tool for further work. IN OTHER WORDS: You still need to sand your projects. Sorry. But also you would want to sand anyways to remove glaze. Some people experience some scalloping, but I did not see any.
One very important tip that I learned was that if I wanted an even better finish, is to slow down the rate at which I feed the boards over the jointer. This results in more cut-per-inch, which gives an even better finish.
To me the most important thing is that I essentially should never have to deal with knicks in my workpieces ever again. If I knick a blade, all I need to do is loosen the cutter, turn it 90 degrees, clean off the mounting spot, and then tighten it back down. The company tells me that carbide lasts on average ten times longer than steel knives, and each carbide knife has four cutting sides.
My end conclusion is: I love it, and wish I'd done this long ago. I love that it is a bit quieter, I love the finish, and I love that the blades can be easily removed and reinstalled.
I did find it interesting to compare prices. I checked a number of online tool stores in Canada and the US for jointers. For most brands, I noted that the price premium of a helical head jointer versus a regular head jointer is basically equivalent to the price of the helical head upgrade kit on it's own. Given that the upgrade was really not that hard, I think that if your jointer is otherwise fine, then an upgrade is what I would suggest.
If you want to check this out and consider one for your shop, you can visit MyWoodCutters.com. (That is NOT an affiliate link.)