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Thread: convert Powermatic 221 to helical head

  1. #1

    convert Powermatic 221 to helical head

    I have a Powermatic 221 planer and I am wondering if anyone here has done the conversion to a helical head on one of these. How hard is it? How long did it take? How much did it cost? What brand head did you use?
    Stuart Kent
    Founding Director of the North Carolina Furniture School
    Robust, Rikon, Harvey, & Easy Wood Tools Dealer
    252-916-8226

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Bridgeport, Texas
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    88
    Canít answer all of your questions. I am just about to start down the same road you are. A friend is giving me a 15 inch Powermatic planer that he does not use and I am planning the same up grade you are. From what I have found out is that is seems the Byrd Shelix Spiral Heads is the Helical Head that most people use. It looks like they make heads for just about any brand of planner. Now how hard the change over is i a not sure and will be watching this thread to see if I can learn anything.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    West Lafayette, IN
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    5,438
    Stuart - thatís a nice machine! If itís got a grinder bar to keep the knives sharp some say thereís not much reason to upgrade. Regardless, cost for the Byrd head looks to be about $1700.

    Wade - thereís tons of information about swapping heads on a generic 4 post planer. Do some googling.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Wade Holloway View Post
    Canít answer all of your questions. I am just about to start down the same road you are. A friend is giving me a 15 inch Powermatic planer that he does not use and I am planning the same up grade you are. From what I have found out is that is seems the Byrd Shelix Spiral Heads is the Helical Head that most people use. It looks like they make heads for just about any brand of planner. Now how hard the change over is i a not sure and will be watching this thread to see if I can learn anything.
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Day View Post
    Stuart - thatís a nice machine! If itís got a grinder bar to keep the knives sharp some say thereís not much reason to upgrade. Regardless, cost for the Byrd head looks to be about $1700.

    Wade - thereís tons of information about swapping heads on a generic 4 post planer. Do some googling.
    thanks guys. I want to do the conversion but it will have to wait for a while. In the meantime I am looking for a grinder, my machine has the mounting bar for it.

    Wade, here is a link to the best video on the web about replacing the bearings which is the same as the conversion. It is long but the guy is thorough and explains it well. The process really doesn't look hard.

    powermatic bearing replacement
    Stuart Kent
    Founding Director of the North Carolina Furniture School
    Robust, Rikon, Harvey, & Easy Wood Tools Dealer
    252-916-8226

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Crystal Lake, IL
    Posts
    577
    I have the same planer, a 1957 221D. I keep my knives sharp, and I personally would never replace the head with a spiral head. No need. I get just about zero tear out in any of the North American hardwoods I work with, including very hard stuff like locust and persimmon. For noise protection, I wear ear muffs. I'd spend the couple grand on something else, unless you're a luthier working with extremely expensive, exotic, highly figured timber.
    Jeff

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Wade Holloway View Post
    Canít answer all of your questions. I am just about to start down the same road you are. A friend is giving me a 15 inch Powermatic planer that he does not use and I am planning the same up grade you are. From what I have found out is that is seems the Byrd Shelix Spiral Heads is the Helical Head that most people use. It looks like they make heads for just about any brand of planner. Now how hard the change over is i a not sure and will be watching this thread to see if I can learn anything.
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Day View Post
    Stuart - thatís a nice machine! If itís got a grinder bar to keep the knives sharp some say thereís not much reason to upgrade. Regardless, cost for the Byrd head looks to be about $1700.

    Wade - thereís tons of information about swapping heads on a generic 4 post planer. Do some googling.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Heath View Post
    I have the same planer, a 1957 221D. I keep my knives sharp, and I personally would never replace the head with a spiral head. No need. I get just about zero tear out in any of the North American hardwoods I work with, including very hard stuff like locust and persimmon. For noise protection, I wear ear muffs. I'd spend the couple grand on something else, unless you're a luthier working with extremely expensive, exotic, highly figured timber.
    Hi Jeff, how much wood do you run in a month? My planer sees as much as 30 hours a month. Do you sharpen on the machine or send your knives out? Do you run a 3, 4, knife or a quiet cutterhead? I've had this machine for a ling time and love it, but have always struggled to keep the knives sharp.

    I did find a grinder today and it will ship to me next week - I am hoping that if I start doing my own sharpening that I'll feel better about things...
    Stuart Kent
    Founding Director of the North Carolina Furniture School
    Robust, Rikon, Harvey, & Easy Wood Tools Dealer
    252-916-8226

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Hermance Helix Head

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Wade Holloway View Post
    Canít answer all of your questions. I am just about to start down the same road you are. A friend is giving me a 15 inch Powermatic planer that he does not use and I am planning the same up grade you are. From what I have found out is that is seems the Byrd Shelix Spiral Heads is the Helical Head that most people use. It looks like they make heads for just about any brand of planner. Now how hard the change over is i a not sure and will be watching this thread to see if I can learn anything.
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Day View Post
    Stuart - thatís a nice machine! If itís got a grinder bar to keep the knives sharp some say thereís not much reason to upgrade. Regardless, cost for the Byrd head looks to be about $1700.

    Wade - thereís tons of information about swapping heads on a generic 4 post planer. Do some googling.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy Warner View Post
    Hermance Helix Head
    Is that a vote? care to expand?
    Stuart Kent
    Founding Director of the North Carolina Furniture School
    Robust, Rikon, Harvey, & Easy Wood Tools Dealer
    252-916-8226

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Crystal Lake, IL
    Posts
    577
    I don't have the grinder for mine (still looking), so I have 2 sets of knives I rotate. Bobby at Woodworker's Toolworks grinds my knives for all my machines for me, and I do a final hone before installing them. I have no problems getting them installed within .001" of each other. 3 knife head. When they start to get a little dull, I hone them with a stone, in the head several times before switching them out.
    Jeff

  10. #10
    Just did a search on Hermance helix head and found their website.

  11. #11
    I have spent some time using a Powermatic 180 with a three knife head at my old boss's shop. I helped him switch it over to a Byrd head a few years ago. He is happy with it, and wishes he would have made the switch a long time ago. The one negative is it cannot remove as much per pass as it could with the straight knife head.

    I also have an Oliver 399 at my shop that has a three knife head. I would estimate I have put around 10k bd ft through my Oliver so far. Your results will vary, depending on what wood you are running.

    Red oak and clear beech have almost zero tearout for me, even with knives that are getting dull. Maple and hickory give me some problems. Anything rustic will sometimes tear out on one side of a knot or the other. There is another shop close by that has a helical head in their planer, and their results have consistently less tearout then what I have seen out of my Oliver.

  12. #12
    I found a grinder setup for mine so I am going that route - at least for a while. I'll update once it arrives and I get everything sharpened up. In the meantime i remain interested in hearing feedback on people's experiences with various scenarios...
    Stuart Kent
    Founding Director of the North Carolina Furniture School
    Robust, Rikon, Harvey, & Easy Wood Tools Dealer
    252-916-8226

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