Installing a Shelix Jointer Head

Spiral cutter heads for jointers and planers have been gaining popularity over the past several years. These heads utilize a large number of carbide inserts rather than the typical two or three high-speed steel knives found in traditional cutter heads. In addition to the greater durability of carbide compared to HSS, each insert has four usable edges, so if you nick one, rather than having to resharpen a whole knife, you just rotate that one insert (or eventually replace it.) No more trips to the sharpening shop, an important consideration when it’s 2+ hours away. Below are the steps required to replace the head in my 8″ Woodtek jointer. This is a pretty generic Chinese import beneath the green paint, so the method probably applies to a wide range of import models. Byrd Engineering, the maker of Shelix heads, offers an 8″ head for these generic Chinese jointers. The main issue is whether you need the metric variant or not. The Woodtek does use the metric version.

First step is to unplug the machine. (You presumably knew that.) The inserts on the cutter are extremely sharp, so you will want to wrap the head with masking tape to protect your fingers when you’re handling it.

Now that the preliminaries are done, remove the fence, the bracket for the fence, and lower the infeed and outfeed tables as far as they go. Remove the belts from the pulley and the pulley from the shaft. Take care not to lose the square key that locks the pulley to the shaft.

The bearing blocks are held in with nuts that are underneath the body of the jointer. On my machine they required a 14mm wrench.

Once you’ve removed the two nuts, you can lift the head and the bearing blocks. You now have to remove the bearings from the shaft. This may be difficult without the right tools. I happen to have a 20 ton arbor press, which made pretty short work of the job. I hung the bearing block on two pieces of angle iron laid across the press and pressed out the shaft, taking care not to drive it so far that the head dropped on the floor. A gear puller is an inexpensive alternative if you don’t have access to a press. If you don’t want to deal with this step, you can buy new bearings when you buy the Shelix head. Compared to the price of the head, they’re pocket change.

With the bearing blocks removed, it’s now just a process of reversing all the steps, starting with pressing the bearings onto the new head.

Now place the assembly in the jointer body, reattach the pulley, the fence bracket and fence, and raise the tables back to their normal positions. There’s no shortage of guides on the web about aligning the outfeed table to the cutters and the infeed to the outfeed.

Wildlife Friendly Fences

Last spring the Forest Service fenced the road that runs through our property. It’s a fairly standard four-strand barbed wire fence. In spite of our requests (and the recommendations of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, a sister agency to the Forest Service), the fence was not constructed in a manner to facilitate safe passage by wildlife. The easiest way to achieve this is to use smooth-strand (“barbless”) wire on the top strand. The fallback is to cover the wire with PVC pipe. Since the fence was already strung, adding PVC requires slitting the pipe so that it can be slipped over the wire. I expected to see a variety of postings about this on the web, but found none. I came up with a very simple solution for slitting large amounts of pipe on the table saw. A simple box-like structure aligns the pipe to the blade. It’s a simple matter of just pushing the pipe through about as fast as you can. The blade is completely enclosed, making this a very safe solution.

Splitter/riving knife at the back of the fixture keeps the pipe from rotating as it’s fed.

The Windmill (Part 1)

As mentioned in the previous post, Elaine bought Sonya’s old windmill with plans to install it over one of the old wells on the property to pump water for a wildlife stock tank. The windmill will need some sort of footings, so the first step in site prep was to pour 12″ diameter, 3′ deep concrete footings.

The windmill site is about 1/2 mile south of the house, out on the end of a “hogback“, a usually steep-sided ridge formed by erosion. There is of course no electricity or water at the site, so everything is loaded into the pickup – a generator, cement mixer, 1260 pounds of concrete sacks, four 5-gallon buckets of water, a 55 gallon drum containing about 40 more gallons, and assorted tools – shovels, post-hole digger, level, … . Finally, a template for locating the anchor bolts.

A truck-load o’gear

Here’s shot of the site, behind the truck. (Why behind the truck? Because I took the picture after we were done.)

The well site

It’s a pretty bumpy ride, smashing through the sage. The shot below shows what we have to navigate to get back to the road. Directly below the RAV4 the bank slopes at about 40°. Behind the RAV4 the slope is gentler, maybe 20°. I drove mosty across and somewhat down the slope. After doing it a few times it stops feeling like the truck is going to roll over.

I had help on this job from John Rohr, who helps around the ranch, mostly with Elaine’s garden and other nasty/physical jobs. I had the holes half-dug before John came up. He helped finish the holes and helped with all the mixing and pouring. Even so, it took almost five hours on a pretty hot morning.


We used 12″ sonotube and three lengths of rebar in each tube. I tried to tie the triangular arrangement but it was such a mess that I ended up welding the rebar – it was much faster and a lot more rigid. The top of the old well is centered between the footings. The “sucker rod” is free enough to move by hand (with a fair amount of effort – you’re pulling up 40′ or so of rod). A 2″ galvanized pipe runs about 100′ down the hillside (to the right in the photo) to where the stock tanks must have been.

A few days later I returned to the site to check on everything. I walked up the spine of the hogback from the direction of the main road, a path I hadn’t taken before. About 10 yards short of the footings I stumbled on some relics of the past. No idea what they are other than some sort of long-forgotten machinery. One piece has “McCormick” cast into it. If this is the same McCormick as the inventor of the mechanical thresher, that company was bought out by International Harvester in the early 1900s.

Wrapped Around the Axle

About two years ago Elaine bought Sonya’s old windmill, with plans to place it over one of the old wells on the ranch so that it could pump water for a stock tank for wildlife. Ever since then we’ve been trying to get one of the local well-maintenance people to move the windmill from Sonya’s, repair the pump in the well, and erect the windmill. Finally last week one of the drillers came by and committed to completing the project. The first step is for us to install footings for the tower. These will be cast concrete, three feet deep. I started digging the holes for the Sonotube forms on Monday. The well is about 100 yards off of the side road that crosses the ranch and required some “cross-country” driving to reach the well. Although I detoured around the old fencing, there apparently was a cache of old fence wire buried in the brush that I driving over. The wire wrapped itself quite thoroughly around the right front axle and the drive shaft as well. After trying various approaches to removing the wire I finally grabbed my angle grinder and put a cutting wheel on it. I was able to separate the wire into two large chunks that I could pull out over the hub. (I had already removed the wheel.) Needless to say, future visits to the site involve a more careful search for residual wire.

The cut chunks of wire.