Now that Axminster’s new Trade Series planer thicknessers are available with a spiral cutter block, we look at the benefits of them and whether they are worth that extra spend.

Spiral cutters have been something of a phenomenon of late in the world of woodworking, starting off as an idea that many people mocked but now established as a viable alternative to standard HSS and TCT planer knives.

The new spiral cutter block from Axminster has four rows of TCT cutters, which are machined to a radius of 102mm. This coupled with how they are set on the block, means that a shear cut is achieved. Woodworkers all know that a shear cut is better than a straight cut, especially when using hard woods as the action provides virtually no tearout. This means that extra time and money spent on further work is reduced greatly.

Saving time and money is a recurring theme with the spiral cutters. The four sided TCT tips last up to 20 times longer than normal HSS planer knives. Also, if you hit a nail or a hard knot in the wood, just quickly rotate one or two of the inexpensive tips to a fresh edge and you are ready to go again. Once you have used the whole tip you very simply replace it, no need to re set them like normal knives!

Extraction also benefits from this new block; as the large chip space means that there is excellent removal of waste, the smaller cutters also create smaller chips, filling up your waste sack at a slower rate and stopping you from having to empty it as often.

A final economical point is down to the shear type action of the new cutters, which create much less friction on the workpiece. This not only means less effort needed by the machine to push the workpiece through, but also lower stress placed on the cutter block when cutting, giving you a power saving of up to 30% and greatly reduced running costs.

The ‘pièce de rèsistance’ of arranging the knives in a spiral configuration is the considerable noise reduction. Due to the unique geometry of the block, the perceived noise exposure is lowered by up to 50% increasing safety standards in your workshop. If you are one of the many people using your planer thicknesser in your garage or home workshop, you are much less likely to disturb the neighbours.

As always with the ups there must be downs, although in comparison to the benefits of the spiral cutter blocks these are quite minimal.

Firstly, the initial outlay for a planer thicknesser with a spiral block is around £400 more than one with standard knives.

Secondly, there are also question marks over the finish; with the tips being made of Tungsten Carbide, the cut is generally perceived to be of lower quality than achieved by a fresh set of HSS knives. In this instance ‘fresh set’ is the optimum phrase, as after a few cuts the finish will be more or less the same. The tungsten carbide will maintain the same finish for a very long time.

In summary these new cutter blocks would be a welcome addition to any workshop. With less time spent setting up and replacing knives and less expense on buying new ones which would lead to far better productivity. For the discerning hobby woodworker, these may seem like a large outlay at first but if you can afford one, then the benefits in the long run will far outweigh that cost.

Certainly for the professional woodworker or those involved in large batch production, these are a no brainer.

  • Matt Black

    I have a 168 planer thicknesseser which I bought in Jan 15, will the spiral cutter head be available as a retro upgrade

    • Craig Hastie

      I’d be very interested to find that out the same about the 106 bought about the same time.

    • Josh Ledger

      Hi Matt,

      Sorry for the late reply this comment has slipped through the net. Unfortunately the spiral cutter block cannot be retrofitted to any previous models as these are from a different manufacturer. If you would like any information on our current models please do not hesitate to contact us. Thanks, Josh

      • Mark Naylor

        Does the previous model list include the AW106PT2 as well?

        • Mark Smale

          Hi Mark,

          The AW106PT2 was made at the same manufacturer as the AW168PT, and therefore (unfortunately) is included in the list of models that can’t be retrofitted with the spiral cutter block. The spiral cutter is new to us and we are looking to develop further but for the foreseeable future it won’t be available for any of our older models.

          Sorry I can’t be of anymore help. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.

          Thanks, Mark

  • dobbo

    There are a couple of companies in the USA that manufacture Spiral cutter blocks for hundreds of different makes and models of Planners and Thicknessers . They can even manufacture to order if your machine is not one of the current models they make. Not sure if you have to send them you old knife block or just give them the specifications. Tigra is a German company that manufacture the knives and other cutting tools however they don’t seem to make the blocks themselves. Many of the cutter blocks are manufactured in China but are fitted with the Tigra cutters.

    One company is Bryd who manufacture their Shelix brand ( Shear/ Helix ) The Shelix cutter start from about $475 to over $1,500
    depending on the size, no of wings and cutters. Of course you will have to pay Duties and Vat on top.