Upgrading a Dewalt DW735 Planer to a Shelix Cutterhead

I’m just going to put it out there: out of the box my Dewalt DW735 was a huge disappointment, and it continued to disappoint me through two years, hundreds of board feet of stock, and multiple blade replacements. I finally convinced myself to invest in a Shelix Cutterhead. This post documents the experience.

Why I Purchased the Shelix Upgrade to my DW735

From the day I bought my DW735 about 2 years ago, I was disappointed in it.  The blades that come pre-installed wear out quickly. Fortunately I knew this at the time of purchase, so I immediately picked up a pack of carbide-tipped replacement blades. The carbide blades are expensive and, while they don’t lose their edge as fast as the factory blades, their performance wasn’t much better. My DW735 fed slowly, burnt the face of my work, often stalled out and tripped breakers, and all this while taking off an absolute minimum of material.

This is what was left of one of my planer blades when I took the cover off the machine.

This is what was left of one of my planer blades when I took the cover off the machine.

Then there was the blade shrapnel incident. While hogging through a not-particularly nasty knot, about a third of one of my planer’s knives went flying. I had a replacements on-hand, but just knowing that this was a possibility put me incredibly on edge every time I fired up the machine.

About a week and a half ago I decided to start building my Roubo workbench.  The top of a Roubo workbench is made by laminating a bunch of hardwood into one beefy rectangle.  It was a joke to think my planer could handle the job as-is, so it seemed like the right time to upgrade.

Installing the Shelix Cutterhead in the DW735

I purchased the Shelix Cutterhead from Amazon and it took about four days to arrive (one day ahead of schedule). I didn’t bother recording the installation because there is already great content available.  Byrd (the manufacturer of the Shelix) provides PDF-format Shelix Installation in a DeWalt DW735 Instructions on their website. Fellow YouTuber Chris Wong recorded his entire installation in a three-part video series, the first of which is included below.

I must be some sort of planer modding savant, because the installation took me about 45 minutes,  about half the time I’ve heard from others.  The one piece of advice I have to offer is this: order snap-ring pliers when you order your Shelix. There are three snap rings that need removed and re-seated during the process, and you’ll spend more time trying to remove them without the proper tool than you will for the rest of the installation.

How the Shelix Cutterhead Performs in Practice

My DW735 with it's new Shelix cutterhead.

My DW735 with it’s new Shelix cutterhead.

After installing the Shelix I sent a piece of white pine through the planer just to verify that I hadn’t accidentally built The Mangler. No one died and the test piece came out smooth, quietly, and far faster than it would have with any of Dewalt’s blades.

I decided to do something that would have been laughable before: I started planing the top of my Roubo workbench.  I glued two pieces together, let the glue cure, then planed them.  Next I glued 4 pieces together, let it cure, then planed. Finally I glued 8 pieces together: that’s 4″ thick x 12″ wide by 96″ long. I think I actually heard the Shelix laugh at me for ever thinking this would be a problem. My work came out smooth, flat, and with no burn marks.  Using the Dewalt 13″ blades, the unit would have tripped the breaker in seconds.

Summary

Upgrading my DW735 planer to the Shelix Cutterhead made the machine a pleasure to use and allows it to produce the sort of results that I had hoped for when I bought the planer. It’s simple to install and the process is well-documented.  If you’re not satisfied with the performance of your Dewalt DW735, I highly recommend investing in a Shelix before dumping the planer for a different model.