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Modifying a Jointer Head

M.B. Naegle

Feb 7, 2011
Conroe, TX USA
One of my home projects is I'm restoring and outfitting an old Boyce Crane Handisaw. While primarily a light duty table saw, they also sold a bunch of different attachments for them making it something akin to an early Shop Smith. Without delving too far into the debates on multi tool machines, mine is missing all of the attachments and I'm happy to reproduce it all from scratch using the old catalog photos for reference, with the end goal of putting some old iron back to work doing small home shop tasks.

One of the primary attachments available was a kit to use it as jointer, utilizing a separate cutout in the table (one of their marketing points was being able to rip and joint without changing setup). The jointer head was a simple arrangement sliding onto a 3/4" shaft and locking with a grub screw (no key). It's a narrow 2" jointer and I can make one if needs be, but I'm wondering if there's something available that can save me some time? Any off the shelf jointer heads in that size? It seems that the standard straight blade heads are frequently for sale as guys upgrade to inserted blades, so I'm thinking about maybe cutting one down. Assuming I go with an old Craftsman, Delta, etc.(?), before I buy something I can't use, how hard are jointer heads typically? In addition to turing down the length on a lathe and chopping the blades to size via radiac saw, I will likely need to bore it out and add a set screw through the side, so if the body is hardened that complicates things.
I've worked on, and made pocket and wedge gib cutter heads.
They are not significantly hardened; though i might care to use 4140 prehard for stability if i had to buy the steel anyway (as opposed to wonder metal from the scrapyard, which i have used. These days they can at least shoot it for you to determine spec)

OTOH, the easiest heads to set up and machine are insert heads. Though you might have to make the angle edge cutter to machine them. That said, i've made perhaps a 1/2 dozen in various configurations that stack and interlock on the shaper. Have not made a head that takes multiple rows on one body, yet.

You did not mention the diameter required? I have a 2” wide (50mm) insert head for my shaper with a 1.25” bore and 4” od. If the od is correct for your needs that would be perfect for a small jointer. I suspect though that you might want a slightly smaller od and those should also be available down to about 2-1/2 or 3” maybe. It is not a huge job to make such a small cutterhead if you have the machines to do it right.
Anything better than mild steel would be fine, 1045 would be a decent choice and is readily available. No need for hardening.

Years ago in grade twelve I made a 9” jointer out of wood from plans in fine woodwork (I think). I made the cutterhead myself in the metal shop on the milling machine and it is still running! A light tap on the outfeed table to adjust it from winter to summer was always needed.
Diameter is the question. If close to some stock head where the knife pocket and gib would work, cutting to length and boring would be pretty easy. Otherwise maybe some 3/4" bore shaper cutter would work.
With the table adjustment, I have some leeway on the diameter, but it looks like 4 1/2" would be ideal, or a little more. I'm going to take another look at it though. The spindle is stationary in the frame so to adjust the blade height the table tilts front to back.

I'm not at the computer where I have pictures of the machine saved, but I have a thread going over on OWWM Here. I'll post some pictures of the jointer set-up here too. It's very basic. The infeed and outfeed table's are flat plates bolted directly to the main table, using the difference in plate thickness and shims to set height differences between infeed and outfeed, and the whole table tilting up/back sets the jointer head height.

It'll be tricky to use for big or long pieces and is better suited for small work.
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Reading your post reminded me that I had this lying around.
This is a Shopsmith jointer head. It is about 2 1/2 " long by 1 3/4" n diameter with a 1/2"arbor hole.It has a set of recently sharpened knives. with it.
Could this be modified to fit your machine?


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    Shopsmith jointer head.jpg
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Reading your post reminded me that I had this lying around.
This is a Shopsmith jointer head. It is about 2 1/2 " long by 1 3/4" n diameter with a 1/2"arbor hole.It has a set of recently sharpened knives. with it.
Could this be modified to fit your machine?
Thanks, but I think the diameter won't work. The 4 1/8" dimension above is with the table totally bottomed out. Really it'll need to be closer to 4 1/2" though to give room for adjustment and blade sharpening.
4 1/2" is pretty big diameter for a 3/4" bore.
120mm is about 4 3/4", pretty sure something off the shelf could be found , but the bore would most likely be 30mm, or 1 1/4".
Here is an aluminum insert head from Amana, 120mm x 1 1/4" bore x50mm wide.
Sliding on a shaft and holding with a grub screw is obviously not going to work with a 3/4" to 1 1/4" bushing.

Maybe someone here can advise on using a 4"+ diameter head with a 3/4" shaft-
Seems a bit sketchy- I watched a guy run a 2" radius carbide tipped bit on a Delta shaper with 3/4" arbor and it shook like a hound dog shitting pumpkin seeds. The rattling was so bad I took a long coffee break in another building.
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I read somewhere that a good jointer speed is around 4500 rpm. Since its an older machine and the same arbor is primarily running a smaller diameter table saw blade (6-9"), I'm using a pulley selection to run it at 3500 rpm. Would that help the larger jointer head issue?
Funny -
I have an old deWalt shaper head for a radial arm saw, and it is a fair chunk of steel, maybe 2" wide x (maybe?)5" dia, - with a 3/4" hole and an additional bushing for 5/8" arbor. IOW, DeWalt was willing to swing it, so to speak.
I'll look later in the day what the actual size is in case it's useful; but it takes corrugated back shaper steel. I was going to bore it and use on one of the shapers.
Reading your post reminded me that I had this lying around.
This is a Shopsmith jointer head. It is about 2 1/2 " long by 1 3/4" n diameter with a 1/2"arbor hole.It has a set of recently sharpened knives. with it.
Could this be modified to fit your machine?
Odd. I also have one of those and thought of it too. Maybe we'd be better off selling them on eBay. Lotta Shopsmith freaks around, evidently.
I was wrong on a number of accounts.
Cutterhead was made by Disston.
I was told it was intended for radial arm saws.

Hole size is 3/4", the bushing in it for use on 5/8" arbor appears to be a piece of water pipe swaged in by a PO.

Cutterhead body OD is just over 4-1/4"
With knives, the cutting circle can be from about 4-1/2" to maybe 4-3/4" given that it will swing profile knives with similar projection.


The body is 1.50" thick, most of the knives are 2" wide.
Except for the smaller width straight knives, there are no full sets - this was apparently often used for single knife short run profiling with other similar knives in the remaining pockets to balance, and set low enough to clear the actual cutting profile.
That thing has a very high hook angle- wonder how bad it chips out?

"eyeballing" it, looks to be what 25 deg? Bigger radius but similar to most split collar set ups?
I'll have to measure - of course the angle changes with knife projection.

I climb cut a lot of stuff, just to square edge it. Semi-exotics and tropical wood. So one of the shapers usually has a 3" tall, gibbed, planer style head that i made a few decades ago, and it gets used to dimension and square the edges of stuff like flooring border parts, where there are "many" feet that have to be exactly the same size, and uniformly square. I've been doing that the past few days, actually; and the lumber: Tasmanian myrtle, holly, wenge, and bloodwood have been tearing up the HSS knives. Still have the ebony to process. One of my thoughts for the head was to bore it, make/fit stellite bits, and use it for that purpose. High hook angles are something of an advantage for climb cutting, or at least not detrimental.

It's unlikely here to get used for profile cutting (mouldings) as there are too many good legacy options

You could use an insert head, or buy brazed carbide knives?

I'm currently torn between my natural tendency to use every project as an opportunity to make more, better tools that would save material and get the job done faster with less effort. And the actual need to get this somewhat complex stuff done and ready for friends who keep threatening to show up for the install....

So getting by with insert cutters i made closer to 3 decades ago, and hand sharpening HSS knives on the 12" jointer, and the planer.

Longer term, or when the jones gets too strong to spend time in the metal shop :) , i *think* it will be relatively easy (given the corrugations for location) to make a set of cartridges to hold inserts that are closer to 3/4" wide, (18mm? 20MM?) that i bought at the same time as the 14mm i made all the other stackable cutterheads for.