This article is a notice to the general audience: Please take heed. There is a lot of confusion regarding the phrases “helical head” and “spiral head.” Not quite long ago, I used the terms interchangeably. But it’s critical, in my opinion, to understand the distinctions between the two.
Therefore, what’s the difference between helical and spiral cutters? Most importantly, to cut through the material resulting in shaving removal, a helical head features cutting edges aligned with its helix.
On the other hand, the structure of the spiral head is helical in design; however, it strikes the workpiece at a 90-degree angle. As a result, it effortlessly sweeps up material from the wooden piece. So, what exactly does it imply? Without delving into great detail, we will explain to you the major differences.
Helical vs. Spiral: Similarities
First, you need to understand it’s common to use the word “spiral” in the wrong context. A helix is a staircase-like design encased in a cylindrical shell. It has a fixed radius. At the same time, a ramp that is encircled by a cone is known as a spiral. The radius of the circle is decreasing.
Remember the last time we heard anybody use the term “helical staircase” accurately. You can’t; nobody does. Words of geometrical shapes like this one tend to often cause misunderstanding due to their widespread application.
You will find almost all right angle and horizontal appliances are compatible with both helical and spiral cutter heads. It’s obvious some of you may get confused since there are so many similarities. But once we enlighten you on the dissimilarities, you will understand the differences.
Before we talk about the sharpness, both helical and spiral cutter heads tend to have stability over their work done on wooden slabs. More than anything, the sharpness of both cutters has no noticeable difference. If anything, it cuts through the workpiece effortlessly.
So far, all the spiral and helical cutter heads we tried were equally durable in construction — rest assured, both cutter heads will stand the tide of time.
Most of us are always on a budget; making money in this capitalistic world is quite hard. Therefore, these cutter heads are equally famous for their affordability in woodworking compared to other designs.
You may already know the better the cutter head, the smoother and quicker the cut. It’s a pleasure to let you know that both helical and spiral cutter heads can make precise cuts on your wooden projects.
We noticed both cutter heads use carbide teeth for superior performance. Hence, even after a long span of usage, there is hardly any deterioration on the carbide teeth of both.
Helical vs. Spiral: Differences
In the workpiece surface, the instruments that come into contact with the wooden material are referred to as cutting heads. Understanding the differences between spiral and helical cutter heads is critical to making an informed decision.
Spiral and helical cutter heads have distinct advantages and disadvantages, as shown below. And it’s time to focus on the differences.
The Anatomy of the Blades
The center shaft of a spiral model is ringed with numerous blades. You will find these blades on both horizontal and right-angle appliances. On the other hand, there are single blades coiled around the shaft of helical cutters like screws or bolts. Again, it’s compatible with both types of machines.
Spiral cutter heads have significant uses in situations where delicate, low-density workpiece material must be removed. At the same time, the blunt tip of helical cutters makes them better suitable for slicing high-density materials than other types of blades.
The spiral cutter has blades with a subtle angle with its helical arrangement. Also, the distance between the blades is consistent throughout, except the top edge, which stays near the workpiece material to provide support.
Conversely, helical cutter heads feature a regular spacing over the whole blade span, unlike other types of options. It begins close as the support for the workpiece material and progressively gets broader at the leading edge as it moves forward.
Execution of a Cutting Motion
In contrast to spiral cutters, helical cutters can cut deep holes. Through an inward movement, the lead screw removes the material from your workpiece in a spiral head. Your final product will have neat cuts preventing tear-outs.
Helix-shaped blades, on the contrary, forces material outward, pushing it against the surface of any hole being drilled. Although you may have to drill a pilot hole first but otherwise, the end result is almost the same as spiral cutters.
Resilience & Lifespan
The construction of spiral cutter blades uses tungsten carbide, which may shatter if not handled properly. Alternatively, the helical cutter head primarily utilizes superior-quality steel in its edges.
The fact that they both maintain the contours of the material as they are being carved implies that they are both reasonably long-lasting tools to have around the shop.
In my opinion, spiral cutter heads aren’t as precise as helical cutters. But in all honesty, fine precision work or the creation of molds from existing components or patterns necessitates using helical cutters. These tools can shave all the way to the tip of a design without harming it.
While spiral cutters won the accuracy contest, they failed regarding efficiency. Besides that, when cutting through thick materials, helical cutter heads allow for more precise and efficient material removal.
As a result, they may boost productivity levels when making components or designs for the same task several times.
Relieving the Tension
Undoubtedly, helical cutter heads are better at relieving the tension from pressure building up than spiral cutters. If anything, spiral blades tend to induce a shearing motion on its workpiece.
An increase in pressure on the workpiece might result in scratch markings, abrasion, and attrition on the leading edge.
Capacity to Carry a Heavy Load
Compared to helical cutter heads, spiral models handle more weight by incorporating additional contact points. As a result, spiral cutters use fewer blades to drill deep holes.
In comparison to helical cutter heads, spiral cutter heads have extended blade durability due to the organization of blades in a helical pattern proximal to the center of spin.
This phenomenon provides extra stability and inhibits the leading edge from bending. The helix-shaped arrangement of the cutting edges on each blade in helical cutter heads provides superior geometry and durability for smoother cuts.
Suggestions for Setup
You will find spiral cutters work best when positioned on a pivot bench or swivel. These cutters are also compatible with benchtop jointers, planers, and routers.
Additionally, you can place the helical cutters in a vice; tabletop swiveling units are also accessible.
Cleanup and maintaining it is much more straightforward because there is no cutting edge on a helical cutter head. Consequently, spiral cutter heads feature a blunt end that ensures the removed material but allows the opportunity for waste accumulation throughout the process.
Cleaning becomes a hassle with spiral cutters if you ask me. Because helical cutters contain blades that merge for stability, they offer an advantage over spiral cutters for making deep holes in rigid materials, such as metal.
It’s possible that spiral cutters don’t fall under this category. Despite this, their structure allows for a more refined finish because of their flexibility.
Helical vs. Spiral: Who wins?
There are benefits and downsides to using either cutter head. You have to consider your goal before deciding which method is best for you. In fact, materials with mild structure and less density, including plastic, are suitable for spiral cutter heads.
You should use a helical cutter head if the material you’re cutting is very thick or rigid. Generally speaking, jointers with helical cutters are a little more expensive than those that employ spiral cutter heads.
Shelix cutter heads, which are extraordinary creations that produce a superb finish, are an option you may consider.
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First of all, to cut more softly, use a helical head, which slices material instead of tearing it. Because it makes minimal early contact with the workpiece surface, the helical cutter keeps its sharpness for an extended period than a spiral cutter.
At the same time, a spiral-headed blade is preferable to a straight one since you can twist it if it becomes damaged. Besides, cutting motion is spread throughout the entire cutter head instead of concentrating on particular locations, making it quieter than a straight knife.
You have to weigh down your pros and cons and your preference if you are in a rut to choose between the two. Let’s hope you have the answer to what’s the difference between helical and spiral cutters.