I purchased this cutterhead after a friend had purchased one for his Delta 12" planer. and helping him swap them out. While doing the swap I could see the high quality of the Byrd head and the advantages of having the insert cutters. I went home and started doing my research and found not only the Byrd head, but Grizzly offers their version as well. I compared the ones available for my G1033, 20" planer and decided that the Byrd head was my better option. I did, however, download the instructional pdf file that I found on the page with the Grizzly versions' page.
It took less time than I anticipated to receive the head, guessing that it came from the Springfield MO warehouse, as it is only 400 miles away. I pulled the instructions up and began the swap. Somewhere I had read that the swap should take about 3 to 3 1/2 hours to complete.....I figured 4 to 4 1/2, as I had never torn the planer down to this extent before. The instructions were straight forward and very complete. I should have read the instructions through, before starting the swap, as I didn't realize that I would need to drain the gearbox and then replace the gear oil, so I had to stop and run down to the parts store and get some gear oil. The actual swap did take about 4 hours for me to complete. If I were to have to do it again, I could, more than likely, do it in that 3 to 3 1/2 hour time frame.
Upon completion, I turned the planer on and I almost thought something was wrong....it ran SO quiet. If I hadn't read how much more quiet these run, I would have absolutely thought something was wrong. It ran smooth with no vibrations. I first ran a piece of poplar through it as a test. The results were outstanding. Smooth finish, no tearouts (which I wouldn't necessarily expect on poplar anyway). I didn't need to adjust anything else either. I then decided that a real test was in order. I had some really hard and figured domestic hardwood that a local guy had given me. Not real sure what it was, but previous attempts at planing it resulted in huge chunks torn out....These from both my newly sharpened 8" jointer as well as the planer with the original straight knife cutterhead. My first pass was a very light one which resulted in no tearout where the jointer had already done it's attempt. Then several other passes which also resulted in a very smooth, no tearout surface. When I tried to plane these board with the old cutterhead, the machine SCREAMED as it tried, unsuccessfully, to plane them smooth. With the Byrd cutterhead, the planer cut smooth, quiet and without so much as a growl. I WAS SOLD!
The advantages didn't stop there. The way my shop is setup, I have an old (circa 1989) Grizzly G1029 chip collector (which I love dearly) which has always had trouble sucking the chips from my planer. The shavings were so big they had a tendency to 'ball up' in the chute of the planer, resulting in a back up. Honestly I had considered getting rid of the old G1029 for something with more power. The new cutterhead makes very small shavings and now the planer has no trouble whatsoever pulling them out and keeping the chute clear. A funny side note here, the other day I was planing some oak boards and in the middle of the run the planer started spitting shavings out the infeed aperture. I thought, "OK, it is beginning to regress". Then I thought, "I haven't checked the collector bag for a while, and I've done quite a bit of planing, maybe I had better check that first." Sure enough, the bag was so full, I'm surprised that it sucked as well as it did...never had I had the bag that full.
So in review, the Byrd cutterhead, is much more quiet, both in just sitting there running and under load. It cuts so smooth, it almost doesn't need sanding (OK, that's a little bit of a stretch, but not much). It makes my G1029 chip collector work better, by producing smaller shavings.
Are there any drawbacks? Sure. This performance comes at a price. The cutterhead cost nearly what my G1033 cost me 17 years ago....but not as much as the new G1033X would cost with a similar head. I wish Grizzly would post a link on the page for the Byrd cutterhead, the instructional pdf that is posted on the page for the Grizzly version. The instructions index the Grizzly head, but they are very generic and would work for any cutterhead swap. I'm just glad I did my due diligence, and happened to run across them. I link to the bearings would also be nice on the bottom of the Byrd cutterhead page. I had to really do some searching to find them and ended up calling a talking to a representative to find them. Also, they recommend, in the instructions, to replace the gearbox seal (and probably good thing to do...but I didn't, because I didn't have it) a link to that would be good, so that when you are gathering up the pieces needed, it is an easier and quicker job.
Would I do this again? Ahhhh, YES! If I turn back the hands of time, I would have done this 10 years ago. I've also ordered a Byrd head for my old Rockwell 37-315 jointer to claim the same advantages I received from my Planer, I had to order this head from another source, as I could not figure out on the website, whether or not I could get it through Grizzly. They listed several models, but my model was not one of those listed.
Sorry for the loonngg review, but I know that someone out there will appreciate the insight.