What's the Trick for Loosening Planer Inserts?
Issue: Issue 319
Posted Date: 2/5/2013
I need a tip on loosening helical planer inserts. I bought a Shop Fox planer with helical blades. It was used five years using the original blade edges. The blades are held in with a T20 Torx screw. I have used a torch for heat, used loosening fluid and a variety of T20 Torx heads (attempting to loosen the inserts). I have ruined the tools, and have only been able to get loose and turn a quarter of [the inserts] to a new edge. Please tell me what technique works the best. - Tom Young
Chris Marshall: Tom, your timing on this question couldn't be better for me. Just last week I rotated all of the carbide inserts on the helical head of my Grizzly jointer, and I'll tell you what my solution is: buy a better quality Torx bit. A couple of years ago, I ran into the same problem you are having when I wanted to rotate my inserts for the first time. The Torx screws that hold them in place are extremely tight from the factory, and time and time again I literally twisted the tip off of the Torx bit attempting to loosen them. A few of the screws came loose, but most would not. After breaking a half dozen or so T20 bits I bought at the home center, I gave up in frustration. Then I discovered hardened Torx bits that are made specifically for impact driver use. Bingo! What a difference they make. The same bit is still intact after loosening and tightening all 40 screws on my jointer (and I didn't need heat or loosening fluid). The steel in the "cheap" bits is just too soft for the job. Buy an impact-hardened bit or two, and I bet your luck will improve.
Tim Inman: I'm not sure on this one. I'll offer a couple of ideas, though. First, it sounds like you've successfully extracted some of the cutter inserts. This would tell me you're turning the screws in the correct direction. Is there a "gib" or wedge holding the inserts tight? Sometimes these need to be pushed in the "opposite" or non-intuitive direction in order to get them to loosen. On my old 1903 Crescent jointer, the screws actually have to be turned in a "tightening" direction in order to push the wedges down and away from the blades. Turning in a "loosening" direction only brings the wedge up higher and tighter onto the blade. So, check to be sure that "loosening" isn't actually "tightening" your cutters. If that test passes, then what's up? Is there a thread sealant on the screws so they won't work loose? There are various brands, but LocTiteｮ or something like it is what I'm thinking. This would be a dirty trick played on you by someone installing those original cutters! All else failing, I would strongly suggest contacting the service folks at Shop Fox. I'm sure they could help you quicker and better than I can. They would know what's there, I can only guess. Good luck!