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Spiral VS Helical Cutterhead : Major Differences Discussed

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When you are working on a woodworking project, it’s important to have the right cutterheads for your machine. The two main types of blade cutters are helical and spiral. Though both types can get the same job done, there are some notable variances between them.

Having an understanding of the differences between spiral vs helical cutterhead can assist you in choosing the right cutterhead for your application. Keep reading because we are going to compare and contrast spiral and helical cutterheads.

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What are the Similarities between Spiral and Helical Cutterheads?

What are the Similarities between Spiral and Helical Cutterheads

01. Both spiral and helical cutters are available on horizontal machines.

02. They both work well on their sharpness and stability.

03. Both spiral and helical cutterheads are durable, long-lasting tools you can count on over time.

04. Helical and spiral cutters are both more affordable than other types.

05. Spiral and helical cutters both offer quick, efficient cuts.

06. Both have carbide teeth that last a long time, with little or no discernible wear even after an extended period of use.

Let’s Talk About Spiral vs Helical Cutterhead

Let's Talk About Spiral vs Helical Cutterhead

Cutting heads are the tools that interact with the material during the cutting process. It is important to understand the difference between spiral and helical cutterheads. Here are the differences between spiral and helical cutterheads:

01. Blade Arrangement

Spiral cutter heads have multiple blades that are placed around a central shaft. The spiral cutter head blades are straight positioned in a spiral around the shaft. On the other hand, helical cutter head blades are positioned in an angled manner so that they form a helix around the shaft.

02. Structure

The spacing between the blade is uniform except at the leading edge where it extends closer to support the material being cut.

Helical cutterheads have a uniform spacing along the entire length of the blade. It starts out close to support materials and then gradually becomes wider at the leading edge.

03. Application

Spiral cutter heads have primary applications in areas where there is a need to cut soft, low-density materials. Helical cutters are more suited for cutting high-density materials since they are blunt on the leading edge.

04. Durability

Both types are quite durable. However, spiral blades have a longer blade life and can withstand more wear and tear. The helical head type, on the other hand, is slightly less durable than the spiral head type.

05. Cutting Action

Helical cutters can be used for deep holes, but spiral cutters cannot. Spiral cutter heads use a lead screw to drive the blades in an inward motion against the material to be cut. This is what generates revolutions and provides lift as it cuts through the material. The result is a clean cut with no tear-out.

Helical cutters use a rhombus-shaped blade to drive the material in an outward motion against the wall of the hole being made. This is what generates revolutions and provides lift (and therefore speed) as it cuts through the material. The result is also a clean cut with no tear-out, but it may be necessary to drill a pilot hole first.

06. Tolerances

Spiral cutters are not as accurate as helical cutterheads.

Helical cutters are best for fine detail work or when making moulds of existing parts or patterns that need to be reproduced accurately. This is because they have the ability to cut right up to the edges of a mould or pattern without damaging it.

They are also more accurate compared with spiral cutters which often need support blocks for added strength at the edge of the material being cut.

07. Productivity

Spiral cutters are less productive compared with helical cutterheads.

Helical cutterheads are faster because they have the capability to make deep cuts in material while removing less of the material being cut.

They also leave a smooth finish, which can lead to increased production speeds when producing parts or patterns repeatedly for the same job.

08. Pressure Reliefs

Spiral cutters produce a shearing action on the material being cut. This can lead to a build-up of pressure at the cutting surface which causes friction, burn marks and blade wear.

Helical cutterheads have more contact points with the material being cut compared with spiral cutters, so they give better support for the material, preventing pressure build-up and leaving more space for the material to expand. This leads to superior finishes on parts, which also means less rework during production.

09. Load-Carrying Capacity

Spiral cutter heads have a greater load-carrying capacity compared with helical cutters because they have more contact points, which means fewer blades are needed to cut deep holes.

Helical cutterheads have fewer contact points than spiral cutters but far more than an end mill or a router bit, so even though each cutting edge works harder, it’s still less than with spiral cutters.

10. Tool Life

Spiral cutter heads have longer blade life compared with helical cutters because the blades are arranged in a helix that is closer to the centre of rotation. This gives them more support and prevents flexing at the cutting edge.

A helical cutterhead has a greater tool life, but not as much as a spiral cutter, since each blade contains multiple cutting edges, which are arranged in a helix to provide a better geometry for ensuring smooth cutting.

11. Installation Considerations

Spiral cutter heads have to be mounted on a swivel or pivot bench which enables them to follow the contour of the material being machined. Spiral cutters can be found on benchtop jointer, benchtop planer, benchtop router, etc.

Helical cutters can be mounted in a vice which is faster and more convenient for setups, but benchtop swivelling units are available for this purpose as well.

11. Maintenance

Helical cutterheads are easier to clean and maintain since there is no leading edge. Spiral cutter heads have a blunt edge that helps support the material being cut but leaves room for debris build-up during use. This makes them more difficult to clean out, which can cause problems if not done on a regular basis.

Helical cutters are also much stronger than spiral cutters because they have blades that interlock for stability, giving them an edge when it comes to cutting deep holes in dense material. This may not be the case with spiral cutters. However, their structure makes them more flexible which guarantees a smoother finish.

Which Cutterhead is Better?

Which Cutterhead is Better

When it comes to choosing between spiral and helical cutterheads, the decision really depends on the specific needs of the job at hand.

Both of the cutterheads have their advantages and disadvantages. In general, spiral cutterheads are better suited for jobs requiring a high degree of accuracy and clean finishes, while helical cutterheads are more productive and are capable of handling harder materials. 

Remember that helical cutterheads are more expensive than spiral cutterheads, so if you have a limited budget, spiral cutterheads may be a better option. 

The spiral cutterhead blade is easy to change and set up. In contrast, the cylindrical cutterhead is more difficult to set up than the spiral cutterhead.

However, spiral cutterhead blades cannot be resharpened. In actuality, both cutterheads are highly functional in their own way.

Therefore, taking each difference into account, you will be able to select the most suitable solution for your project. As a result, your project will be carried out in a more efficient and professional manner.


Spiral vs helical cutterheads are both very useful in the right situation, but it is important to know when you should use one or the other. We hope you now understand the difference between spiral and helical cutterheads.

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