Powermatic also knows how frustrating knife setting can be. Its 15HH model comes with a helical-style Byrd cutterhead, equipped with 98 carbide inserts that fit into indexed pockets. Here, not only do you get the convenience of preset cutters, but also the added bonus that each of the tiny square inserts are sharpened on four sides. When those nicks happen or the edge dulls, just unscrew the insert, give it a quarter turn to the next razor edge, and screw it back down. Powermatic even provides a Torx screwdriver and 10 extra inserts.
The helical design creates a shear cut, rather than the chiseling action of straight knives, and boy does it work well! Planed surfaces were pristine. And you won’t find the characteristic tiny washboard pattern left by conventional knives. My digital sound meter revealed that the 15HH runs between 10 and 15 decibels quieter than the other straight-knife planers. In a home shop, this is a nice perk.
Powermatic’s 15HH comes fully equipped with casters, chip hood, cast-iron tables and two-speed gearbox, but that dandy Byrd cutterhead boosts the sticker price to well over two grand. Still, if this is the last planer you ever buy, I’ll bet you’ll never regret spending that extra cash up front.