Angle-milling cylinder heads is one of the best ways to take existing equipment and make it work better. Almost all racers understand the concept-angle-milling is essentially decking a head on an angle so that more material is removed from the exhaust-port side than the intake side-but fewer racers understand the many ways it can be beneficial. "If it is done right, everything's a plus," explains Jonathan Leagon of Leagon's Racing Heads. "You stand the valves up, you improve the intake-port angle, you improve compression, right on down the line."

Of course, a good head specialist is going to make it sound easy. Essentially, it is. The toughest part is realizing that a good angle-milling job isn't just cutting one angle. Once you cut the angle on the deck of the head, you have changed the geometry of the intake face, the exhaust face, the valves, the bolt and cooling holes, and just about everything else. Once you understand how all these other factors are affected, you're on your way to more power without sacrificing durability.

Since everything is based on the angle at which you deck the head, that's the first to be cut. To start, you need to know how much you are cutting. You can usually get by with a couple of degrees without having to do major work to the bolt holes or moving the dowel pins and still get a good increase in power. Extreme angle changes require more work, including moving the dowel pins, recutting the bolt holes, and fiddling with the water passages.

Luckily, there's a simple formula to determine how much material must be removed to get the desired change in valve angle you want. The only information you need is the width of the head (the widest point that still makes contact with the block) and the desired change in the angle of the valve. The formula used is a simplified version of one requiring sine and cosine calculation, but it is just as accurate and tells us what we need to know.

A = Angle Change
C = Cut Depth

C = 0.0175 x W x A

So, if we had a Chevrolet 23-degree head with a maximum width of 7.625 inches and we desired to make a 1-degree change in valve angle (from 23 to 22), the formula would be:

C = 0.0175 x 7.625 x 1
C = 0.133

This value is the cut amount in thousandths of an inch. We should remove 0.133 inch of material from the exhaust side of the head, angled down to nothing at the intake side of the deck, to stand the valve up 1 degree.

Conversely, you can also use this formula if you know how much you want to cut and wish to know what the valve angle will be. Using the same variables, the formula is:

A = C / (0.0175 x W)
A = 0.133 / (0.0175 x 7.625)
A = 0.997 (or approximately 1 degree)

It's important to note that this change is always a reduction in valve degrees. Also, this is the same angle of change at the head's intake face. To make the head fit properly with a standard intake, you must return the intake face back to its original angle. Be aware that when you have done this, the intake will sit lower than it did before. If you are allowed by the rules, it's a good idea to go in and port-match the transition between the manifold and intake ports in the heads.