Not so poor man’s router – really works!

A more refined ‘not-so-poor man’s router.


This is my suggestion for a simple but more advanced not-so-poor man’s router that comes from a small scrap-sized piece of harder wood, oak, (could be softer wood like pine or poplar too) 5-6″ long and using only a 1/4″ diameter Allen wrench (hex key US) and a slot-headed, threaded bolt.





I first drilled two holes in my blank; the first one, a 1/4″ diameter hole centred in the length and 3/4″ from one of the long edges. The hole goes all the way through to the other side.  The ¼” diameter hole for the wrench should be fairly snug with little slop room.






The second hole, 5/8” diameter, overlaps the opposite edge and is centred 1 3/8” from the same long edge as the ¼” hole. This 5/8” hole is more a sight hole and leads to a second 5/8” hole yet to be drilled to form an escapement for shavings and easy clearance. Stop the drill ½” from the bottom edge.



The second, horizontal hole allows me to see the router cutter and its cut in the housing recess.



As you can see, I ground off the bottom half of the hex key and at a slight angle upwards towards the heel of the wrench. I used a grinding wheel (bench grinder US). This allows free passage in like manner to thoroughbred engineered models. I then ground the top bevel at around 30-degrees to establish the cutting edge.





In this case I used a regular threaded bolt with a thread diameter slightly bigger in diameter than 3/16” to allow securement of the cutting iron at any desired depth and provide future adjustability. I drilled a 3/16” hole through the back of my blank and into the vertical ¼” hole. This allowed me to use the bolt to tap the wall of the hole.

I drilled the second 5/8” diameter overhanging the bottom edge of the blank into the previously drilled 5/8” hole, centres in the ½’ remaining material beneath the vertical hole.

Scallops either side of the cutting iron on the back edge makes the use of the plane more comfortable.


  1.  A suggestion for an improvement would be to ad an extra locking mechanism as shown in the attached picture. It is a simple addition and it does really improve the performance by making sure that the adjusted depth doesn’t change.  

    1. Simply and effective. That I like. I haven’t found the touter cutter to slip at all and many of the STanley and Record mini routers have the simple screw locked onto the back in the same manner. The addition suggested there is a positive lock though. Thanks for that.

  2. Paul,

    Did you do any heat treatment to the steel? Several different forums I’ve looked at for hand routers all suggested it but it looks like more trouble than it’s worth.

    1. Simple enough in my case. of course allen wrenches made by different companies will not have consistent steel alloys and so treatment may need different methods for hardening. I simply shaped on a grinding wheel and then heated and plunged in cold water. Fast and effective. I didn’t do any annealing and found the steel took an edge fine on diamond plates as usual.

        1. Grinding heat is too unpredictable. I am a ‘cherry red’ and plunge man and have been all of my working life. A good coal fire if possible and a torch from time to time. In this case a propane torch.

  3. Hi Paul I have just made one of these this afternoon to cut out some half laps to repair a garage door frame I made it the same as yours but with one end about 9″ to overlap onto the joint. The thing is brilliant such a time saver and so accurate thank’s very much. definately well worth the time to make it.

  4. Mr Sellers I am very apreciative of your method of teaching and your ‘on screen’ persona. You have created a chicken and the egg problem for me however. Picking the ‘not so poor mans route” and the ‘shooting board’ projects to start with this weekend, I have to decide between making the router first to trim the dadoes on the shooting board? or the shooting board to trim the end grain of the router base?? I’m kidding of course ( I know they ends of the base of the router base don’t need to be sqaure) but I am on my way to our local Lee Valley tool shop to add to my collection of chisels – which I will be using your method of sharpening to bring up to snuff. Kind regards, Brian, Edmonton AB
    and thank you again for sharing what you do

    1. Thanks Brian,
      Happy tool hunting at Lee Valley, but remember to make your list BEFORE you go and buy ONLY what’s on the list.

  5. Made one today. Slightly bigger, 8in wide and used 8mm allen key. Added a tapped brass plate screwed to the back to help hold the locking screw. Not used in anger, but worked great on a test piece. All it cost was time.

  6. Having been pleased with my homemade router i am now thinking of making a smaller version using brass for the body. i don’t tend to draw ideas, but do work things through in my head by makingthem virtually.

    Idea so far is a 3mm thick brass plate as the base. Attachedto this a 20mm square brass bar, using counter sunk machine screws. The brass bar will be drilled to take the allen key cutter and a machine screw in a tapped hole at right angles will hold it in place. For a small one I will, I think, simply notch the base plate so the cutter is visible.

    If this is a success I think i will make a larger one with a more elaborate base. I have all of the materials, so the only cost will be time.

  7. I made a hand router and gave to my son as a Christmas gift. It came out pretty well and I was really proud to give him a tool that I had made myself. Thank you!

  8. Many thanks for the inspiration Paul. Always enjoyed working with wood but until now I have never really had time for any serious projects. Going to have a go at the hand router /granny’s tooth. The many thanks. The videos are great too

  9. I found grinding the allen wrench so that the sharp edge was exactly parallel to the plane body was difficult. My first attempt had the one corner of my blade about 1/2 mm out of parallel. My brother suggested making a jig by drilling an appropriate size hole in a flattened 2X4 along with a holding screw. This hole has to be canted slightly so when you are done grinding on your diamond stone, the sharp edge is slightly angled down form heel to blade. I then put two spacers on either side of the diamond plate and slowly lowered the allen wrench and ground it perfectly parallel to the bottom of the plane.

    1. I used the router itself as the grinding jig. Also, my brother is a retired machinist. He made his blade for this router just with a file, and it was accurate. But filing skills like that take a lot of practise!

  10. Hi Paul, I have just finished making one of these out of a piece of scrap birch worktop. First trial housing was fantastic, better than a powered router would do. I have to say thank you for all your videos. They have helped bring back my love of woodworking, taught me alot of things I didn’t know already and reminded me of the skills I had forgotten. Thank-you for the inspiration.

  11. Thank you so much! I have been filling my time with making your poor man’s tools. i was able to heat treat the cutter from what i learned watching the poor mans spoke shave!

  12. Greetings Paul. I enjoy making and using hand tools, in particular the ones that don’t cost much to make. Here in Florida USA we stay in our shops during the summer the same way people in colder climates stay in all winter. Either way, these projects are a great way to avoid “cabin fever”. Thank you!

  13. Today I finished my little router, based mostly on your design, with the exception of the blade clamp. The blade, made from a hex key (5.5 mm) I had made about half a year ago, but didn’t get to making the body of the router till today. Actually , I had made a body back when I made the blade, but half way during the making it split. Other projects got higher priority so the little router remained unfinished till today.

    I made the blade clamp out of a bit of M6 stainless steel threaded rod. Cut a small slot in one end of the rod with a hacksaw to hold an M6 stainless steel washer and silversoldered it in place. A wingnut (with a large washer under it) provides the clamping adjustment. It’s basically a smaller copy of the clamping screw as is common in larger wooden router planes.

    Using the router is a joy. I’m very, very impressed with the performance of this little contraption. And adjustment goes amazingly smooth, just a light tap with the hammer on the top of the hex key/blade. I’ve also added a depthstop to make cuts to a repeatable depth.

    Only regret is not having made it earlier. The sheer fun of using it and the smooth bottoms of the dados it makes leaves me baffled. It certainly won’t be the last router I make. The desire for a Stanley #71 or #271 has now become much, much less.

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