Poor man’s router

Someone recently shared with me a jobsite poor man’s router he uses regularly and I tried it out in an inspired moment recently. It’s made from a #14 (about 44mm shank it looks like) screw and block like the poor man’s beading-cum-marking gauge I have posted on in the recent and distant past. This is infinitely adjustable with screwdriver or screw bit in a drill-driver. Probably everyone knows about this except me, but there will likely be some of you that don’t. Here are my findings and resolutions.

I found that the screw alone didn’t work at all. No surprises there, rounded edges machined in every modern screw, but even when filed the flat head face of the screw with a file and thereby sharpened the rounded edges, I found that it clumsily stumbled in the recess. Analyzing the whole, I concluded a couple of issues. One, my expectation of a push-me-pull-you wasn’t realistic. The accuracy levels of hand filing the rim of a screw to lie perfectly level and parallel all around to a recessed surface wasn’t going to happen and if it didn’t the tool would be absolutely intolerant of any and all ineptitude on my part. Two, just as with a regular hand router cutting iron, the cutting edge could only cut effectively if the heel was higher than the cutting edge. Once this was resolved, the router became a highly effective cutting tool that readily developed a pristine cut resulting and a perfectly surfaced recess as good if not better than any developed specialist router plane.

Because the angled head is angled, and the cutting edge is only one half of the screw head, that meant that turning the screw for infinite adjustment would be compromised, but by slewing the stock of the ‘plane I found I could easily continue with my work even though I forfeited any alignment of my stock perpendicular to the length of my wood.

Oh, safety issues are your responsibility every time, so remove the excess screw point before use and don’t risk the palms of your hands.

4 Comments

  1. Howard in Wales on 27 June 2012 at 9:58 am

    A good review, Paul. I think that it was me that advocated
    the screw-router arrangement – inspired by something that my Grandad cobbled together.

    I usually cut the screw in half, so there’s no compromise on
    safety, but I did have one once with an extra-long screw that I put an old file
    handle on the protruding end – it came in handy for downward thrust, but I lost
    it long ago.

    Obviously they need sharpening, the average screw won’t cut
    straight from the box.

    Perhaps I should have elaborated on my method, so here goes:

    I run the screw head all the way in until it’s almost flush,
    but little proud with a drill-driver, then run a file over it to produce an
    edge. It may be necessary to tart up the
    underside of the countersink, again a drill driver and smaller file.

    I can’t say that I have had any problems with it cutting,
    providing that I’m not demanding an excessively deep cut in one go – this is,
    after all, a roughing tool. I like smooth-fitting tenons because most of my
    joints are draw-bored, so the next task is a good rub over with a float. Now
    THAT’S a good tool!

    Incidentally, I’ve also used your chisel method, with a
    slight twist – I have an orphan set of plough irons and the sneck aids getting
    them out.

    I should write about it in a bit more detail on my blog,

    All best, Howard in Wales



  2. Tone on 9 February 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Hi Paul. Rather than filing the heel & loosing much of the head (and thereby compromising the ability to adjust it with a screwdriver, as you described), could you instead simply drive the screw in at angle? That way the head with always be tilted but still adjustable.



  3. Andrew Sinclair on 21 November 2017 at 3:51 am

    A small suggestion: one could make the timber perfectly round so there’s no sense of operating diagonally as the screw is screwed in and out.

    One could even have a clock hand on top to point in the direction of the cutting face so you don’t lose your bearings 🙂



  4. Clem McGuinness on 22 November 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Paul
    I’d love you to do a video on this tool, making and using it. Thanks for all your great tutorials and tips.



  • Roger Browning on Cherry Is a JourneyThanks Paul! Ironically, I retired from the Georgia Forestry Commission. Yes our plantation planted pines do supply forest industry, however it's the hardwoods that are the gold. T…
  • Paul Sellers on Cherry Is a JourneyThen might you consider going outside of Georgia, USA. Go online, find a supplier. If I can buy beautiful Americsan black cherry right here as imported wood in the UK then you can…
  • Paul Sellers on Working Wood 1&2 AvailabilityThat's so kind, Kevin. Replicating what I have had as a lifestyle for most of my work-life does not mean giving up a paying job that supported in a different era but encourages peo…
  • Kevin Drevik on Working Wood 1&2 AvailabilityI wanted to purchase this both for its content and to help you fund the site. I really appreciate the videos and other information you've been giving away for free here. Thank you…
  • Roger Browning on Cherry Is a JourneyHere in middle Georgia,USA wood species other than pine is scarce. 3 fold that when searching for seasoned anything other than pine. Then when you get your hands on a piece of wood…
  • Paul Sellers on Working Wood 1&2 AvailabilityHard to say. I can say that they are two totally different animals if that helps, Stuart. One is a foundation course for traditional hand tool woodworking, and detailing how to mak…
  • Stuart on Working Wood 1&2 AvailabilityAlthough it will be bettered later this year, I might be interested in purchasing this older book. However, I would like to know how much overlap, if any, there is with your other…