Router Planes in Wood Work Well

I most likely own two dozen router planes. I feel almost ashamed to say that but we use them for classes on two continents. Actually I have more when I add in the tools I have left in my US storage after my 23 years living in the USA. These planes, router planes, are indeed essential to my woodworking even though I can function perfectly well without them. When we did the series on building the workbench on my YouTube channel in 2012, I introduced the poor-mans router and of course it became a real hit with everyone because it could do what any of the metal-cast routers could do and more. In a recent exchange of views on bench planes a comment was made about the tolerances between some router planes, about the slack in the adjustment mechanisms of older Stanley models compared to high-end makers. I smiled when I read it because what I am about to tell you is that tapping with a hammer for adjustment will most likely cause some to grimace when I say that tapping planes for minute adjustment matches the accuracy of a turn of a screwed thread on threaded-rod mechanism any day once you get used to it.

DSC_0021Of course my poor man’s router does seem perhaps, well, a little crude, but you know what, it really does work and works well. In fact it will leave a level surface as good as the very best of router. You can see what I mean here on the bench build. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing go to around 11.30 on the video clip to see it working out so invincibly. There is another video on this that you might enjoy, as it shows the whole of making and using one if you have’t followed how we do it. We want to equip you for working wood and these methods work.

 

What I want to introduce you to is the user-made router from the late 1700’s that were made by craftsmen all the way through to the 20th century. This router is made from a piece of chestnut, but any hardwood will work. I have had them in oak, walnut, cherry, ash, hickory and even pine. This router works exceptionally will. It adjusts easily with a tap of the steel or hard plastic hammer and keeps you progressing through your projects when you don’t have one. Using the tenoning method I show on the bench build opens up all kinds of possibilities for guaranteeing your tenons coplanar alignment. You can indeed make longer versions of the plane body if you intend to use the tool for tenons or wide recesses for such things as inlays and so on.

 

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This plane is made from a single block. The holes for the blade and wedge are bored through and then shaped and refined with a chisel. In this case I use plough plane cutters from my Marples or Sandusky plough planes. As a lad this was standard procedure as almost all the men I worked with had old wooden plough planes in their tool boxes. But they also used just regular bevel edged chisel too. They simply had two wedges to cater to the opposite taper chisels had to plough plane irons.

16 Comments

  1. Bill Schenher on 9 January 2014 at 12:35 am

    I have to say I laugh about the “slack” in the knob thing too. I have both 1920’s Stanley planes and Lie-Nielsen planes. They all have that, the LN has less, but it is still there. And, I do use a hammer to adjust my planes when needed as well. Doesn’t matter how well something is milled, after you use it day in and day out for a while you notice these things. Parts begin to wear over time, it is unavoidable.



    • Ed on 12 January 2014 at 4:40 am

      Since I am the one that made the original comment about slack, please allow two clarifications. First, I was talking about a brand new Stanley 71 that I purchased a few years ago and was not commenting about the older, vintage router planes. Any comments about the vintage ones are not really relevant. Second, I am quite familiar with dealing with backlash in a thread. Those clarifications having been made, it was my experience that the casting and fabrication of the _new_ Stanley 71 that I bought a few years ago were so rough as to make the tool frustrating (at best) and perhaps impossible to adjust finely even after a lot of effort to clean things up. Backlash itself is not a problem and is to be expected in any thread. Sloppy stick and grab mechanisms, though, are just sloppy stick and grab mechanisms whether they have a threaded knob or not.

      If you are endorsing the tools made a couple years ago without trying one, then perhaps be careful in your endorsement. Perhaps they aren’t even available new anymore or they have fixed the problems or I got a particularly bad one. I am clarifying because I fear the planes are available and that these positive comments which are really about the older router planes are being made by those who have not used the newly manufactured planes and a woodworker might be disappointed if he or she bought a newly manufactured one.

      I fully endorse the suggestion of hitting the new 71s with a hammer, at least the one I had.



      • Paul Sellers on 12 January 2014 at 4:28 pm

        I have found more expensive models that slip and stick as well as all other models, but actually you do get used to things and tools especially, the more you use them and you learn to tweak things to absorb the failure of different makes and makers. I would like one with a tighter shallower thread so I could move everything finely, but it hasn’t happened so far. I haven’t really found threaded models more efficient than tweak-with-the-fingers models or tap-and-go models particularly, but I do tend to reach for my Preston and Tyzak (identical models) most of the time, followed by Veritas small router too.
        As to Stanley planes, and Records for that matter, manufactured in the past three decades, I cannot endorse any of them. They have all lost something and especially the kind of quality we once knew them for. Old models on eBay are the ones for me. I just pulled a 50-year old plane from a



  2. Matthew collicott on 9 January 2014 at 1:55 am

    That’s the same type of router I have and I never thought to use chiesles for different sizes needed. Great tip!!!! One thing I’ve notice is the best lessons are what I call tricks of the trade that you never learn in books but from people who actually do it.
    Thanks for this one.



  3. Steve Massie on 9 January 2014 at 6:19 pm

    My main user is an early Stanley #71 used with LV set of irons, works well. I also have LV’s small router in which LV is coming out very shortly with a stop coller.

    I did make the “Poor Mans” router that Paul graciously showed us how to make and use it. I did in fact use it on my bench build which is the one Paul shows us how to build with common “Borg” 2 X 4’s, it performed flawlessly.

    Steve



  4. george glover on 9 January 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I’m looking to buy my first router plane. What would you suggest?



    • Paul Sellers on 9 January 2014 at 11:28 pm

      You do have a choice. I heard recently that Staneley and Record were inferior as far as engineering goes. That’s not true at all. They work perfectly well and are more than equal to 99% of all woodworking tasks. They can be bought new, still made in Sheffield unless things changed recently. Or you can go online and buy one secondhand. I bought about ten in the last eighteen months and all worked perfectly well.
      I can recommend Veritas small router, which has nice mechanics and some nice extension bar features for removing the sharpening problems people experience with the angled foot of the more traditional models. That shouldn’t prevent you from the Stanley and Record routers. Great tools.



  5. george glover on 11 January 2014 at 11:59 am

    Cheers , I thought about the Stanley ones because i use them at college and they are very nice to use



    • Paul Sellers on 11 January 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Yup! They work just fine and will last you a hundred years I am sure. I cannot imagine anyone ever wearing them out in a lifetime. they are the right shape and size and you can always add an additional sole plate in wood or ally if you need a bigger sole surface.



  6. William Swinyer on 8 February 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Paul,

    I have a Stanley No. 71 router plane. What is the best way to sharpen the cutters? The bottom is easy to flatten but the other side is very short and bent at nearly 90°. Is there an easy way to sharpen them? Thanks as always.

    Bill



    • Paul Sellers on 8 February 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Here is a link to a blog on sharpening router bits and other things associated with the router planes



      • William Swinyer on 9 February 2014 at 12:05 am

        Tank you very much.



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  8. David Willett on 26 July 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Paul,

    I have a wooden router plane of the same model you show here. It has an original 1/8″ blade w/wedge. I want to try to use a 1/2″ chisel like you mention but they are all just a tiny bit too wide. Is the plane too valuable to widen the throat? It is my only router right now and I would like it to be more versatile.

    I would also like to see what the wedge would look like if I were to use a chisel.

    Thank you



  9. Ron McGee on 25 October 2018 at 11:16 pm

    I have just picked up a router plane like the one illustrated, i just wondered if Paul could give me some advice on the sharpening and grinding angle for the blade . The blade and wooden wedge seem to sit at a very high angle compared to my no 4 smoothing plane for example..
    Thanks
    Ron McGee



    • Paul Sellers on 26 October 2018 at 1:36 pm

      You can sharpen as you would a chisel. 30-degrees is all you need as this is a bevel down plane.