Q&A Why Two Routers? Why Two Bench Planes?

From Entry Monday 6th February 2017


First, THANK YOU! A careful inspection of the pictures reveal the following list of tools.
tape measure
oil can
a couple of clamps
a set of chisels
2 bench planes
2 router planes
2 saws
set of sharping stones
I am sure you also had a marking gauge and a knife.
I did not see a scraper, gouge, or rasp.Why 2 bench planes? Were they different?


This question resulted from the great images Ryan Cowan took for me at my speaking engagement last week at Oxford’s Somerville College. I suppose it was more a minimalist array of tools I use in joinery so the first part of the list comprises the normal individual tools I might use for laying out joints, followed then by tools to cut them with, surface plane and perhaps keep the tools sharp with.

There were indeed two bench planes but not one and the same planes. One was a #4 Stanley, the other a #5. That said, I did have two additional #4’s behind me but not visible in the pictures. I always take extra planes or should I say duplicate tools to demonstrations as backups in case of need. Drop a plane on a concrete floor and it’s gone, hit a hidden nail and a plane used for smoothing might not be restorable in the time you have at such an event.

I chose a longer plane to demonstrate with so that’s why there were two on the bench—I also regularly have two and even three #4 planes on the bench for use in my everyday woodworking life in my workshop. (I know, spoiled brat!) That way I have one for heavy work and even making deep cuts for quicker stock removal while the second one finesses the work. The third will be a #4 converted into a scrub plane. One of the #4s I set for a heavier depth of cut and this one will dull all the sooner whilst the more finely set and tuned plane is maintained for the quality results I strive for. I switch from one to the other throughout the day. The scrub plane is handy for all manner of work but especially getting stock down super fast. I also use it for say bevelling work where I might take a square edge to a 45-degree bevel or a chamfer.

As to the routers, I have a system of joinery that relies on the two routers where I work them in tandem in a special way alternating them to produce the pristine tenons and recesses I rely on in my work. Whether it’s need or preference, well, two routers perfectly harmonise my work.

I am currently working on two more books where many unseen and unused concepts will one day (hopefully soon) be my further investment in future woodworkers.

10 thoughts on “Q&A Why Two Routers? Why Two Bench Planes?”

  1. I can’t wait for more books. The essential hand tools book gave me so much more insight into what to look for in tool. It has been extremely helpful. My bench is looking better with every addition. I may need to make some bookends just to keep you books in. 🙂

  2. Mr. Sellers: Seeing the oiled rag in a can on the workbench reminded me to ask you…. I use mine with motor oil, for the simple reason that I had an unused quart of oil floating around in my garage, and couldn’t resist the price…. it works well as far as doing the job of lubricating saw plates and the like while protecting the tools against corrosion. And it hasn’t negatively affected any of my finishes to boot. One issue though is that the rag tends to collect some amount of wood dust, which is then transferred to the tools. Nothing major, but kind of annoying and somewhat undesirable in my view as the dust can collect moisture and create corrosion problems over time. Does the lighter machine oil that you favor also pick up dust? Thanks. Marc

    1. I use WD-40 and motor oil like you on tools from time to time, and wax candle during planing or sawing. I brush tools before oiling. I’m not an expert, I had a quart of motor oil left from last car oil change, no other oils in the house. I hope motor oil will not damage tools, what could be wrong with motor oil?

    2. Several years ago, in a galaxy far off, before I watched Paul’s video on squaring a board, there was a tip for using floor/furniture wax to reduce friction on a saw table or router table. I bought a pound on Amazon. Now use it on saw plates and plane soles. The plane soles get so slick I have to hold on tight to keep the plane from flying out of my hand at the end! (I just made that up, but it does really work well.) I also used it on the threads when I retrofitted a couple of clamps from Harbor Freight. The table saw is still around, by the way, but doesn’t get much use except as a table at the end of the workbench, neither does the router table or the router.

  3. Phill N LeBlanc

    I don’t play golf or baseball, but when I see the batter take a swing before the pitch, or the golfer plant his feet and tee up, it reminds me that you (and I) do the same thing before the tool cuts the wood. We take a practice light cut or stroke while we study the wood, the grain, the pitch and level. Others may not notice it as part of woodworking technique, but there are all sorts of rehearsals before the serious business of cutting wood begins. An old carpenter once told me: “You have to trick the material into thinking that you know what you’re doing.”

    1. Well, Phil, technically it’s not altogether true but in part it is. The opening swings (actually strokes) persuade the surface end-grain fibres in the direction we want to go and this reduces the resistance we get as we then penetrate into the sub-fibres.

      1. Phill N LeBlanc

        you’re not just preparing the wood — you’re preparing your body, your muscles, your senses, your brain — just like an athlete. You might not even be aware of it. But when you watch someone who is struggling with their tools, you can see the absence of preparation. Your mention of unseen tools made me think of all the unseen things in your work. Like that little flourish when you lift the backsaw off the surface after establishing the first cut of a dovetail – before going back to the vertical cut — you may not even realize you do it. Maybe you should watch your own videos. Paul Sellers might teach Paul Sellers a thing or two.

        1. I suppose, just like the saw, we can go back and forth on this. I was simply saying that the first stroke forges the way for subsequent strokes and so eases the saw’s passage into the wood. I’m sensing the resistance first to see if indeed I feel any. In my lifting the saw up and away, blowing lightly to chase the dust from the chase, I can then check my alignment to course-line and, if good, I move forward.

          1. Michael Ballinger

            Ahhhhh that’s why you lift the saw out… I always wondered what that was about and have been doing it myself but not really understanding why, only because I’ve watched you do it so many times. I definitely find that the lighter I suspend the saw for the opening cut the better. When I was a kid if the saw was snagging I would try and push it harder not realising that it was the exact opposite that was needed.

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