Cutting Housing Dadoes—The Case for Small Routers

Hand routers come in a wide range of types and sizes, wood and metal ones work the same and there are advantages as always to wood on wood. You shouldn’t think that the ones with adjustable depth control or superior to the pinch-adjust types nor that metal routers are better than wooden ones. They each have their own idiosyncrasies. The small Veritas router, as with the similarly sized Stanley 271 and the Record 722, is a very capable and apt tool for many areas of router work. You can learn to pinch adjust in micros of a millimetre, which in my view surpasses the accuracy you can achieve with adjustable versions because they suffer inaccuracy. Almost all of models I have used through the years have looser linkage and securement leading to a knock-on shift twixt adjuster and cutting edge. That is rarely the case with pinch and cinch setting.

A Case for Small Routers

When it comes to perfecting housing dadoes and recessing for housing hardware or inlay, such as that, here is a tool that shines. In it’s smaller sizing it’s a punchy and compact plane and, as with many feisty smaller versions of most all things, seems always able to hold its corner. Though it is particularly useful narrow material and confined areas, a dado across 10″ wide, 1/4″ deep and 3/4″ wide is no hardship at all. The sole of the plane encircles the blade in its closed-throat position and so maximises registration to the workpiece surface, now matter whether approaching from within the recessed area or from the outside edge. This encirclement allows the plan sole to bridge the recesses with full-based stability even on narrower stock like box rims and door edges. The blade can positioned outboard so that the cutting edge extends beyond the body for bullnose work as needed. The ductile cast iron body is to the expected standard of Veritas and measures 3 1/4″ wide by 2 1/4″ deep and comes with a 1/4″ wide high-carbon steel blade..

Blade Holding

My first impression of the Veritas small router plane years ago now was that it’s a very tidy plane. There’s an advantage in a very simple addition to this plane and that is a simple spring washer used on a variety of appliances that provides tension to components via a bent but continuous disc washer that in this case creates a spring tension between the locking mechanics and the blade. As such, when the knurled lock nut is loosened a half turn the blade retains its setting until you pinch-adjust the depth between finger and thumb to establish a different setting. This is surprisingly quick and accurate so don’t despise its simplicity or its unsophisticated adjustment capabilities. You’d like it.

A criticism I first had and brought to the attention of Veritas was the annoying twist of the blade under pressure advancing into a cut brings. This and the fact that heavy pressure can pull the blade deeper suggests that a different locking would be better. The problem is that this would disallow pressure afforded by the spring washer.

One problem, the first one, I managed to correct quickly and acceptably myself,he swivelling of the blade. I noticed that the milled channels were not a single round but two rounds of different radii.

I simply filed my stem to a forty five each side giving me a ninety-degree corner but I left some of the radius in the corner so that it would fit nicely against the two walls.

I did this to both sides of my stem for installing both ways. It worked—no more swivel. The second problem I can live with. An extra twist on the knurled knob seemed to cinch it tight enough so long as my my cuts were shallow. This is not the large router version and is indeed more intended for more delicate work.

My thoughts are the usefulness of small hand router planes like this for use in tighter and more compact positions. It’s less appropriate for trimming the face of tenons because of its short length.

Here is how I use it for a series of levelling tasks:

First of all I determine my depth, set the cutter to the right distance from the sole and then use the router as a knife-edged marking gauge between my width lines. 

Remove most of the waste wood as per usual for housing dadoes. You can see this on YT if you haven’t already.

I chisel down to about 1/16″ (just under 2mm) from my depth line and then reset my router plane depth to1/32″ (1mm). That way I can take my plane to the housing and move nearer to final depth. Once that is done I can reset to final depth using the existing depth line and finish the cut.

Outboard Use

Outboard is perhaps more unlikely but hand to have in the fray.

Sometimes you will come up against an end wall for some obscure reason. Usually when something has been installed wrongly or an afterthought is necessary. Again, we chisel out the waste and install the blade outboard. Works a treat. It is also handy where visibility might be impaired when the blade is installed normally.

The Crux of the Blog

Here is my reason for this blog. The Veritas router can be had for under £40. You might think it’s a lot for a little plane with only finger-pinch adjustability. It’s not! Not at all. This is another of those lifetime tools. The minor adjustment I made and using it sensibly is of minor importance. I see the Stanley 271s and the Record 722s going for quite high dollar amounts so this is a very inexpensive alternative and it does work great without some of the neglect with buying secondhand.

 

22 comments on “Cutting Housing Dadoes—The Case for Small Routers

  1. I use my small Veritas router as you described. Have you found the medium Veritas router useful or is it a redundant tool?

    • I don’t think it’s for me because having both the large and small renders a medium that is not really so medium at all because it’s only a half inch longer than the small of little benefit. I can see if someone wants to spend the extra and was thinking of buying the small and wants the lock off benefit of the adjuster then that might be the better choice. It will be well engineered I am sure. The next problem may well be availability. I think that Veritas has had some problems keeping tools on the shelves for UK provision of the regular router.

      • Don’t forget the medium size also takes a wide selection (1/8 – 3/4″) of blades which can be useful.
        I’d love to see you do a not-so-poor man’s router video using the Veritas replacement blades – it would go well with the poor man’s rebate plane

        BTW, Veritas has the same problem stocking North America, especially when Lee Valley offers free shipping.

        • Yes, if you don’t already have a small router but have the large Veritas, this is a deal-cincher. The medium router plane takes the larger router plane’s blades.

        • We’ve definitely exacerbated the issue by teaching woodworkers the real value of router planes resulting from our tenon refining guide on woodworkingmasterclasses.com and YouTube as the prices of vintage Stanley and Record models tripled in price. Now you can buy new ones for the similar price but stocks are now always backordered. `hang in there. They are worth waiting for the full-sized models if you don’t yet have one.

          • I was able to purchase the larger router from fine-tools in Germany (https://www.fine-tools.com) for the same amount of Euros as pounds in the UK. It worked out cheaper than I otherwise would have paid had they been in stock in the UK. I have made several purchases from them in the past and have always received excellent service.

          • I did the same thing back in 2007. Mine isn’t nearly as nice as those but I made a small router plane using and Allen wrench. After some grinding and sharpening, I ended up with a tiny 1/16″ cutter that is perfect for small inlays on boxes. I even sharpened the straight end and use it as a tiny chisel.

            I found out the wooden body can be ugly and imperfect and the router will still work perfectly. I still use this as my small (2 3/4″ wide by 4″ long) router.

  2. Thanks for the excellent pictures of that little router. I’m in the process of building my own small router, the cutter (Allen-key) I had finished a few months ago. Was building a wooden body but it split during the making. Other projects came in that had greater priority so the little router is still unfinished, but the hardest part, the cutter, is finished.

    Will now make a copy of the little router you showed but out of mild steel, that’s easier and quicker for me than one of wood. Bit of sawing, filing, drilling and welding. Nothing that can’t be done with a vise and some simple handtools. Metalworking has always come easier to me than woodworking.

    Only thing I still need is to get a Round Tuit. Haven’t been able to find one so far.

    • The best way to source a round tuit is offline, turn off the phone, stop reading the blog and before you know it you’ll indeed discover you always had one. Ironically I’m online saying this… Guess I need to take my own medicine.

  3. For those in Europe… Dieter Schmid at Fine-tools has these at a good price… I am not affiliated but just ordered one before they will inevitably now go out of stock since Paul’s post…

  4. Looking at that overhead shot of the adjuster –
    wouldn’t a stout plain washer under the spring
    washer improve the spring washer’s grip of
    affairs? – about a third of it hangs over the slot!

  5. This is the best modification for that router . I did in fact experience all of the annoying problems you said above . I truly thank you (and Veritas should pay you) for such brilliant ideas .

    Cheers

  6. I’m only on the first paragraph and I’m loving the use of the word ‘twixt’…
    Well in Paul 👍

  7. Hi Paul I brought my Stanley271 50yrs ago for a specific job when I was a traditional limb maker.Now use it when making small boxes .
    I bought it new for £5. It’s still going good.
    Regards Larry.

  8. Hi Paul, Veritas also offers a miniature router, I don’t know if you are familiar with it and was wondering if it would be as useful? It appears as if the size is close to the same size and weight however the blade is 1/8″ not 1/4″. Has knurl knob adjustable depth and has handles. Pricing is a few dollars more. Like to get your thoughts.
    Thank You,
    Ken

  9. Given the high cost of large, #71-style router planes on eBay, I’ve been considering trying to get a smaller one of the #271 type (or similar). My concern is that the pinch required to use it might be harder on my [arthritic] hands than the knobs on the larger types. Has anyone run into that (or not run into it with that ailment). I realize that, to some extent, it’s sui generis depending on the person.

  10. I ended up buying both the large and small Veritas routers after watching many vintage Stanley tools achieve or exceed (Veritas) ‘new’ prices on ebay.
    Whilst I’ve yet to carry out the shank modification to the small router but do enjoy the traditional quality of these tools.
    I do have a vintage, possibly shop made router that came from my Grandfather which I’ve owned for 40 years and didn’t know what it was until I found Paul on youtube a couple of years back.

  11. I sold my Stanley routers .. 271 and 71 . On eBay, as I found my wooden poor man’s router sufficient for my needs, using a 1/2″ firmer chisel wedged in
    I then made an adjustable wooden model, it works perfect. Cutter from 1/4″ Allen key, adjustment from long bolt and fat washer with nut held to washer with epoxy resin. I ground a slot to engage washer and can adjust down and up to a minute amount.
    ” cutter” has a flat sole raised at the heel, its clamped in place by an eye bolt, using a flat and spring washer, tensioned by “thumb” turn with nut pushed in …using my vice.
    I can cut perfect and precise stopped housing joints, although I will be making a larger cutter from a 1/2″ Allen key
    I shall make another with modified cutter adjustment to enable use on tenons.

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