router planeThis was originally published as the “$5 Router Plane,” but don’ let that catchy title imply that it is inferior, because reasonable price and useful can go hand in hand. The photo at right shows what this plane can do, and that is cut a slot across the grain of a board. The slot is first defined by a knife, chisel, or back saw, then ploughed out with a router plane taking off successive deeper layers if the depth is more than an ⅛″ deep.

The prototype is a plane sold by E.C. Emmerich Co. of Germany. Their body is a full 2″ thick and the custom cutter and holder are specially made for the plane. Looking at this useful tool, I was struck by the possibility of doing this as a shop-made project. The wood body was no problem, but what to do with the blade and holder was. The chapter to follow shows what I found.

Here is a real life shop problem: The project calls for a shallow slot, or dado, in the middle of a board. Defining the edges using a wide chisel is a first step. But how best to remove the waste is a challenge. The chisel could do it, although gauging the depth accurately would take patience. Using my electric router would solve that problem, yet experience tells me that free hand use of this power tool can lead to stray excursions into surrounding margins. So fence guides would need to be set.

This situation calls for a router plane. An uncommon plane that looks different, it most often elicits the question “What does it do?” Now you know — it levels dados and hinge gains. Its right angle blade will allow you to make a flat cut of accurate depth.

router plane 002

Shown Right are three router planes: my shop-made version (left), an E. C. Emmerich plane (top right) and a Record No. 71, each with their cutter.

This project first appeared in Popular Woodworking #149, August 2005