The Ultimate Shop Made Router Plane #1: The plan, the parts, the prototype

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Blog entry by Ripthorn posted 12-15-2012 04:04 AM 48147 reads 35 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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EDIT: A lot of the pictures are too large. You can see them here

So last week I was watching Tommy MacDonald’s series on his tool box. When he pulled out the router plane to clean up some dadoes, I figured I should look into one. After seeing the prices for them, I decided I would look into making one. There are plans all over the place for them: the $5 router plane, Derek Cohen’s old woman’s tooth, numerous projects here, and the list goes on. However, most people seemed to complain about adjustment or comfort, or some other reason. So I decided I wanted to make one that had more features to it. Namely, I wanted:

1. A depth stop
2. Better depth adjustment
3. Real handles and not the ones like ECE Primus planes

So I began poking around and found this post by mafe and really liked the bevels. Additionally, I looked at the Veritas router planes adjustment mechanism and depth stop (much like a drill press) and thought I could incorporate it relatively easily.

So I busted out the graph paper and pencil and did some doodling and came up with this as a rough plan:

I did a quick little tally of materials and figured that I should be able to do the whole thing under $20. So off I went to Lowe’s and Harbor Freight. My materials list is as follows:

1. Harbor freight 10 piece SAE hex key set ($2.19)
2. 1/4” – 20 tpi threaded rod, 12” length ($1.27)
3. 1/4” – 20 tpi brass screws, 2 1/2” length ($0.96)
4. 1/4” – 20 tpi brass nuts, 4 total ($1.92)
5. 1/4” – 20 tpi brass threaded inserts, 4 total ($3.26)
6. 1/2” Pex brass test cap ($1.18)
7. Brass drain caps for irrigation systems ($2.78)
8. 1/4” fender washer (wanted brass, but they were out) ($.07)
9. 1/4” – 20 tpi hex bolt, 1” length ($0.09)

Total after tax was $15.13

So here’s a shot of it all:

Next, I decided I should at least prototype this thing. So I started with the depth stop and depth adjustment mechanism and set screw. For the set screw, I decided to drill through one of the drain caps. First, find center:

Drill out and get this:

Chuck up one of the brass screws in the drill press and use a file to get the head to be the same diameter as the drain cap:

Quick test fit:

I have some left over rosewood binding from a guitar build, so a quick fit shows

Next, for the depth stop and depth adjustment, cut a 2 1/2” length of rod and thread on three nuts, like so:

Chuck it in a drill press and go at it with a file, then some 600 and 800 grit sandpaper and you get this:

Then I turned to the wood: a grody piece of maple. Here is where I made the first two tweaks to my plans above: a 2” hole as opposed to my initial 1” hole and an overall size of 3 3/4” x 6” instead of 3” x 5”. So after the first operation we got this:

Cut some bevels on the table saw and it’s starting to look more as I imagined:

Then I drilled the hole for the set screw:

After that, mark out locations for the blade and the handles:

After drilling those holes, I drilled the hole for the depth adjustment post and used the 1” long hex bolt to thread the wood (I wasn’t going to use the threaded inserts on a prototype)

To drill for the handles, keep the cutoffs from cutting the bevels and put some double sided tape on it like so:

It makes a nice level surface for drilling (no tilting the drill press table)

After bandsawing the shape, it looks like the bat plane or something:

I had some 1 1/8” poplar dowel that I used for handles (don’t have real lathe chisels yet). Using threaded rod, I put them on and now it’s looking almost comical:

The next part was grinding the hex key to make a blade. I decided to use the 3/8” key. Now, don’t be fooled by the price tag of the hex keys, these things are HARD. And grinding down a 3/8” hex wrench into a blade involves grinding off a LOT of material. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to get it all ground down sufficiently, and involved quenching in a 3 gallon bucket of water every 5 seconds on the wheel so as not to wreck the temper. But I finally got it looking like this:

After creating the blade, I ground a groove with a dremel into the shaft for the depth adjustment:

Now it’s time to start assembling. Put in the depth adjustment rod:

All put together:

Now, a couple things to note: The top brass nut will ultimately be epoxied into a larger wood disc for more torque and the washer will be epoxied to the under side. I also am going to use a thicker washer.

But it was time for a test! The blade was only ground up to my 60 grit wheel, so I wasn’t expecting too much. I pulled out a scrap of fir and rough chiseled out a groove which looked as so:

After a couple passes with the new router plane:

Now, I know it’s not perfect, I was too lazy to go any deeper.

So now, time for some lessons learned:

1. The 2” hole seems a little too big, I might make it slightly smaller
2. The depth adjustment mechanism shows promise, though the size of the washer makes it tough to get to the upper of the two depth stop nuts.
3. Grinding down a 3/8” hex wrench is a long task. It’s no wonder most people use a 5/16” or smaller.
4. The shape may need to be tweaked and I’m open to suggestions
5. It took a lot less time than I thought. I kept track and it was about as follows:

Depth adjustment and set screw work: 1 hour
Wood work: 1 hour
Grinding down hex key for blade 1 1/2 hours.

So it only took about 3 1/2 hours over 2 nights to get done. I have a few more ideas, but for now, that’s all. Stay tuned for when I make the actual plane (may be a couple weeks though).

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

16 comments so far

View Mip's profile


453 posts in 2078 days

#1 posted 12-15-2012 05:49 AM

I would like to see the finished plane with these plans. I hope you turn some fancy handles as the wooden dowels you used just don’t cut it. All in all, this looks like a nice plan to use and I might copy this.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2985 days

#2 posted 12-15-2012 12:39 PM

I will be using threaded inserts in the final plane so that I can have different handles for different applications. I plan to turn some nice mushroom shaped knobs, the dowels were just to prove out the rest of the design. I’m also thinking I will put a star washer between the depth stop nuts to see if that helps them lock down more easily. As I said, it might be a couple weeks before the final one gets done (lathe chisels are on the Christmas list and my wife strictly forbids me buying any of those items until after Christmas, so wait I must).

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3334 days

#3 posted 12-15-2012 01:04 PM

Very interesting blog. Good thinking too. I’ll be eagerly awaiting your next blog on this.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View John's profile


47 posts in 2073 days

#4 posted 12-15-2012 09:09 PM

Cool. Good ideas here. I made a sort of similar one from a plan that was in Popular Woodworking a few years back. It’s ok. I have a couple of suggestions, some of which I will use myself when I rebuild the one I made… Cut the blade shorter. Having that ~1.5” of blade protruding means more leverage torquing the blade around and making the cut rougher, and also you can make that 2” hole smaller. It’s also a lot less material to grind when you do the shaping. Be sure to relieve slightly on the bottom of the blade, behind the cutting edge. You don’t want the flat bottom dragging on the work.

You might also consider shortening the top / longer part of the hex key, and bringing all the depth stop stuff down closer to the handle. It will put less torque on the hex key hole and the threaded depth adjuster hole, but the downside is less available depth of cut. I’ve never had occasion to use a router plane in anything deeper than about 3/4” though.

Looking forward to the rest!

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2054 days

#5 posted 12-17-2012 02:27 AM


-- Joel

View Anapolis7's profile


50 posts in 2917 days

#6 posted 01-01-2013 06:20 AM

I’m kind of late to the party, but I hope you can shed some light on your build for me. Is the threaded rod that you are using to adjust depth parallel to the blade or is it at an angle? I can’t tell from the photo. I think it is parallel, but the camera distorted it. Thanks.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2985 days

#7 posted 01-01-2013 12:35 PM

The threaded rod is supposed to be parallel. I used a chisel to make the flats for the hex key and wasn’t exactly 90 degrees. It still works, though, and on the final plane I am going to use a file instead of a chisel so that I have finer control over the material removed.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10100 posts in 4052 days

#8 posted 06-19-2013 01:19 AM


There are several pictures missing from this thread…

It is possible to upload your pictures directly into this thread from your computer…

Position cursor where you want the picture.
Click “IMG” above this display box.
Click “Choose”... and select the Picture you wish to upload.
Click “Insert this image”
Done… it will have been uploaded and displayed in your thread…

So, if you still have the pictures, it would not be very hard to do…

Thank you for trying… if you can…

Looks like a COOL project!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View MrMushnik's profile


1 post in 1374 days

#9 posted 08-21-2014 05:33 PM

Did you consider epoxying the washer to the lower nut instead of the upper one? Then you could spin the washer to adjust the height and just tighten the upper one to lock it in place

View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3636 days

#10 posted 11-06-2014 02:52 AM

This is what I love about LJs. The same idea hits me two years later and i was kicking the idea around in my mind about using an Allen Wrench for the cutter. So I finally started searching the web and get bounced to LJ where I more or less see my thoughts come to life.

Great plans and a post and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make one of these. I should have looked here first. Although it would greatly increase the cost but cut down the work, I guess you could buy a cutter but I think that will be plan B if I mess up or am not happy with my grinding results.


-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

View CFrye's profile


10193 posts in 1840 days

#11 posted 02-26-2015 04:17 PM

Great tutorial, Brian. Did you make a final version?

-- God bless, Candy

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2985 days

#12 posted 02-26-2015 04:23 PM

You know, Candy, I got going on it, got it mostly functional, but my lathe at the time would not allow for good knobs, and I haven’t touched it since. It just sits there, mostly because I have not come across a dire need for it. Maybe I will get back around to it… that’s if I can pull myself away from my current round of making infills :)

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View CFrye's profile


10193 posts in 1840 days

#13 posted 02-27-2015 12:55 AM

I wonderd if the infills had side tracked you :-) Nothing wrong with that. Follow your passion.

-- God bless, Candy

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10100 posts in 4052 days

#14 posted 02-27-2015 10:55 PM

COOL work… COOL project

Looking forward to seeing more refinements…

Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Stan's profile


4 posts in 1122 days

#15 posted 08-05-2015 06:11 AM

i like yours way more than mine. and yeah, those hex keys are HARD. it took me about as long as you to get a flat bottom and the bevel. here’s my poor example of a hand router. it’s a has one the screws that was holding my ankle together when i broke it as a teenager, holding the cutter in place on the back. nifty, yet slightly gruesome, personal touch. i need to get back on that project and finish it up proper.

showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

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