Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 2
November 2007
Using Router Planes

For those unfamiliar with router planes, the tool might seem easy to dismiss when compared to the ubiquitous power tool of the same name. At first glance, the electric router would seem to be superior in all respects, due to the wide range of available bits and accessories.

But once you understand how to use a router plane, you'll see how it can be employed to create and refine your joinery with a precision and control that's difficult to achieve with its electrified cousin.

Router Plane Basics
The word "router" comes from the verb "to root," and the tool works much like a pig rooting about in the dirt. The router plane excels at cutting joints that are trenches, such as grooves and dados, and at adjusting joints, such as tenons.

Unlike a bench plane, a router plane is simple to sharpen and to use. You'll be an expert after your first attempt. Router planes have two kinds of cutters: a flat cutter, available in several widths, and a spear-point cutter, designed to sneak the tool into tight corners.

Sharpening these cutters is like sharpening a chisel. Polish the unbeveled base on your sharpening stones and then flip the cutter over and polish the bevel flat on your stones. Some woodworkers add a secondary bevel and some don't. Either way, the work is quick because there isn't much metal involved. Finally, insert the cutter into the tool, and you're ready to work.

Sharpening the cutter.
The cutter is L-shaped, and in most cases must be sharpened with its shank hanging off the stone. (Some routers allow you to remove the cutter from its shank to make sharpening easier.) Note that I'm rubbing forward and back on the stone, not side-to-side. This helps ensure my cutting edge will be sharpened straight across.

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