Alternatives to routers?

Status
Not open for further replies.

jarrett

New User
Jarrett
Is there a moderately priced alternative in the Neanderthal world to a power router? Right now, I have the need to cut grooves in wood. I guess I could chisel it out by hand, but then again, I could also buy a router and do the same thing much easier.

The Veritas Plow Plane is over $200, something I can't justify to myself (and forget about telling the missus about that). Even their router plane is $75, and it seems pretty free-form to me, with no guides except for depth.

I see Roy Underhill with his antique planes and drool in jealousy, but I don't see myself being able to afford one any time soon. Or am I missing something?

I just purchased a Rabbet plane for around $30 from Hartville Tool; I haven't received it in the mail yet, so we'll see how well it works. But there seems to be such a bigger leap in cost when we're talking about making a dado or a groove in wood.

I'm not a hand tool purist, but does anyone here bother with hand tools when it comes to making a groove?
 

CarvedTones

Board of Directors, Vice President
Andy
I echo your sentiments. I have a preference for hand tools, but use power when it makes sense to me. For example, to cut 2 boards to the same length, I will use my hand saw, but to cut 10 I use the chop saw. I generally rip with power. To cut a slot in wood I use the power router or TS. That being said, I have seen old router planes in usable but not collectable condition for not very much.
 

timf67

New User
Tim
I have the veritas router plane (the bigger one with fence) and love it. I was able to use it to retrofit an antique armoir with inlaid brass decorative shelf standards (one of the few things I have purchased from Rockler that exceeded my expectations!) It turned out beautiful, looks like they were always there and I didn't have to tear the piece apart to throw it on a table saw! Of course at $160 with the fence it isn't cheap but it works great and is a pleasure to use.
 

Joe Scharle

Joe
Corporate Member
One day not long ago, I received a Lee Valley hand tool catalog and it got me to thinking. So I priced one of my routers (Freud=$100) and all of my bits ($800) for a grand total of $900.00. Then I sat down with the catalog and priced every hand plane that had a similiar profile or function. Grand total of hand planes $20,000.00. And I was still a whole bunch of profiles short!
And I don't need a sepatare building to store them.
 

timf67

New User
Tim
One day not long ago, I received a Lee Valley hand tool catalog and it got me to thinking. So I priced one of my routers (Freud=$100) and all of my bits ($800) for a grand total of $900.00. Then I sat down with the catalog and priced every hand plane that had a similiar profile or function. Grand total of hand planes $20,000.00. And I was still a whole bunch of profiles short!
And I don't need a sepatare building to store them.
:swoon: I am not surprised, 20k may even be low just think if you had a Lie-Nielsen catalog! But I get enjoyment out of using a hand plane (I can hear myself think!), and I get even more enjoyment out of buying a new tool... :gar-Bi
 

froglips

New User
Jim Campbell
There is another technique you can try.

As I undersand semantics (which is always boring), a groove runs with the grain, a dado runs across and a rabbit is along either edge.

So, as you are asking about grooves and dados (not stopped I'm assuming)..... I'll start with dados.

With a hand saw (crosscut, back or even dovetail), cut both sides of the dado. Cut as close to the final depth as you can. Some folks use a staircase saw for these operations as its got a built in depth stop.

You can use a straight edge board clamped to the work as a guide for the saw.

Or, you can try a cutting guage or knife following a straightedge. The idea is you slice/sever the fibers where you want the groove/dado. Heck, you could use your chisel for the whole thing if you wanted.

Then use the chisel to chop out the bulk of the waste. It will go really fast, mainly if you've done a saw cut. Many neanders start here, then use planes to sweeten the end result as needed.

Router Planes, as I understand them, are really for final cuts to ensure the depth is consistent. They don't usually have a fence, as the L shaped cutter is already sitting in a grove/dado.

But, you can plane the bottom of the dado using your chisel with the bevel down.

A lot depends on the type of project as to tricks and hacks you can use. You can overcome sloppy dadoes with rabbited shelves.

While a dedicated dado plane is nice, you'd find that using one would be a lot of work.

I would say that using a cutting guage or knife when doing a groove, such as for a drawer bottom is more likely than sawing. This operation is a good use for a plough plane.

Hope this helps.

Good luck!
Jim
 

CarvedTones

Board of Directors, Vice President
Andy
Being my ususal fence ridin' trouble makin' self, I have to point out the OP asked about making grooves, which I took to mean dadoes (sp?), not all sorts of profiles. A lot of the other profiles you choose between by a subtle aesthetic preference.

Like the OP, I am frustrated by the seeming lack of easy options. The router is one of the scarier tools in the shop, especially if you don't have a full sized router table. It is also one of the loudest, limiting when it can be used if you have a shop in the garage and a family that likes to hear the TV a few rooms away. I would love to have a good alternative for the most common uses.
 

CarvedTones

Board of Directors, Vice President
Andy
As I undersand semantics (which is always boring), a groove runs with the grain, a dado runs across and a rabbit is along either edge.
It's not completely boring; it's fun to debate things where there is no absolute. :gar-La;

I think of either a dado or groove as a channel cut into the wood. A groove is usually narrow and often has a V shape, but the big difference in my thinking is the dado is made to fit another piece of wood in and the groove is just decorative. Grain never entered my thinking.

A rabbit is a rodent with long ears and a rabbet is along the edge. :rotflm:
 

froglips

New User
Jim Campbell
I too dislike the router. I admire it, but fear it.

As to the joints, groovey man, groovey :)

Jim
 

Gofor

Mark
Corporate Member
Assuming you don't want to use a dado stack on the TS, Jim's alternative of the saw and chisel is fairly easy but more time consuming than a power router.

If you use the saw method, you can use a straight edge clamped to the work to start the saw cuts, and then clamp one to the saw blade to act as a depth stop. Start chiseling out the center waste at the edge of the board (chiselling toward the edge) and work backwards until past center. Flip board around and repeat to finish groove. The bottom can be finished up with the chisel, or by gluing a strip of sandpaper to a block just narrow enough to fit in the groove. A line drawn on the side can act as a depth indicator. If you do get a router plane, use the same technique as with the chisel (starting at the edge working backwards from it) after you have the groove started with the saw/chisel.

If the groove is particularly deep, or has stopped ends, you can use a drill to clean out a lot of the waste before chiseling, as you do with a mortise.

Hope this helps

Go
 

jarrett

New User
Jarrett
Jim, notice I used "dado or a groove" so I wouldn't trip others over semantics. :gar-Bi

While my main need would be to create drawer or panel grooves, it is nice having the ability to create different profiles as well with a router.

The handsaw method seems doable if your piece of wood is shorter than your saw. But can you do the same thing for something like a drawer side, where its length would be longer? It seems you'd have to keep the saw pretty close to parallel to the wood to get the cut. I have lots of trouble just crosscutting a piece of wood with my dovetail saw because of the angle I need to use since the "back" won't go through the kerf.

I wonder if using a v-shaped gouge would be a good starter, to get most of the waste out? Also, now that I'm thinking about it, I thought I remembered seeing some kind of tool that you would fit a chisel into, and that you can push along like a plane. I wonder if that could be an alternative.

But, it sounds like the consensus is: yes, we all hate it, but it's hard to beat a router, unless you're willing to spend the cash. I'm with Andy and Jim--the router scares me more than any other tool. Oh well, I already have several relatives with missing fingers, I won't stick out that much at our next gathering.

Thanks all for the tips! I will try to use a chisel and see how it goes.
 

fergy

New User
Fergy
Like the OP, I am frustrated by the seeming lack of easy options. The router is one of the scarier tools in the shop, especially if you don't have a full sized router table. It is also one of the loudest, limiting when it can be used if you have a shop in the garage and a family that likes to hear the TV a few rooms away. I would love to have a good alternative for the most common uses.
Sounds like you need a louder TV and better headphones. :)

As someone who has sucked three fingers through a router table, I'll still use it for almost 90% of the stuff I do, especially in plastics fabrication. Out of all the tools I have, I'd keep a good router kit and a circular saw if I had to get rid of everything else, even over hand tools.

And I'll take a router over the tablesaw anyday when it comes to scary tools. I've seen way more accidents on the saw than the router, especially when cutting grooves and dados.
 

CarvedTones

Board of Directors, Vice President
Andy
Sounds like you need a louder TV and better headphones. :)

As someone who has sucked three fingers through a router table, I'll still use it for almost 90% of the stuff I do, especially in plastics fabrication. Out of all the tools I have, I'd keep a good router kit and a circular saw if I had to get rid of everything else, even over hand tools.

And I'll take a router over the tablesaw anyday when it comes to scary tools. I've seen way more accidents on the saw than the router, especially when cutting grooves and dados.
I think a lot of it is the motor. I have a vintage Craftsman benchtop tablesaw. I used to have a modern benchtop that had substantially more power. The modern one was less accurate, but for most if not all of what I do, that really wasn't a huge factor. But the difference between the whine of a universal motor and the hum of an induction motor is day and night to me. I feel rushed when I use a screaming tool and that's not a good thing.

Another thing is predictability. With the tablesaw, if I have a tough cut, usually a rip, I know what the "bad thing" it is going to do is if I don't control it properly and I know in what direction it will be exerting a force that needs countering. The router seems more random; maybe if I used it more I would know more about what to expect, but I don't. And keep in mind that this thread is mostly about replacing the router in its "untethered" state.
 

DaveD

New User
Dave
For me its powertools. However I have never seen a router right from the factory that had a fence/guide worth a crap that you didn't have to modify.

When making groove/dados/etc you have to have a foolproof scheme that will prevent the router from accidentally moving while you are making whatever cut you want to make. You also have to understand the consequences (none of them good) of getting sawdust/chips between the router base/guide and whatever you are guiding it against.

Nothing like routing multiple parallel grooves on a 10' long piece of mahogany. The paranoia sets in about 80% of the way through all the routing of the grooves that something is going to go 'blip' in a heartbeat.
 

merrill77

Master Scrap Maker
Chris
Corporate Member
The router is one of the scarier tools in the shop, especially if you don't have a full sized router table.
I'm not sure how you define full-sized, but my little shop-built table and fence is very stable when mounted on a workmate. It is small enough to fit under my workbench when not in use. It was built in an afternoon and has worked great for everything I've thrown at it. I'm extra-cautious when working free-hand (and rarely work without bearing-guided bits0, but working at the table give me confidence.

It is also one of the loudest, limiting when it can be used if you have a shop in the garage and a family that likes to hear the TV a few rooms away.
Hard to argue with that :(

I would love to have a good alternative for the most common uses.
I'm guessing a shaper (with an induction motor) would be much quieter...but it comes it's own collection of downsides.

C
 

Tarhead

Mark
Corporate Member
If the grooves you need aren't too deep you can get excellent results with a scratch stock. Old hacksaw blade, utility knife blade, etc embedded in a piece of scrap and ground to the shape you need with a stop.
For dados sans router (electric or Stanley manual versions) zipping a sharp chisel crossgrain between two parallel saw kerfs in clear Poplar is a satisfying thing akin to popping bubble wrap. Cleaning up the bottom is where you have to hold your mouth right. I suggest making a DIY Old Woman's Tooth and then attending the next Antique Tool Collectors meeting in Bethania on November 7 where there will probably be a few nice old manual Stanley routers on the Swap and Sell tables for a reasonable price.
 

JimReed2160

New User
jim
Sorry that I came late to this party. The OP asked about grooves and alternatives to routers. Here is my vote: Stanley #45 plane with a 1/8" cutter. This plane will out groove anything out there, unless you are in a production shop. Set the fence and the tiny little 1/8" groove almost plows itself. I keep a spare #45 body in my #45 toolbox loaded with a 1/8" cutter. It is the handiest tool in my shop. Just about every project in my shop needs a 1/8" groove somewhere. Need a 1/4 groove for a drawer bottom? Just make two 1/8" grooves side by side. I even use it for rabbets. Just cut the groove for the corner and then worry out the waste with some other plane. It is just too easy. When I had hair, I did not like all the router debris that got caught up there. Router for a groove--waaaay too noisy for me. Stanley #45 all the way.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
If its a rabbet plane you want and you have a hand chisel, then make one. Laminate three pieces together. The middle piece will be cut to accomodate the chisel and wedge, and needs to be the width of the chisel.

FWW #22, page 19

 
M

McRabbet

If its a rabbet plane you want and you have a hand chisel, then make one. Laminate three pieces together. The middle piece will be cut to accomodate the chisel and wedge, and needs to be the width of the chisel.

FWW #22, page 19

Bob,

A very nifty solution for making a rabbet plane. I went to my full collection of FWW and pulled out Issue 22 and read your excellent tip -- it might have been nearly 30 years ago, but it is still an excellent idea even today. I particularly like the little bullnose you've produced at the front right. Thanks for posting!

Since I fear many of our members won't see this post, may I suggest you post a new thread in the Who We Are Forum and introduce yourself -- let me be the first to welcome you to our virtual sawdust (or should it be shavings?) pile!!
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Our Sponsors

LATEST FOR SALE LISTINGS

Top