This joinery-tweaking plane belongs in every woodworker’s tool kit.
by Christopher Schwarz
Even when I am in full-blown power, power, power mode in the workshop, there are two handplanes I turn to all the time: a block plane and a router plane.
Most woodworkers own a block plane, but only a fraction own a router plane, a tool I affectionately call “a chisel with a depth stop.” Router planes are the ultimate joinery-tweaking tool. They get your tenons sized to perfection, your dados sunk to the desired depth and your hinges swinging sweetly. And with two new versions from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, you now have a selection unheard of since World War II.
Lie-Nielsen now offers four router planes – two sizes with two different kinds of throats. The sizes are
self-explanatory: The large planes are for full-size joinery and cutting deep recesses; the small routers are for hinge mortises and inlay. The different throats require more explanation.
An “open-throat” router has a hump in its casting right in front of the iron. This hump allows you to better see what you are cutting, but it prevents you from using the tool on the edges of narrow boards without modifying the tool’s sole. A “closed-throat” router slightly reduces your visibility but it allows you to work on edges with ease.
Lie-Nielsen’s two new routers have closed throats, which increases your choices and tightens the competition with Veritas of Canada, which offers only closed-throat routers.
So the question on the minds of many woodworkers is: Who makes the best closed-throat router? For the small routers, I think Lie-Nielsen is the winner. The small Veritas router has an iron with a round post that tends to rotate when the tool is used in heavy cuts.
For the large routers, it’s a dead heat. Both brands offer fences that are largely unused by most woodworkers – a fence comes standard on the Lie-Nielsen and is an option on the Veritas. Both brands offer depth stops that work 10,000 times better than the depth stop on the traditional Stanley router. And both brands have a variety of blades. The Veritas comes with two blades for $139; the Lie-Nielsen comes with one blade (and the fence) for $140.
So the choice comes down to aesthetics and ergonomics. No matter which brand you choose, you’ll be rewarded with more accurate joints. So add these tools to your “must-have” list.
From the June 2012 issue #197.
Buy the issue now.