I haven’t joined in the current love-fest for the router plane. It’s way down on my list of essential tools. I find it a fussy thing whose main purpose seems to be making perfectly flat surfaces where they aren’t needed, and as a means to avoid picking up a chisel. That being said, when Lee Valley introduced the Veritas Miniature Router Plane a couple of years ago, I pushed the “add to cart” button and bought one. It’s a cute little rascal, and when it arrived, I sharpened the cutter, gave it a try and put it back in its box. I figured that my heirs would find it amusing someday when they go through my tools and try to decide what is valuable and what is junk. It might turn out to be a collector’s item if I live long enough.
And then the other day I found myself in a situation where I had a 1/8″-wide groove that had a bottom of rolling hills and valleys instead of a perfectly flat surface. I made the groove with a plunge router and a circular template. It makes a nice recessed ring, but there is only one chance to get it perfect. Going back to the template runs the risk of making the groove slightly wider than needed, and the inlay going into the groove was already cut. I made the initial cut with video cameras rolling (we’re documenting a project I’m making for our August issue). My mind was focused on not appearing like a fool on camera, and I neglected to lock the plunge mechanism on the router after lowering the bit into the work.
So there I was with the cameras gone and a fix that needed to be made. I considered my options and remembered my little bitty router plane in the back of the drawer with the other odd tools I rarely use. I got it out, set the depth and in a few minutes, all was well. This may well be the first published use of a miniature tool in a real project, and there is a powerful lesson here. A new tool may seem to be just a curiosity, but you never know when it will save the day. So you may as well buy it. Just in case.
The video of this upcoming project will be released in conjunction with our August 2013 issue. If you want to see a previous video I made, you can find “Build the 21st Century Workbench” in our store.