HHWW: Jigs and Tool Mods #1: Router Surface Plane - A Jig for Precision Trimming

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Blog entry by Ted Ewen posted 09-22-2015 07:53 PM 2285 reads 2 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I saw this as I was trying to understand routers and the myriad bits and bobs that go along with them. I thought it a clever idea and wanted to keep track of it, and I reckoned some of you might think so too, so here it is.

A Jig for Precision Trimming by Nick Engler
From The Ultimate Router Guide: Jigs, Joinery, Projects & More from Popular Woodworking,
David Thiel (ed.)

Once upon a time I had the brilliant idea to use a strip of hardwood to trim out the edge of a
laminate countertop. And not just any laminate, either. This stuff was so expensive that if you asked
how much it cost, the salesperson presumed you could not afford it. So scratching it during
installation was not an option.

The challenge, I realized the moment the glue set upon the wood trim, was that I had to plane the
top surface of the trim flush with the laminate without touching the laminate itself. If the blade
touched the laminate, I would remove the thin layer that held the color, revealing the dull substrate
(which the manufacturer thoughtfully made a flat white to provide maximum contrast and advertise
my slip-up to the world).

I searched the 40 billion tool catalogs I receive each month (give or take), looking for something
that would shave the wood without touching the laminate. I found nothing that would do the trick.
Now, we all know what happens when you have a perfectly good excuse to buy an expensive
new tool and you can’t find anything suitable – you buy something that’s unsuitable and make it
work. As a result, I bought a small laminate trimmer and built the jig shown here to turn it into a
tool that I hoped would not mar the laminate.

Making a Router Cut Like a Hand Plane
What I made is sometimes called a “router plane,” although it does something quite different from
the hand tool of the same name.

An old-time router plane rides on the surface and reaches down into a recess to trim the bottom.
This jig lets you adjust the depth of the router bit to cut adjacent surfaces flush to or higher than the
surface on which the router is riding.

In my case, I wanted the tool to ride on the laminate and shave the top surface of the wood trim
ever-so-slightly higher than the laminate it was attached to.

The first thing to do is to make a mounting plate from clear acrylic. (This lets you see what you
are planing.) The plate should be rectangular and about twice as long as the laminate trimmer’s
base is wide.

Mount the router at one end of this plate, centered over a 1”-diameter opening for a bit. On the
end of the plate, mount a 3⁄8”-thick wooden base and a handle, as shown in the drawing at right. The
base rests on one surface and lets you cantilever the router over another surface that you want to
shave parallel to the first.

The handle not only helps you control the router, it lets you counterbalance the router’s weight
and keep the base flat on the reference surface as you work.

The fasteners you use to assemble the plate, base and handle must not protrude below the bottom
surface of the base – after all, you don’t want metal hardware dragging over the surface you’re
trying not to cut.

Using the Jig
Mount a straight bit in the router. I commonly use a 3⁄4 ”-diameter bit, but any bit smaller than the
plate opening will do.

Adjust the depth of cut to the level you want to rout. If you want to trim one surface flush to
another, raise or lower the bit until the tip barely touches the surface on which the base rests. If you
want to cut slightly above a surface, as I did, simply raise the bit to the proper height.

I used a piece of paper as a feeler gauge to position the tip of the bit about .003” above the
surface – close enough to look flush, but far enough away to make sure it wouldn’t cut the laminate
on which the jig rested.

Then make a test cut to check your setup.

As you cut, pay close attention to the direction of rotation and the direction you move the
trimmer. I cut with the router so the bit rotation pulled the router through the wood trim and away
from the laminate surface I was trying to protect.

If you have to “back-feed” (where you move the router so the bit pulls in a direction you don’t
want to go), move the router very slowly and keep the base pressed firmly against the guiding
surface. For delicate work, cut the wood in several passes, lowering the router a tiny fraction of an
inch between each pass.

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

2 comments so far

View kiefer's profile


5760 posts in 3514 days

#1 posted 09-23-2015 12:18 AM

This has been around for a long time and still is a good tool and a rehash is good for the younger generation .
I used this for trimming window jamb extensions flush with the drywall and also for counter tops back in the late 1970.


-- Kiefer

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 1914 days

#2 posted 09-23-2015 05:53 AM

Yeah, I didn’t think I’d discovered anything earth shattering, just useful. It’s only old if you know about it :D

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

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