WMT will soon be releasing our newest tool, the No. 2500 router plane, which is based on the Preston 2500P. Because there are so many details to cover on this tool we will be sharing a series of blog posts roughly once a week, each of which will cover one readily digestible chunk of information at a time.
I’d like to get the fundamentals out of the way up front before talking about the features and benefits of the tool compared to what already exists today, so lets get started. First are the physical dimensions of the tool. As far as we know, our router plane will have the largest footprint to ever hit the market. When studying several new and vintage planes, most of which are based on the Stanley No. 71, their soles ranged in width from 5-5/8″ to 8-1/4″ with the average measuring about 7-1/2″ wide. However, these planes all have soles that are longest in the center and then diminish as you get towards the outside edges of the tool. This makes the tool less useful when straddling a large surface, such as leveling the face of a tenon. The length of the sole on the Preston, which measures slightly more than 8-1/4″ wide, remains constant over its width (aka: a rectangle). The sole of our router plane was bumped up to an even 8-1/2″ x 3-1/2″.
And while some may think a small sole is no big problem because a secondary wooden sole can be attached to most planes making it any size you want, you’re correct… sort of. A secondary sole is one more thing you have to make and you need to keep it as thin as possible so the tool’s depth of cut isn’t greatly reduced. However, a thin secondary sole that isn’t well supported will deflect, which can make the cutting action of the tool range from problematic to useless. By having a large rectangular sole, adding a secondary sole isn’t as necessary, but when it is desired it is well supported even at a minimum thickness.
The next detail is one of the thing’s we’re most excited about: offering the tool in manganese bronze. Again, as far as we know, this is a first among router planes. The bronze not only looks fantastic, but there are the added benefits of extra weight (this will be the heaviest router plane ever sold) and zero concerns when it comes to corrosion. It was not easy to find a suitable foundry for casting this tool in bronze, but persistence paid off and we’re proud to make it our mainline offering (we may or may not offer ductile iron in the future). The non-bronze components will either be brass or stainless steel, with the one obvious exception of the cutter which will be O1.
One final detail I’ll throw in is our removal of one part of the original Preston design. The doo-hicky (that’s its technical name) on the front is quite confusing in appearance as well as function. It is comprised of a small casting which can move front-to-back in a pair of slots and is locked down with two small screws. Once locked down, a threaded post can be raised or lowered, then locked in position. I figured this could be used as a crude depth stop, but then why make it adjustable front-to-back? I emailed Paul Sellers about this as he’s a big proponent of the Preston style router (and if you don’t follow his blog I’d recommend it) and he said it was designed as a guide when running the tool in a recess to prevent the cutter from gouging the side wall. I still don’t understand why it needs to slide a fraction of an inch in slots though… possibly as a throat-closing device of some sort as I read some speculate online, but this seems like a poor way to go about it and downright unnecessary. The added cost and tools required to make an adjustment made it hard to justify keeping in our version of the tool. It also blocks visibility and isn’t included in Preston’s 1399P model router, so we decided to eliminate it. If you’re wondering why ours is a model 2500 and not a 1399, it’s because we are including the adjust fence which was never available on the 1399P.
That’s all for now, but we still have knobs, cutter configuration, cutter orientation and more to discuss in the following weeks so stay tuned. And as a status report, our patterns are being made and hardware is being prototyped. We should have the hardware within a week, but the patterns will take roughly a month to complete. Then we’ll get our first look at the castings.