By John Polly, 2020 Spring Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow
I was constructing a live edge table from a walnut slab which had a large split on one end. I decided to incorporate a bowtie/butterfly out of cherry to add decoration and distract from the crack. I cut and sanded a butterfly marked and cut out with hand chisels to about a ¼” deep.
I then needed a way to ensure the bottom was perfectly flat for a good glue bond. A hand router plane was needed but I did not have one and wanted to proceed with the project. I have several wood chisels and realized that if I could hold one in a fixed position it would be a workable solution. A purchased router plane simply holds a cutting iron in a base. I recalled seeing a shop-made one on the internet at some point that worked. I decided to make one from a scrap of cabinet grade plywood but any piece of wood that is flat and longer than the recess being routed is fine. Simply drill a hole at approximately 45 degrees with a paddle bit with side wings 1/8” smaller than the wood chisel to be used. Try to keep it straight as possible. A drill press would work as well.
After the hole is drilled gently drive the chisel through bevel up or bevel down taking care to keep it square. Bevel up seems to work better for cutting. I recommend honing the chisel before beginning. The chisel must be square with the plywood surface when it breaks through. Prepare a short section of dowel rod the same size as the drilled hole and taper one end to set flat against the chisel. This addition will help with holding the chisel more securely. Wooden hand planes use this same method.
Adjust the dowel rod as necessary for a snug fit against the chisel. The dowel should not extend beyond the face of the plywood. Set the router over the recess to be routed and tap the chisel forward till it begins to cut. Check to ensure chisel is still square as it begins cutting. It may take a couple of attempts to fine tune the router. Any hand tool with a fixed cutting blade requires a bit of fine tuning for proper operation.
The completed bowtie/butterfly installed: