When Louis Duplessis needed to finish up a Palladium window on his house, he couldn’t find any stock trim that would work. He looked for jigs, but none of them were quite right. So, being a handy sort of fellow, he set out to design his own jig and, being a machine designer by trade (he’s designed dozens of pick and place machines, as well as robots), he ended up creating a unique router faceplate and jig.
“Originally it was designed just as a circle cutter to replace the router base plate.” Louis recalled. “I tried to keep it compact and not some big bulky attachment. When I was done, I was looking at the tool and I thought it was better than anything on the market. I was just going into retirement, so I looked at it as a business opportunity to give me something to putter with during retirement.”
And the Multi-Function Router Base Plate and Circle Jig were born. Designed to fit the base of Porter-Cable plunge routers (though it can be adapted for other brands), it precisely guides circular cuts with a diameter range from 2 to over 18 inches. Removing the trammel slide turns it into a conventional base plate. It’s also designed to accept Porter-Cable template bushings. A fence (included in the package) can be attached to the trammel slide and used as an edge guide.
With forty years experience as a machinist, taking the idea from prototype to production went quickly for Louis.
“I talked to U.S. companies, but their quotes came back at $70 to $80 — just to make the thing, which would knock it out of any contention,” Louis explained. “Then one of the reps who calls on the plastic molding company where I work — he travels all over the world — offered to check into getting it made cheaper in China or Taiwan. I hated to do it because I’m very pro American, but he got me an acceptable price out of Taiwan. So they made a small batch to get started, and after only a month or two I had the first production run. They even did the packaging, which would have been a bigger chore for me than the manufacturing. They do a nice job on their CNC equipment, and it’s very accurate. The aluminum base is anodized to give it the black color. The trammel slide is steel and nickel-plated.”
Louis is just starting to market the jig and has placed a few ads leading customers to his Web site. He thinks his tight pricing margin will be somewhat problematic in getting it into retail outlets, but it may just be a matter of exposure. Once Tools-Tools-Tools — a retailer right in Louis’ home base in Manchester New Hampshire — saw the tool, they decided to put it into their eight retail stores. He’s also had nibbles from stores in Pennsylvania. And at a recent open house, staged by Tools-Tools-Tools, Louis set up a booth and had a chance to demonstrate his creation to representatives from different tool manufacturers & including Porter-Cable.
“A PC rep explained to me that in the past, the company has allowed independent manufactures to market accessory products under the Porter-Cable name in the big box stores,” Louis explained. “He gave the names of people in Chicago, and I’m in the process of contacting them.”
Getting into the Home Depot or Lowe’s would represent a quantum leap for Louis. Right now his production costs are too high to sell in the mass marketplace by himself. But association with a big name brand would allow the increased production runs required to bring the unit costs down. It would also make it more economical to switch over to a plastic base plate, which would also lower his unit price. Though he plans to make the switch to plastic anyway, piggybacking on a name brand distribution would also help absorb the high setup costs for the molding. Louis is confident, however, that the jig will catch on.
“It’s the only thing out there that fills the need for a tool that can easily and accurately cut circles in variable sizes. Once the base is in place it only takes seconds to add, adjust, or remove the jig. The fence, however, is what really sets it apart. People may not need to cut a circle everyday, but almost everyone needs a fence. I believe this is the nicest and most compact fence out there by far. And the entire system is very compact and doesn’t add all kinds of weight to the router. You can’t find a finer tool anywhere.”