Keith, embarrassingly it is more about finances (or lack thereof) than anything else. I built props and sets for the entertainment biz for years but work has really dried up recently and I took this as an opportunity to go back to school for interior design -- not the best time to get into a "hobby" like woodworking I suppose, hah! That said, as marginal as $100-$150 for a halfway decent router might be to many, it's cost prohibitive for me. Long story short, I'd been needing to cut some dadoes but didn't have money for an electronic router, yet thought I could go "old school" and try my hand with a backsaw and bench chisel, and clean out the waste with a simple dado plan...only to discover a decent plane will run me about the same amount of $... Terribly sorry for the long ramble, lol!
In any case, since my OP I ultimately found a Craftsman 315.17540 in like new condition for only $25. So I'm giving it a go with that, despite its obvious limitations and questionable build quality. Some kind forum regulars even suggested a possible crowd funding type pool to help outfit me with something a little better, for which I'm humbled and grateful, though not so sure that will ever come to fruition. So for now, I'm making do and learning some routing basics as best I can, and just thankful for all the wonderful advice I've been receiving from the kind folks on here.
Anyway, sorry for the long answer to a simple question. I AM very interested in taking on some WW projects entirely by hand and interested in acquiring some hand tool essentials such as a router and shoulder plane, and maybe a few chisels. But the original question was more about finding an economical solution to the project at hand.
If you have thoughts or advice, any wisdom for a novice beyond what's already been bestowed is always appreciated!