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Creating a new handle for your bench plane is one of those rites of passage every woodworker should go through, and this will likely be the first time you will see it done using hand tools. From tackling the complexities of laying out to shaping and fitting every part of the tote, this video walks and talks you through every step to applying the final finish. You will love engaging with this video before you tackle your plane handle remake!
LAYOUT – 02:46
SHAPING – 24:00
BORING THE HOLE FOR THE SCREW – 01:10:53
FINISHING – 01:25:45
I’ve been looking forward to this! Thanks to all.
– aligning the template after boring the long hole;
– planing the base side and bringing the other side parallel to make clamping possible;
– shaping everything except the top which is done at the end;
– plugging a small hole to be able to center a large bit to make a recess;
Thanks. I’ve made two totes out of curly maple so far, but your approach will make future efforts easier. Hopefully I make couple knobs using the drill press or rasps (for later efforts). Downside to new totes is I have to retire the broken totes I re-glued and refinished.
thanks for video.
I have been waiting for this sooooo much! Thank you! The hyper-ugly plastic handles of my much too modern No. 5 are ultimately doomed. After many hours of fettling, the plane works very much to my satisfaction, but the handles are as nasty as ever. Will I have them incinerated at the local waste-to-energy plant? Will I burn them myself illegally, but full of joy? Will I hang them on the wall to remind me of how great it was to remove them forever? Time will tell. Let’s see, which branch of the dead apple tree in our garden am I going to cut into pieces?
I have just completed making new knobs and totes for all of my Stanley planes with plastic handles –#4’s, #5’s, a #7, and two router planes. Each of these planes worked well, but I really disliked the plastic handles. They just looked and felt ‘wrong’ to me.
I replaced them with bubinga and jatoba knobs and totes. I turned the knobs on my lathe, but I made the totes just as Paul has done here. The method is very sound. Not at all difficult. Just don’t hurry into it.
Finally, I replaced all plastic or aluminum screw caps and adjustment knobs with their brass counterparts.
Now, these planes are a pleasure to see, to feel, and to use — and I am gratified that they will be passed down to my grandchildren in due course.
I forgot to say the most important thing. This was a very nice video and I enjoyed every minute of it. It took me right back into the shop — the sounds, the smells, the feel of the wood and the tools. All of it.
Thank you, Paul!
Paul, why didn’t you drill from both ends to meet in the middle?
I have done that but I found it quite tricky to align if the holes were off by too much. This way I get a straight hole and use the center of the hole at each end to measure from, to get the handle sides parallel, it works very quickly.
Very timely! Just this week I foolishly left a #4 precariously on the edge of my bench and knocked it off! As luck would have it, it landed on the tote, which snapped in the usual place.
This video will be put to good use in my small garage-corner shop! THANK YOU!
Just did the same thing about 2 weeks ago.
any news on the pdf templates?
lee valley have pdf templates.
Do you have a link to these?
5 and up totes.
You should check the angle. Old #5 1/2 planes use a tote that is a degree or two different.
( 25° or 26°, I forget which)
Thank you 🙂 Is there a template available somewhere for the front knob?
Lee valley has them, it they didn’t put it up on their cite when they revamped their computer system. I sent an email and they emailed the plan back to me.
We have now added this. You can download it by pressing the link under the video.
If you look at the comment section of Paul Seller’s magnificent Youtube video where he make the beautiful no 5 tote out of yew he shares the template to the no 4 and to the no 5 (and up) there.
I’ve tried 3 or 4 of these in the past and none of them have been that great, so I’m looking forward to trying again with these new tips. Very handy!
“I’m going to keep fettling until I’m content”. Prescription for life!
I’m going to give this a try – I couldn’t catch the type of wood you are using?
He’s using Yew ,it’s extremely hard.
Which way should the grain run in the tote? It seems like it would be less prone to chipping off if the grain ran vertically?
Grain on totes should run horizontally, maybe with a slight downhill tilt towards the front of the plane. To makimize long grain in the horn and heel.
The best is to take a branch and use the part where grain runs in both directions for the bottom part. Birch is an excellent wood for totes. Nice moiré-effects (or curlyness), soft towards the hands for long planing sessions without blisters, and easy to carve. (yes, I carve my totes – twice as fast as Paul’s method, and gives a shiny, silky smooth surface with beuatiful facets – like a diamond).
That may be true for the main body of the handle, but not true for the horn or the front where the handle meets the sole which I suspect would crack very easily.
Yew looks very nice but it appears to be a challenge to get in the USA. Also a caution note to woodworkers that can obtain it is that it is a highly toxic wood from what I have read on it. All parts of the tree are poisonous. Do your research on it before working with it.
Any recommendations on woods that could be substituted that are honey colored like that?
Thanks for a great video. Love the project topic.
Awesome thanks. yes, i live in Canada and i’ve not seen it. curly maple or an exotic like bubinga maybe?
I’m in BC and I have a plank of local Pacific Yew. Not sure it’s as hard as whatever subspecies Paul’s using.
According to the wood database website, they are about the same hardness.
For long planing sessions it is better to use somewhat softer wood. I use birch which is also easy to carve (carving a tote takes about half the time than rasping, filing, scraping and leaves a silky smooth surface).
I’ve read the same thing about yew’s toxicity, but the local deer seem to love it, os I don’t know how toxic it could be. They’ve completely eaten a couple of yew bushes in my back yard. (They also ate a holly bush a few years ago, leaves and branches!)
Pacific yew is very similar.
I have used Plumb from my yard and it is also honey colored, but it can vary a lot. Hardness is similar.
Commercially, , steamed plumb is a prized wood. It will be more reddish.
Boxwood will darken to honey over time. It’s expensive near me and much harder, but is a traditional wood for chisels and fine planes.. I have some I harvested, but it isn’t ready yet.
Apple is also a great choice. Disston used it on their better saws for a century and a half. Color varies. That’s why God invented dye stains :-).
harvesting it yourself can be a lot of fun if you have the patience to cure it., and tools like chisels and totes is a great way to use smaller pieces. You can use crotch wood to great effect.
We’ve got about 20 small branches where I work in Lancaster pa. Not much straight lengths, imagine small projects like this would suit well. Groffs lumber Quarryville pa
Mulberry might be a decent sub but it oxidizes more brown
Here in the Pacific nw mulberry is used for wooden ware sold in galleries on the coast. It’s softer than yew if you think that’s important. It can be very pretty.
American black walnut make a beautiful tote. I replaced an old rosewood tote on my 5 1/2 with it and I think I like it better than rosewood.
I’m so happy this came through today. I’ve just ordered a new stanley plane yesterday to hopefully help my wood work after failing with 2 old cheap planes.
Thanks again Paul!
If an old tool is really badly beaten up — or was really poorly made — replacing it may be all you can do. On the other hand…
Paul has posted a couple of videos on how to tune up older planes; you may want to review those. And if you haven’t sharpened the blades recently you might be surprised by how much that alone would improve their usability. You’ll also see Paul sometimes lubricating the sole of his plane with an oil pad; he has a video on that too.
This was a great video Paul . Hope your “delicate” little hands weren’t too sore afterwards ,ha ha ha.
Fantastic. Are you planning to make a video showing how to make the front knob? Also, what is the thickness of the wood block?
Thanks you for your teachings 🙂 They are very much appreciated.
Yes we do.
Paul uses a piece of wood 1 ¼” thick.
Thank you for making a video showing how to do the front knob. I thought I could figure it out but Paul has techniques that I ignored, i.e. keeping the stock full length to clamp it in the vise and using a negative shape template. I made a handle by hand before seeing the video but I cut the stock to length first and I used a positive shape template… my next one will be better, faster and easier because of your video 🙂
SOP – I just finished ripping some beech to about 1 1/2″ and didn’t see this detail in my earlier review. Gives me more room for adjustment…
btw from curiosity, about how tall & long were the blanks Paul used? It looked like maybe 5 1/2″ high by 7″ long. I went with 6″ and a smidge tall – max on my bandsaw.
Very helpful for future totes. I replaced one last year, and figured it out by trial and error. I couldn’t find a good youtube video as a guide. I do expect to see monetized woodworking channels now describe making a tote with Paul’s ideas!
Yes I have studied the videos and sharpened the blade, removed rust, oiled, adjusted the frog etc. Since lockdown i have restored 3 saws (which all now work) and a set of chisels that now work brilliantly but I just can’t get the plane to work. I’m not saying somebody with more skill could not get them to work but I’m not there yet. 1 is an unbranded plane, the other an Anant. Hopefully a new one will give me a datum point to understand old ones better. So I’ve ordered a new Stanley No.4.
James, both those planes aren’t worth much in the way of fixing and might not ever do well (even with gifted hands). A “new” Stanley won’t be much better, in my opinion. I would suggest any Stanley made between 1915 and 1950, they are easy to get up and running well. And as a side note, make sure the iron is installed correctly- bevel facing down, you would be surprised how often that is the problem, after all your restoring efforts.
The new Stanley planes work just fine after you fettle them. I have a 4 1/2 and a 5 and after putting in some elbow grease, they’re fantastic planes and do the job just as well as any prewar tool does. I have vintage planes also but wasn’t about to spend the money on a vintage 4 1/2 and it still takes wispy shavings and smooths just like it should.
Try some of this button shellac. https://www.shellac.net/button_shellac.html. You’ll need to make the shellac, but they sell the required behkol needed to dissolve the buttons. A $10.00 coffee grinder is a good investment if you get into making your own shellac.
Shellac.net has a great set of very clear instructions. Button shellac is a lot harder than the typical flakes you can get from the big box stores. I find it to be very good stuff. It might help with the problem. A good coat of carnuba wax now and again will go a long way to help as well.
Has anyone else found that using shellac for a tool handle does not provide enough protection to prevent the handles getting dirty from all the hand contact? I used shellac on my wood handle chisels and after some time, they are very dirty looking now from all the contact.
Using hand lotion will cause that condition. I have shellac on everything and it is warm and friendly every time i pick it up. BUt then my hands dont sweat nor do i use hand lotion
Tou could keep it waxed or poly it. Might keep it cleaner
that’s not “dirt” – that’s “patina” (or blood and sweat)
Am I right that the yew will darken with age? Great video
The yew does darken with age, it goes to a beautiful honey colour.
Great video Paul. I have an old Stanley #4 I should make a new tote for you have inspired me to get going on that project.
Thank you Sir.
Excellent video, thank you so much. What is the plastic material that the templates are made from? When do you expect to publish the pdf file of the templates?
Paul calls it “sign plastic”. Although, I think, it is high impact polystyrene(HIPS). I guess any thin plastic (within reason) around 1mm-2mm would suffice (acrylic, poly-carbonate, non-expanded polystyrene). Video here>>https://paulsellers.com/2017/06/make-snap-line-templates/
Blog post, here>>https://paulsellers.com/2017/03/making-templates/
Thank you! A very nice video with some new (to me) techniques. I feel it prepares me well for tackling my own plane handles using the yew I had set aside for this project a few years ago!
What make is the hand saw you are using?
I believe he is using the Spear & Jackson 9500R. Amazon, in the USA, has it for sale for $30.
Paul is using a Spear & Jackson, you can find out more about this here: https://commonwoodworking.com/buying-a-panel-saw/
The template is $10.03 on Amazon. Pretty standard piece of old school drafting kit.
As usual an excellent instructional video. You mention that the viewer will receive a PDF of the plastic template at 17:03. Will you be adding this PDF for downloading eventually? If not then I presume that a trace around the original handle/tote would suffice to produce a similar template on plastic card? Also, it’s the first time I ever saw that circle and radius template that you pulled out at 26.31 to determine the radius of the arcs and therefore the drill bit size required. Are these still available to purchase anywhere now? It looks like some draughtman’s type template (that is useful to have) but may no longer be commonly available now?
Thank you for another fascinating presentation.
Yes the PDF will be published soon, we are just currently making a few tweaks.
Paul bought the green template you are referring to from a craft store in the USA.
A fantastic work, Paul. It’s time for me to make a new tote for my Stanley #5. Thank you very much.
Excited for this one! I have an excellent Record smoother that’s my “go to” for the final pass but has the plastic handles … not for much longer now 😉
Thanks so much Paul , totally absorbing , lovely to watch and inspiring as always .
Tx for all, you are amazing. Tx a lot
Hi, in the video Paul refers to his handsaw as one of the best, inexpensive, new handsaws, and that he would recommend it. Can you let me know what saw it is? I need a handsaw…
To Will Leigh: I think Paul has been using a Spear and Jackson hand saw. Make certain it is resharpenable, not a “hard point”.
I mean for this comment to compliment those of the Paul Sellers staff who have lately been absent and forced you to “do-it-yourself”. Their production talent is missed. I appreciate the fact that you muddle on, but I hope you and your full staff are soon reunited and healthy. Thanks for being there.
Great instruction video. I have a couple planes that I purchased with broken totes, and repaired them, thinking some day I would try to make replacements. Now that I have Paul’s video, I can start working on that project with confidence, not having to muddle my way through it with trial and error. Lots of little tricks that I had not thought about. Thanks again for this and all the other videos you have produced. This one is definitely a keeper.
Jim Light, Ohio, USA
Hello Mr Sellers,
After centring the hole by cutting a taper on the sides, the bottom would no longer be square. Did you fix this or is it so small that it is not a worry?
That should definitely be fixed.
beautiful work! thank you, Paul!
cheers from Brasil
Thank you for such a great lesson!
I don’t recall you mentioning the orientation of the grain in our chosen timber, could you clarify this please!
Andy, look at the 8:17 mark of the video. At that point, Paul shows the face of the board to the camera and it looks like the grain is descending from right to left. At that point, Paul is holding the wood bottom-side up. And if I follow it correctly when he moves it around, the hole for the rod at the top of the tote is at bottom left at that 8:17 mark. When the tote is placed upright, that puts the grain slanting upwards from back to front of the tote, exactly the wrong orientation that some people recommend (like Lee Valley does in the tote templates they have for free on their website). Some people say it should be straight from back to front; that is, parallel to the bottom of the tote. But I suspect Paul isn’t worrying too much about it because it looks like the grain in the yew is swirling all over the place. That type of grain will probably help keep it together.
Interesting observation. I’ve read in some places that the grain should run parallel to the bottom of the tote (I assume because there is constant lateral force placed on it, pressing against the screw). However, have you ever noticed how many broken totes are busted horizontally along the grain? I suspect Paul is more than aware/familiar with this frequent occurrence. I imagine some angle to the grain is perfectly acceptable if not somewhat desirable so that it is not necessarily “vulnerable” from either lateral or vertical stresses.
Thanks very much, Paul. Excellent video, I have wanted to see you do this for some time.
Not the first time I see it done with hand tools, as I set myself to the task and somehow managed to get a ‘functional and visually acceptable’ result only using chisels, a block and 4 1/2 planes and sand paper (I had no rasp or gouge) …unsurprisingly, this is the first time I see it done PROPERLY done with hand tools only – thank you Paul once again. Your guidance is truly invaluable.
I’ll upload images of mine to the gallery (please be kind on the comments) 😛
I enjoyed this video and actually had decided recently that I will replace the tote, which is cracked and undersized for my hands, on my antique scrub plane. I’ll just have to counterbore the screw a little too compensate for the added height.
I would like to point out gently, if I may, though, that using the word “radius” for “diameter” can be confusing and misleading, as the former is only half of the latter. This error was made numerous times in this video, and occasionally in others.
Thanks for another excellent video, though!
If there is a video that I’ve wanted to see Paul produce in the 4+ years I’ve been following him, THIS is it. I’ve downloaded the templates from Veritas (or Lee Neilson? Can’t recall!) and have made a few but getting the angle of hole and screw to line up, getting the screw hole for the jack plane…all of it. I am thrilled to see it done all by hand! I struggled using both a drill-press and a power router (yikes!) to get things bored and rounded correctly and it is still a huge challenge. Thank you Paul and team! Great video!
In removing the finish on the tote of a recent gift of a #6 Stanley found that a large portion of the front left portion of the tote was probably sanded away in some manufacturing mishap. It had been back-filled with some form of filler that was unnoticeable until I tried to refinish it. Your video inspired me to attempt making my own tote rather than excepting it as it is. All this said I would be interested in seeing how you make the front knob using hand tools since I would like these parts to match.
A question to you Paul, if I may?
On some of your blogs and frequently mentioned in some of your videos there is the mention to understanding the intricacies (and the beauty) of wood growth and grain ‘anatomy’, if not ‘presentation’…
I have been giving a lot of thinking about ‘growing a tote’ – finding a hardwood tree branch which bends just the right way, angle, size and thickness (post bark removal). I’ll just lightly help the tote out of its branch-looking condition.
With your understanding of knots, fibres and stress/resiliency of wood, do you think this would yield anything better/stronger than a tote made using your technique with a traditional piece of the same wood?
(Sorry for the meandering long text to get to the question, I can only operate this way)
Paulo, from New Zealand
I think at the end of the day this is just a plane tote, the rest is romance. As nice as it can be to find such wood to work, it might not be a feasible reality to chop such a tree and wait for it to dry by air for two years.
I’ve been planning on doing one for a long time on my #5, which has a crappy machine shaped oversized tote from the 70s or something. My #3 and #4 are pre 40s and have nicely shaped rosewood — my poor native forests exploited by gringos — so I’m not doing anything to them. They are regular grained wood. For my #5, I got some regular European beech, which I’ve already used for a saw handle. I’d love to get something nicer, but it is what it is and it’s fine.
Thanks Roberto, appreciate your view on it. Amen to wood exploitation (I’m from Brazil, where most of the Amazon used to be).
Here in New Zealand there are some pretty hard non-commercially popular/viable wood which can be found fairly dry as firewood: Pōhutukawa (Metrocideros Excelsa)
I have one such branch that my neighbor chopped down and donated me with, 1 year dry, soon to be cut before further drying then shaping
I agree it’s ‘just romance’ and I have the passion and time to live this fling 😉 Easy projects are boring, unless you’re only doing it for the money.
I’m from Brazil too. I find ironic how the handles made of jacarandá-da-Bahia leaves the country, gets used for decades and now lands in my hand after it’s become mostly extinct.
Well, you’re probably using it to process non-extinct wood which may last less than your heirloom handle, that adds some poetic justice to your (cast) irony 😉
I’ve restored many planes in the few years I’ve been at it but I’ve yet to make a new tote. I’ve always repaired the original. However, I’ve always known that making a handle was in my future and I’ve been looking forward to it. This video has helped me be even better prepared – I’m counting the days till I can get started!
Thank you Paul for all you do.
“It’s not hard, it’s just difficult, that’s all” — LOL!
It sounds like Paul says the brush he is using to apply the shellac is a “hate” brush. How do you spell whatever it is called?
Great video, watched several times now. I would like to ask two questions –
1. Will you make a handsaw handle and show that?
2. Where does Izzy get the habit of always closing with, “Kind Regards,” anyway?
I am not planning to make a video on this as it uses these same techniques: https://paulsellers.com/2020/02/reshaping-a-spear-jackson/
Why did Paul wait until after he cut the shape out to make the sides parallel to the center hole? Why didn’t he make the side parallel while it was still a solid block of wood? Wouldn’t a solid block have been much easier to work with (i.e. plane or saw) than a complicated shape?
No. It’s the reason I used slightly thicker wood. My way allowed for marginal error in alignment.
My problem with all stock handles is none of them are large enough to fit my hands.
Chester, I don’t know how you hold the tote but one is supposed to use only the thumb and three digits, the index being pointing forward and not wrapped around the tote.