Making Totes & Knobs for Handplanes


Custom grips can make the difference between a usable plane and one that just gathers dust.
By Charles Murray
Pages: 45-47

From the November 2009 issue #179
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Over the years I’ve collected a few handplanes. I’ve found out (as many collectors before me) that although many handles look the same, there are subtle differences. Finding the correct type is getting increasingly difficult. But in this case, I wanted to change the wood used for the handle so I could spot this particular plane more easily (I have several planes that look alike, and I would rather be making shavings than spend my time looking for the correct plane). It was time to come up with a way to make my own handles, not only for this Lie-Nielsen No. 5 1/2, but also for my antique planes whose handles have seen better days.

The first step is to remove the old handle and decide on the shape for the new one. If you’re going for the same shape, the easiest thing to do is to trace it onto paper, stick the paper to the plywood, then cut it out and shape it with rasps and files. I chose ebony. However, any dense fine-grain hardwood will work. Note that on the knob the grain runs from top to bottom, while on the tote the grain runs from front to back. Keep this in mind as you choose the wood for your handles.


From the November 2009 issue #179
Buy this issue now