Chris Schwarz's Blog

New Knobs for Your Old Stanleys

I can make my own beef jerky, but that doesn’t mean I want to apply veneer-making techniques to a hapless bovine.

So when I found out that long-time woodworker Bill Rittner was making knobs and totes for vintage Stanley planes, I jumped at buying a set for my vintage No. 6 fore plane.

That plane’s original tote looked like someone had dragged it behind a truck with a bulldog attached to it (weird teeth marks and blood stains included). And it was a maple replacement , the plane still had its original (or at least original-looking) front knob in rosewood. So I had no qualms about replacing the wood on this tool.

The knob Rittner made is circa 1870 Stanley. That means it’s a fairly low front knob, which I prefer to the newer high knob. The low knob is 2″ high and the high knob is 2-1/2″ high. You can easily convert the screw for a high-knob plane to one for a low-knob plane by hacksawing 1/4″ of the threads off both ends of the screw.

Also worth noting: The front knob has a nice bead at the base.

The rear tote is like the best tote that Stanley made. Unlike the cheaper late-model totes, Rittner’s don’t have uncomfortable flats and sharp arrises. Rittner’s are all just smooth hand-pleasing curviness.

The fit and finish on these knobs and totes are as good as anything I can do, and even looks better than some of the mint, new-in-the-box Stanley planes I’ve seen. In other words, I have no complaints.

Rittner makes the knobs and totes using cherry and walnut, though he can make custom sets using other species. The wood is finished with varnish. The set I purchased cost $40 plus shipping.

I think this is a fair deal for such nice work. To order a set, contact Rittner at rbent.ct@gmail.com.

If you want to make your own knobs and totes, see below for a link to the issue where we recently featured instructions for making your own.

- Christopher Schwarz

Other Handplane Resources

- Confused by bench planes? I wrote this free article on our web site called “Understanding Bench Planes” that might help decode the system for you.

- Charles Murray shows you how to make your own knobs and totes in the November 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

- I still like my book “Handplane Essentials,” which is available in our store and is shipped free in the United States.

One thought on “New Knobs for Your Old Stanleys

  1. sdugay

    I recently acquired a Stanley #4, Type 11 plane which was in desperate need of restoration. I found the plane at a flea market for $6.00, so if it was a dog then what am I really out? The plane’s body, frog and lever cap were in good shape, so I decided to clean it up and make a user out of it. Unfortunately, both the knob and tote were in horrible shape, which leads me to this review. I found Bill Rittner on the internet after doing a Google search on replacement plane totes. As luck would have it, he actually lives only a couple of miles from me in Connecticut. I contacted him via his website and we arranged for me to come to his shop. I paid him and expected to get a call from him in three weeks as we had agreed. One week later he emailed me and said that my order was ready. WOW! What a difference. Bill makes his totes a little thicker than the factory produced originals and believe me, it does make a difference.

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