In Shop Blog, Techniques, Tools

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One of the weaknesses of the so-called transitional handplanes is the way the tote attaches to the metal frame of the tool. The tote comes loose when you touch it, look at it or even think about it.

I’ve seen many of these tools with replacement totes , everything from a custom-made fancy doo-dad to a broomstick.

I own an early Stanley No. 32 jointer plane that is in good shape. The tote, however, is pathetic. Every time I pick up the plane I also need to pick up a screwdriver to tighten the bolt that kinda secures the tote.

This week I had a conversation about this tool with woodworker and collector Carl Bilderback (he’s reading “Handplane Essentials” right now and has been pointing out the typos and things he disagrees with). He has some rare and expensive transitional planes in his collection and so he wanted to tweak me a bit for saying these tools were “dirt cheap.”

Mine was $35. Several of the transitionals that have come through our shop were thoughtful gifts (read: foisted upon us). In general, I’ve found user-grade transitionals to be less expensive than their equivalent user-grade iron-bodied brothers.

In any case, Carl had a solution to suggest for my “wobbly tote problem” (which is still not listed in the DSM-IV). Here it is: Drive a screw through the base of the tote, through the metal frame and into the wooden stock.

“Stanley put a screw there on their metal planes,” Bilderback said. “So it should work.”

Well, duh. So this morning I did just that with a 1-1/2″-long pan-head screw. You probably don’t need instructions on screwing, but the steps are outlined in the photos below. So far it seems to be a good fix. I flattened a few boards with the tool and the tote stayed put.

Begin the hole by boring a pilot hole with a brad awl. Chase the hole, turning it into a clearance hole, with a 1/4″ bit.

Use a punch to make a divot in the metal frame of the tool. Bore a clearance hole with a 1/4″ bit. Go slow and stop as soon as you make it through the frame. Drill a standard pilot hole into the wooden stock.

Drive your screw.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Mike Flaim

    Transitionals are the Rodney Dangerfield of planes; they get no respect. They are perfectly suitable as jointers and fore planes. I have a jointer plane with a fence I would never part with. Spend some time and tune them up and you will see how wonderful they are.

  • Andrew Friede

    There is in fact a DSM IV code for what you have: 300.3 — Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am willing to bet hundreds of your readers will confirm this diagnosis. Please see:

    Kindest regards as always. Andy

  • Tony

    Can you please post additional g-rated instructions on screwing?

  • Bill Dalton

    I did a similar repair on my Sargent plane but I used a brass machine threaded screw/bolt with a nut and lock washer under the deck and used a fostner bit to clear out the area in the wood body. It has held up well with no wobble.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I don’t think I’d want to lock those threads. When the wood in the tote expands and contracts with the seasons you want to be able to tighten things up. Plus, there’s not a lot of thread there to lock — which is part of the problem in the first place.


  • Lyle

    This may be really dumb however, can you not use something like Loctite or anyother hardware glue to make the tote stay put?

  • Mike

    I think the new DSM due out in a year or two will have that as a recognized mental disorder. It will be listed near PTSD

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