New Knobs for Your Old Stanleys - Popular Woodworking Magazine

New Knobs for Your Old Stanleys

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes, Woodworking Blogs

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

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.

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  • 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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