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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.