Making A Bench Plane Tote

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First i download the  templates …. Here are some Hand Plane templates.

Sargent 407 tote template     Totes-Sargent #407 template

Sargent 414up tote template   Totes-Sargent414up-template     418-Type-1-Tote-Template

  StanleyType-2-#4-tote template    Stanley tote-template-#6-and-up    Stanley tote-template-3-and-4          StanleyType-2-#6 tote template

NOTE: Make sure you verify the angle of the tote bolt and modify the build to it. I’ve seen a variation in vintage planes,  I’ve seen Sargent’s vary from 12 to 26 degrees. Stanley’s not quit so extreme, but a few degrees will make a difference.

I then glued to to the blank and cut it to size. Make the grain parallel to the bottom of the template.

Edit: I have made a template out of 1/4 ply. Its quicker than the paper if your doing more than one or two totes.

Note that because of a lot of variations in both the casting and the machining done, some custom fitting and variations from the templates should be expected. If you have the original tote, a comparison to the temple may give you some idea of where that may be needed, but even a lot of the factory fitting wasn’t very good. Read an explanation here.


I like to start with stock at least 15/16″ thick


I then drilled the holes. Make sure you drill it before you cut it out. First the tote top hole, then I drilled the through hole. I drilled from both sides first, then with a longer bit, cleaned it through. To keep it square I clamped 2 speed squares to each side.

Note: I drill the bolt hole all the way through after layout but before cutting them out. I then counter bore to a depth of what will be about half way down a short brass nut. Then cut the totes out and shape them.

I now have a counter bore started which can easily be completed to the depth I need without chipping. I can use a short or long nut without knowing it before I start.

I use a counterbore drill, but the first few I did (before I had a counterbore) I did with a spade bit.

Note; the Sargent drill needed for most of their brass nuts is about 27/64′. It took me a while to find one, so I made one by grinding down a 1/2″ spade bit.


I then drilled the two holes as the template instructions indicate.

Edit: I no longer drill the holes like below, I just cut the tote out with the bandsaw. I’ve done several both ways and really don’t see a difference, so its just an extra step.


Then off to the bandsaw to cut it out.




Edit with additional information:

The next step is to make sure the angle of the bolt is correct. Not all planes where threaded at the exact same angle. If you have a bolt that is bent, its probably been bent on purpose to accommodate a slightly different angle. I prefer to adjust the tote accordingly.


Note the gap under the front of the newly created tote on this #5. I want to eliminate that gap.


Measure and mark it with the correct gap measurement. I’ll then cut or sand it to the line. I’ll use the bandsaw for something this much.


The double check and adjust as needed


Then off to the router table with a round over bit. I’ve done this with a rasp as well, but the router is quicker.

Remember to not go all the way around. I marked the area I wanted to round over using a tote as a guide.



This before and after pictures may give the allusion that I route these just holding the tote, but I clamp them in a wooden clamp to keep my fingers away from the router bit


Or you could make a jig like this one. (compliments of Michael Wingate)



Then, i traced the top and the bottom from another tote. Off to the belt sander to round over and form the top and bottom.



A little bit of rasp work.


Off to the spindle sander.


Then a little hand sanding and we’re pretty close. Here it is next to a tote being refinished.


I’ll finish and post the finished picture when available.

Here is the final.


I wound up painting these. I wasn’t sure how’d they come out so I made them out of a couple maple scraps. I wasn’t crazy about the light color.

Edit, some additional experience:
I typically start the countersink hole for the nut, and finish it after shaping to get it exact.

Use the template but a bit of advice. The angle of the threads for bench planes are not exact. Check the angle against your plane before shaping it and get it exact. We’ve all seen bent tote rods. That bend is to compensate for the difference in the angle. (I learned this from a fellow LJ). I slightly modify the tote to reflect the exact angle before cutting the thing out.

I also struggled to get the front hole on a #5 and larger plane. I’ve found the easiest way to get it exact is with a broken sole. I dropped a #5 on the concrete and shattered it way beyond repair. I was heart broken, but it became my ’’front hole template’’. I drilled a pilot hole all the way through, and now just hook up the tote and drill it exact.


For sanding I have an old transitional frame. I hook up the tote, hold the frame in the vice, and can sand with a long piece of paper (like a lath strip). Any base would work, but the transitional frame doesn’t have the wider hump to get in the way.


As with all woodworking, make more than one at a time to save time

I very seldom make these one at a time. I started making a few cherry totes.








I also found it helpful to make a jig buy cutting a broken plane to get the front distance exact. If your only making 1 or 2, you can use trial and error. This way is quicker.

To do the back of the tote, use an old #4 base. It’s the same for most planes


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The Handle makers rasp you see in the photos is excellent for this task.

Edit: 2-2016

I recently started using spray lacquer for a finish. Its quicker and easier and brings it back to original. Most totes came from the factory with a lacquer finish. So far I have found the Rust-Oleum brand works the best.

If its for myself I use tru-oil, but it takes longer, but has a more quite sheen. Add a coat, let it dry, do that 3 times then sand it back. Repeat until you get the desired look.

End edit

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