Thursday, July 9, 2020

New Tote for My Trusty #4

The plane I've used the most over the last 7 years is a type 19 Stanley #4 that I got for free.  It used to belong to a man that taught shop at a local high school.  When I got it, the tote was broken and I made a new one from maple.
Type 19 Stanley #4

Tote still bears some layout marks
I've used this plane a lot and have gotten used to the tote.  But a few weeks ago I repaired the totes of two other planes and I really liked the feel of them.  So I thought I'd make a new tote for the trusty #4.
Repaired totes: Stanley #4, type 9 at left, Stanley #3, type 19 at right
When I made the maple tote for the trusty #4, I used the Lee Valley template and at the time I had power tools, including a drill press.  I don't have access to those tools now, so this time it's with hand tools.  First I made a prototype in poplar.  I made two "final" totes from unknown woods that might be from the mahogany family.
Both unknown woods were diffuse porous, far more tyloses in the darker one
I started by getting the angle of the threaded rod directly from the plane and comparing it to the template.
Angle of the threaded rod - about 63°
Angle on template was about 64°
I altered the template slightly with the new angle and transferred some lines to the blank.  When boring the through hole for the threaded rod, you first have to bore a larger hole at the top for the 7/16" barrel nut to an appropriate depth.  That depth is shown on the template, but some adjustment might be needed later - just don't bore too deep or you'll have to shim the barrel nut with small washers.
Boring the through-hole from top edge to half way, then came from bottom edge to join
Bored a little too deep on the prototype so made some washers to shim the barrel nut
(picture out of order)

Then cut the angle that will become the tote's foot
Now comes a tricky part.  With a drill press, this is no problem, but when using hand tools I struggled to come up with a way to bore the 21/32" deep (it doesn't need to be anywhere near that deep), 9/16" diameter hole that sits over the "boss" that the tote's threaded rod screws into.  This hole is perpendicular to the angled cut that defined the foot, but there is already the hole for the threaded rod, so there is nothing for the lead screw of the 9/16" auger bit to pull into.
Bottom of tote shows layout lines for the 9/16" hole, the hole with big chip-out
and inside the hole you can see the 5/16" through hole for the threaded rod
Here's how I did it.  First I made a jig - a squared-up piece of oak with a 9/16" hole bored straight through it.  I clamped that jig to the tote blank as best as I could so the jig could guide the auger bit.  But it was tough clamping the jig to the blank because the angled bottom that the hole was being bored into made it so that one clamp face had to press on the corner of the blank.
Jig clamped to one of the mahogany tote blanks
... But the jig slipped so I aborted
To allow the clamp to grip better, I sawed a small flat for the non-movable jaw of the clamp to rest against, parallel to the blank's foot.  But it couldn't be very big or I'd cut away some wood that would eventually become the horn of the tote.  It worked out, but still wasn't ideal.  I'd love to know if other people have a better solution.

One solution would be to bore the 9/16" hole before boring the 5/16" through hole for the threaded rod.  But then I'd have the issue of having to start the 5/16" through hole somewhere inside the 9/16" boss hole.  If I could bore all the way through from the top, maintaining straight and plumb this would be a cinch.  But over about 4.5", I didn't think I'd exit where I needed to.

And now as I write this I'm thinking of a better way to make the boring jig.  I could have glued a fence to the side of it that would reference on the side of the tote blank.  Then clamp the fence to the side of the tote blank to keep it in place much more firmly.  Why didn't I think of that before?

It worked out OK though - just not easy.

Anyway, with that hole bored, I could test it out in the plane body and get to the shaping.
Testing the fit of the unshaped tote to the plane body
Testing the fit of the poplar prototype after some shaping
I didn't take many pictures during shaping, but did want to note here that boring the 1 1/4" hole where the web between thumb and first finger goes did not o well.  I aborted all three attempts, practically ruining the reddish mahogany tote.  The expansive bit I used started great, but bogged down half-way through.  I came from the other side, but it bogged down once the lead screw had nothing to grab on to.  I ended up using a coping saw to remove the waste.

After sawing out the general shape, final shaping was done with chisels, rasps and files, finishing with sandpaper to smooth things out.
Work holding was a challenge, but this worked
Here's the darker mahogany tote fitted to the plane
When tightened, I could slip a couple thicknesses of paper under the front ...
... so I planed a little off the back end of the bottom, though it did little good
The totes are solid on the plane, no wiggle at all.  The small hole, just forward of the large hole on the bottom, fits over another boss in the plane body and I got a good tight fit which really helps the stability.

And here are the three totes all shaped.
The three stooges, er, totes
And with the mahogany totes oiled
In the end I selected the darker mahogany tote, even though I like the color of the lighter one better.  For the lighter colored mahogany tote, when boring the hole for the thumb web, the bit diverged from plan and went about 1/8" too deep into the keeper wood.  So that web area is thinner than I wanted it.
And here she is - new tote on my trusty #4
If the dark mahogany proves not to be up to the task, I can always replace it with the red mahogany tote or the original maple tote.  But so far it looks good.  I guess I was very much used to the feel of the maple tote because this one feels less substantial.  But I'm sure I'll get used to it in time.


  1. Good job. There are quite a variety of small changes to Stanley totes thru the years. But in the end it must fit the tool and your hands good to give you that feedback we need while planing.

    Bob, going thru his herd of H&R.

    1. Yeah, it's amazing all the variations. I would think they would stay with something that works (for a specific size plane)! But I would also understand if there were subtle differences in the totes of different size planes. For instance, maybe the longer planes need a tote that is more (or less) forward-leaning than that of a shorter plane. It would be interesting to know the reasons for the changes over time.

  2. The contouring looks great on those totes.

    By orienting the grain as you did you made the totes as weak as possible. In the handle the cross grain area is the smallest and in the extension forward at the bottom there is the possibility of breaking off the tip. There is a lot of load in this area as the tote is pushed and this resists the tilt.

    1. Hi Steve. This is something I've thought about. I wondered why the Lee Valley template shows the grain in the orientation that they do (and that I used), rather than a more level grain orientation that I typically see on old planes. My guess is that Lee Valley oriented the grain to protect the horn - the most commonly (in my experience) broken part of a plane tote.

      Although the tote might be weaker in this orientation, there is a tightened steel rod helping to keep it safe from breakage. Granted, it would be MUCH safer from breaks if the steel rod filled the 5/16" through hole.

    2. LV places the grain horizontal on their planes with cantilevered totes. Go figure.

      While chipping the horn is irritating, a break at the tote toe will make the handle wobbly and could result in the stud breaking off if it's used in that state for a while.

      I have a plane with a crude laminated mahogany tote trying to solve this issue. It's broken at the toe anyway but having a bunch of similar ones makes it easy to ignore.

      If it does break, you seem quite capable of making a new one.

  3. And another thing.

    The paper under the tote toe could be the tote hanging up on the pin on the sole. Either the side of the pin or the fillet at the bottom of the pin.

    Some pencil lead shavings on the sole can show you where the contact between parts is. Might be a slight hump in the casting as well.

    Very nicely shaped, though.

  4. Matt,

    Thanks for the tick tock of the build. Something I've never done and at this stage with the tools I have may never do but it is good to see the process.


    1. Well, if you ever find the need to make one, you'll know where to look. Stay cool down there in Tuscon - I hear it's been tough lately.