How to Make a Custom Hand Plane Tote or Knob?

Making a custom hand plane tote or knob allows you to have a comfortable and unique handle for your woodworking tool. With some basic woodworking skills and a few tools, you can create a personalized handle that enhances your woodworking experience. Let’s get started!

  • Choosing a close-grained hardwood is important for durability and aesthetics
  • Use patterns or online inspirations to design and cut out the blanks for your custom handle
  • Drilling the hole in the shaft and creating a screw head cavity can be challenging
  • Refine the shape using wood files, rasps, and sandpaper for a smooth finish
  • Consider replacing other plastic parts of the hand plane with wood or restoring an old hand plane for a unique touch

Selecting the Right Material for Your Tote

The first step in making a custom hand plane tote or knob is selecting the right material, preferably a close-grained hardwood. Choosing the right material is important because it not only affects the durability of your handle but also contributes to the overall aesthetics of your hand plane. When it comes to selecting a close-grained hardwood, options like cherry, maple, and walnut are popular choices among woodworkers.

A close-grained hardwood offers several advantages for your hand plane tote. It is more resistant to wear and tear, ensuring that your handle will last for a long time. Additionally, the tight grain structure of hardwood provides stability, making it less prone to cracking or splitting. It also offers a smooth and comfortable grip, enhancing the overall user experience while using the hand plane.

To ensure that you have a suitable piece of hardwood for your custom tote, look for a straight, defect-free board with minimal knots or imperfections. This will give you a solid foundation to work with and create a handle that is both functional and visually appealing. Once you have selected the right material, you can move on to the next steps of creating your custom hand plane tote or knob.

Advantages of Selecting a Close-Grained Hardwood: Popular Choices of Hardwood:
1. Durability 1. Cherry
2. Aesthetics 2. Maple
3. Stability 3. Walnut
4. Comfort

Creating the Shape of the Tote or Knob

To create a custom hand plane tote or knob, you need to decide on the shape and design of your handle and then cut out the necessary blanks from the chosen hardwood. This step is crucial in ensuring that your handle is both comfortable to grip and aesthetically pleasing.

Start by selecting a close-grained hardwood that is known for its durability and stability. Popular choices include cherry, walnut, and maple. Once you have your material ready, you can use a pattern or get inspiration from the internet to create the shape of your tote or knob.

Wooden hand plane handle tutorial

To transfer the shape onto the wood, you can simply glue the pattern onto the blank. Then, using a Japanese saw, carefully cut out the shape. Take your time with this step to ensure clean and precise cuts. This will make the next steps much easier and more enjoyable.

Remember, the design of your custom handle is completely up to you. It’s an opportunity to showcase your creativity and personal style. Whether you prefer a traditional, ergonomic shape or something more unique, this is your chance to make it your own.

Creating the Shape of the Tote or Knob

Tools Needed: Materials Needed:
  • Hand saw
  • Hand drill
  • Japanese saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Rasps
  • Chisels
  • Close-grained hardwood (e.g., cherry, walnut, maple)
  • Pattern or inspiration

Drilling and Carving the Handle

Once the blanks are cut, the next step in making a custom hand plane tote or knob involves drilling the hole in the shaft and creating a screw head cavity, followed by refining the shape using various woodworking tools. This process requires precision and attention to detail to ensure a successful outcome.

  1. Drilling the hole: Use a 6mm diameter bit to drill the hole in the shaft of the handle. Measure and mark the desired location for the hole and then carefully drill straight through the wood. Take your time and use a steady hand to avoid any mistakes.
  2. Creating the screw head cavity: After drilling the hole, it’s time to create a recessed area for the screw head. Use a 12mm diameter bit to carefully carve out a shallow cavity at the top of the hole. This will allow the screw head to sit flush with the surface of the handle.
  3. Refining the shape: With the hole and screw head cavity complete, it’s time to refine the shape of your custom handle. Use wood files and rasps to carefully shape the handle according to your desired design. Start with coarse files to remove any excess material, and then switch to finer files for more precise shaping. Pay attention to the ergonomics and comfort of the handle, ensuring it feels good in your hand.
  4. Sanding the handle: Once you are satisfied with the shape of the handle, it’s time to sand it to a smooth finish. Start with coarse grit sandpaper to remove any rough edges or imperfections, and then gradually move to finer grits for a polished look. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to achieve the best results.

Remember to take breaks and step back to evaluate your progress as you go. It’s important to maintain a steady pace while drilling and carving to avoid any mishaps. Keep in mind that hand planes are tools that require stability and durability, so ensure that the handle is securely attached to the shaft. Once you have completed these steps, you will have a beautifully crafted custom hand plane tote or knob that not only enhances the functionality of your hand plane but also showcases your woodworking skills and personal style.

Tools Needed: Materials Needed:
Hand saw Close-grained hardwood
Hand drill Wood glue
Japanese saw
Sandpaper (various grits)
Rasps and files



  • Woodworking Magazine – “Creating Custom Hand Plane Totes and Knobs”
  • Woodworkers Guild – “DIY Wooden Hand Plane Handles: A Step-by-Step Guide”
  • Woodworking Forum – “Tips for Making Custom Hand Plane Totes and Knobs”

Final Shaping and Sanding

Once the initial shape is achieved, the custom hand plane tote or knob needs to go through a final shaping process using wood files, rasps, and sandpaper for a smooth finish. This step is crucial to ensure the handle feels comfortable in your hand and provides optimal control during woodworking tasks.

Start by using wood files and rasps to refine the contours of the handle. These tools allow you to sculpt the wood, gradually shaping it according to your preferences. Pay attention to the grip area, ensuring it feels ergonomic and offers a secure hold.

Next, move on to sanding the handle. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper to remove any rough edges or tool marks. Gradually progress to finer-grit sandpaper, working your way up to achieve a smooth and polished surface. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to prevent scratches and ensure a professional-looking finish.

Remember to sand all surfaces of the handle, including the edges and corners. This will create a consistent and visually appealing result. Take your time during this stage, as the quality of your sanding will greatly impact the final appearance and feel of the handle.


To summarize, the final shaping and sanding process is essential for creating a custom hand plane tote or knob that is both visually appealing and functional. This stage involves using wood files, rasps, and sandpaper to refine the shape of the handle and achieve a smooth finish. Taking the time to complete this step with care will result in a handle that enhances your woodworking experience and provides a personalized touch.

Table: Recommended Grits for Sanding

Grit Usage
80-120 Initial shaping and removing rough edges
150-220 Smoothing the surface
320-400 Preparing for finishing

Enhancing Your Hand Plane

In addition to the custom hand plane tote or knob, there are other ways to enhance your hand plane using wood, such as replacing plastic parts or restoring a vintage hand plane.

Once you have perfected your custom hand plane handle, you may find yourself inspired to take your woodworking skills further. Consider replacing other plastic components of your hand plane with wooden alternatives to create a more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing tool. By crafting wooden knobs for adjustment screws or replacing the chip breaker with a hand-carved wooden version, you can elevate the overall look and feel of your hand plane.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can even embark on a restoration project with a vintage hand plane. Strip away the worn-out paint, clean and polish the metal components, and recondition the wooden parts. Restoring an old hand plane not only gives it a new lease on life but also allows you to infuse your personal touch and craftsmanship into the tool.

Remember to approach restoration projects with care and patience. Research the appropriate techniques and materials to ensure the longevity and functional performance of the vintage hand plane. With dedication and attention to detail, you can transform a neglected piece into a valuable addition to your woodworking collection.

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