Author:
• Monday, April 11th, 2011

Veritas Tools, the manufacturing arm of Lee Valley, makes excellent tools, delivers outstanding customer service, and has added numerous innovative products to the woodworking world. However, the totes (rear handles) on their planes are another matter. Maybe some woodworkers like them, but I, like many others, can only wonder, “What were they thinking?” I feel that the Veritas tote is graceless and unfriendly to the hand, especially for a long session of planing.

After experimenting with options to accommodate Veritas’ two-bolt mounting system, which I wrote about here, I decided it was better to stick to furniture and leave this job to an expert, especially after getting in touch with Bill Rittner, who already was producing handles for vintage Stanley planes. I came to realize that making excellent plane handles is harder than it first seems.

Bill and I corresponded for months as I tested his prototypes and gave feedback while Bill sweated every nuance of a comfortable and functional tote and knob for these planes. His handles have subtle shaping that really matters to a craftsman. Furthermore, he came up with a simple, effective solution for the Veritas mounting system that permits a more curvy, friendly handle than the OEM. 

Bill’s toolmaking skill and insight was evident throughout the development process, just as it is in the final product. Wow! The handles feel great right away and just as superb after a long session of planing. They install with zero fuss and lock down as snug and solid as you could want. And don’t they look great?! I’ve got them on my Veritas bevel-up smoother, low-angle jack, and large scraping plane. Even the finish is just right – silky smooth but not slippery or glossy.

Ahh, relief at last. Now I enjoy my Veritas planes without misgivings. What else can I say? Dump those OEM clunkers but don’t go it alone. Contact Bill at rbent.ct@gmail.com and have him make a set for you. I think you will be very pleased.

[As usual, this review is unsolicited and unpaid.]

Addendum 2/3/2012: Bill’s great plane handles are available from his Hardware City Tools website

Category: Tools and Shop
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9 Responses

  1. Poorly made handles cause fatigue that’s for sure. I don’t own any Veritas hand planes, but I’ve got a pair of Pax hand saws with clunkers for handles. You’d think tool manufactures with all the fancy technology could produce awesome handles every time. Instead they give us handle duds. I don’t get it.

    Great post. Perhaps it’ll motivate me to make up those Pax handles I’ve been putting off.

  2. 2
    Rob 

    Thanks, Alex.
    I hope it will also motivate woodworkers to consider Bill’s handles for the planes.
    Rob

  3. 3
    Tom Williams 

    Rob, I agree whole-heartedly with your opinions on both the “OEM clunkers” and Bill Rittner’s excellent replacement handles. I bought a set of Bill’s handles for my Veritas low-angle jack plane about a month ago, and it has made a world of difference. I never liked using that plane with the original Veritas handles, so it sat on the shelf collecting rust and dust, but with Bill’s handles it has now become one of my favorite planes. I got the walnut set, and his workmanship is flawless.

    I can only say good things about Bill’s replacement handles. They are really worth it.

    Tom

  4. 4
    John 

    There is nothing worse than using a great tool with a terrible grip. I have made my hands bleed on a number of tools.

  5. 5
    Steve H. 

    Hi-

    I bought a pair of Stanley chisels on the auction site a bit back. They didn’t have handles and I found it a bit “cumbersome” to make my own handles (no lathe). So Bill was good enough to “volunteer” to make me handles.

    They came out f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s. He said that my requested tote and knob are on the waiting list and the list is loooooong. Not sure if I have his exact count of o’s. They are for a Stanley plane.

    He is a true craftsman!

    –Steve.

  6. 6
    Rob 

    Thanks, Tom, John, and Steve. And I’m glad to hear Bill’s work is a hit.
    Rob

  7. 7
    R. Czap 

    He’s a craftsman alright. I have three walnut sets on old Stanleys. They look wonderful, but the real proof is in the pushing. I’m a big guy and these knobs and totes feel much better in my hands than the originals that came on these old boys.

    Bill’s also a pleasure to do business with. It’s nice to find someone who makes quality goods, and delivers exactly what you hoped you’d get.

  8. 8
    Rob 

    RC,

    Thanks. No doubt about it.

    Rob

  9. Thank you Roger for the kind words. You too were a pleasure to deal with.