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 email@example.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