Closed Tote

The Desire

Whilst thinking about designing and making a scrub plane, I decided that the rear hand grip should be a traditional closed tote, like wooden jointers and some infills. This handle type is very comfortable, looks good, and is stronger than an open tote. But I didn't have a good pattern to copy, and was aware from older handsaws that old handles were wonderfully "evolved". I was unlikely to originate something equally perfect. So I looked around for something to imitate.

The Acquisition

Eventually, while looking over some tools at a woodworking fair, I picked up a 22" jointer. Wow! The handle was so good, it was more like slipping into your favourite old pair of boots than actually holding on to an object. But the plane was kinda nice - might be expensive. I wondered about asking the guy if I could measure or trace the tote. Anyway, I asked the guy on the stall how much he wanted for the plane, which I knew by then to be an Ibbotson , in good condition. "5 quid" said the man, so I left with the whole plane (and, yes, I've seen separate closed totes sell for more...)

Capturing the Shape

Having got the plane home, my luck continued to hold. The glue holding the tote was weak and crumbly. Mild pressure freed the tote. I made a tracing "mouse" by shaving off the wood from 2/3 of the circumference of a pencil (with a Stanley #60½ since you ask), and having temporarily fixed the tote to a sheet of card, carefully traced around, keeping the mouse as vertical as possible (which is quite hard, I found). After a few attempts I had an outline that I thought sufficiently accurate.

This was then scanned and converted to a PDF form (via a HP OfficeJet G85, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, if you care). Here's the heart of this page, a full size, accurate outline in PDF format (4K)

Shaping and Profiling

The handle is a uniform thickness, 27.5mm - there's a very slight taper (around 0.3mm) towards the top, but I think this is just a side effect of shaping activity.

The whole profile is rounded to some extent. The upper and front face is very nearly flat - domed by 0.7mm.

The really important face, the one you push, is interesting, and more complex that I first thought. At first sight, the handle is simply rounded (i.e. a circle of 27.5mm diameter), but when making the tracing I noticed that the contact point of the pencil was not central. In fact, the apex of the rounding is 16mm from the right hand side of the tote (and, thus, 11.5mm from the left hand side). Applying a contour gauge (one of those fascinating gadgets with all the pins) revealed that the profile was indeed asymmetric. The right hand side is "rounder" than the left. A left handed friend confirmed my suspicion by experiment. This is a "handed" handle, more comfortable for the right hand than the left (so a left handed builder may well wish to flip this profile)

The rear of the tote tip is a simple round, presumably for aesthetic reasons

The front face of the handle, (one of the faces of the oval cutout) is a simple roundover - a 27.5mm diameter circle. The far side of the oval cutout is domed by 1.5mm, with the 2 profiles being blended quite rapidly at the apexes of the oval.

At the cost of reducing the symmetry and visual appeal of the handle, the shaping can be carried further towards the human hand, by removing material where the thumb lies. The tote I modelled for this page doesn't show this feature, but I have other handles that do. I already used this idea on the handle I fitted to my Nobex Mitre saw.

The original Jointer

rear, high view of handle

rear, low view of handle

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